TL;DR (HUM415)

If you revisit the remarks made by Omar Aktouf in Encirclement: Neoliberalism Ensnares Democracy you’ll find that he makes several points about education, capitalism, and humanism. Among these is that foundational works of world culture such as those by Aristotle are important because in absorbing the words of such figures we are supplied with the linguistic materials for our own reflection. The point is not that those others, over there, the ones who haven’t read Aristotle, are stupid. The point is that in the words of Deleuze “capitalism is profoundly illiterate”; or, put another way, capital desires only those forms of literacy which contribute to its expansion. Little wonder, then, that consumers may be more adept at reading ads than the novels of Victor Hugo.

You might also consider the paradox that in an age of compulsory schooling there are, Aktouf argues, fewer educated people. He advances this claim on the assumption that the mere mastery of technique is not knowledge in its profoundest sense. We train problem-solvers these days, who are capable of making calculations, rather than problem-framers, who can formulate what the problem may be.

Finally, it could be useful to reflect on what it means for an academic of Algerian heritage to be so adamant in the defense of French literature– among other forms of intellectual endeavor– as an end in itself. Algeria, you may already know, was colonized by France in the early 19th century and regained independence only after a terrible and costly struggle.

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