A right-wing extremist ideology has taken hold of the Republican Party, and the United States has become a locus for the revitalization of white supremacy, the normalization of state violence, the reproduction of the carceral state and staggering forms of economic inequality.
The United States is also serving as a toxic model for making oppressive forms of education central to a politics that undercuts the capacity for producing critical and engaged citizens while normalizing the unthinkable. These alarming developments must all be understood as part of a larger shift politically and educationally in the United States toward a deeply rooted authoritarianism and updated form of fascist politics.
In the conversation with Sonali Kolhatkar shared here, which aired this week on Rising Up with Sonali, we discuss three fundamentalisms that have driven the transformation of the Republican Party into a neofascist party and the United States into a deeply authoritarian social order: free-market fundamentalism, religious fundamentalism, and the fundamentalism of manufactured ignorance.
Free-market fundamentalism separates economic, political and educational activity from any viable notion of social and ethical responsibility while destroying all notions of the common good.
Religious fundamentalism collapses the line separating the church and state while waging a war against economic equality, social justice and democracy itself. This is a fundamentalism rooted in the notion of the theocratic state designed for white Christians that justifies the regressive notion of a holy war against anyone who is not white and a Christian fundamentalist. Coupled with a market fundamentalism that places profits above human needs, religious fundamentalism provides some of the oxygen for justifying violence as a solution to all social problems.
The final fundamentalism — manufactured ignorance — is an educational fundamentalism that wages a war against reason, critical consciousness and any notion of agency that is both critical and willing to hold power accountable. Market and religious fundamentalism now merge with a massive assault on the public imagination in the form of another fundamentalism — the drive to produce a collective consciousness rooted in manufactured ignorance.
At work here is a political formation that is symbolic of the rot produced by neoliberalism — an economic, political and educational formation that trades in civic illiteracy, depoliticization, the normalization of racial hatred and the legitimation of a culture of mass violence, all designed to benefit and concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a financial elite and ruling class. The U.S.’s long history of fascist ideologies has come home to roost, and the problem is as much educational as it is political.
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