Seeing Neoliberal Youth Work for What It Is

It is important to understand the realities within the youth work. Since beginning my career in youth work in the 1990s I have been exploring its theoretical and social underpinnings throughout my career. Wiggling its fingers throughout my efforts has been neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism is the belief that young people are a commodity to be produced, manufactured, bought and sold throughout society. It makes inequality a necessity, creates unfair and unjust outcomes for youth and communities, and relies on the pain and suffering of some to benefit others.

Defeating the values of democratic society, neoliberalism actively teachers young people that their intuition is wrong. Values including Truth, Democracy, Fairness and Equality, Respect for Others, The promotion of Well-Being, and Tipping the Balance of Power and Control are not just irrelevant, but are actually negative.

Neoliberal youth work relies on broad political, economic and social force to drive it. Youth programs around the world have been assaulted by neoliberal forces hellbent on destroying the imaginations of children and youth and the democratic empowerment they were supposed to inherit. It replaces democracy with money-making through authoritarianism and certainty.

In youth work, neoliberalism takes many forms:

  • It is obvious in ways many programs are designed by looking at young people as incomplete, unformed and in need of adult direction;
  • The treatment of young people as disposable populations that should be removed from mainstream society and fed pre-determined programs, purchased from corporate publishers and refused roles throughout their communities and families;
  • Program funding reveals the exchange of money for production, as children and youth are taught certain skills, led in particular activities and directed through specific pathways in order to produce finite outcomes that are needed by businesses in order to make money;
  • Neoliberalism is also plain to see in the way youth programs communicate with parents, communities and young people themselves. Talking about “youth at risk,” “opportunity youth,” and “high risk youth” directs young people to act needy, helpless and incapable, and;
  • In youth work, decisions made by adults for young people without any intention, desire or designs to engage young people in making the decisions that affect them most are neoliberal to their core. They are removing the public, democratic function from society and replacing it with authoritarian beliefs.

Of course, neoliberalism is most obvious throughout society at large. Young people are clearly and deeply affected by the family settings, schools and other places they spend their time. However, youth programs should be a haven for young people to rest and recuperate from the onslaught of vicious opportunism haunting them.

Instead, many youth programs view youth as opportunities to make money, either on purpose or by accident. Undoing generations that said, “Youth are the future,” program after program and organization after organization simply gives up on that idea, let alone the radical notion that “Youth can be the leaders of tomorrow, if we procrastinate.” Instead, young people are simply seen as potential funding magnets for many nonprofits, and potential profit centers by the elected officials who ensure funding, support and evaluation for youth work.

Neoliberalism forces youth workers to go backwards in our thinking about youth: Instead of being a collective bunch of possibilities, we start seeing them as fixed to their identities, positions and roles in societies. This means limiting choices, reeling in perspectives and discouraging hopefulness among youth as well as our peers.

As a result of neoliberal youth work, young people today are growing up believing:

  • The welfare state — which created youth programs originally, ensured young people had food, shelter and healthcare, and allowed youth to be seen as future citizens — is not worth maintaining;
  • There are forces working deeply within communities to ensure youth are looked down on while cynically using language that sounds empowering;
  • Democracy means being able to make all the money you want to without any regard for the people around you, whether they are in your family or neighborhood, within your culture or society, or on the other side of the world;
  • Money invested in youth must be obviously beneficial to the donors who gave it; in the same way, money invested in the public must benefit every taxpayer directly or it wasn’t worth paying;
  • Surveillance through closed-circuit television, adult supervision, internet snooping and countless other ways should be an expected, normal part of life that isn’t questioned, challenged or otherwise looked down on;
  • Widening gaps between wealthy people and everyone else are okay and to be expected because of determination and rights, not because of white supremacy and indoctrination;
  • The rights of children and youth rights are only what adults are willing to extend to young people in certain circumstances, and not inalienable or unable to be taken away, and;
  • The public no longer believes in the future of our society, so their investment in children and youth should be squeezed and squeezed away until there is no more.

The results from these perceptions are terrifying, both for the individual well-being of young people today as well as their families, communities and our world. Democracy is on the ropes, with double- and triple-blows socked to it from crass consumerism and runaway capitalism. All of this leaves young people in the cross-hairs of politicians, executive directors, funders and evaluators, each of whom is ready and eager to pull the trigger. By doing this, they lay waste to the present as well as the future, sacrificing children and youth to line their own pockets, perpetuate their missions, and dismantle society as we’ve known it.

Seeing neoliberal youth work for what it is means taking off the rose colored glasses and addressing this scourge for what it is: The rapid, holistic and undeniable effort of a few to make money from the masses. Unfortunately, the few are winning.

Youth work is much more than a site for workforce development; public health promotion; community service completion; or athletic competition. It is the place where we foster democracy in its most obvious forms, where young people and old can find allies and abilities they didn’t know they had; and where the fiery caldrons of disruption and imagination are borne to fruition, with unquantifiable youth engagement and social change emerging en masse throughout society and across futures we have yet to imagine.

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Unpacking #Youthification

PhrenologyThere’s a conversation afoot about “youthification,” which means acting younger.

Apparently, moms do it, businesses should do it, neighborhoods are doing it, and entire cities want to do it more.

After reviewing several articles about this term, I have identified several assumptions in the conversations about “youthification”:

  • All Youth Are the Same: This conversation about youthification generally revolves around the idea that youth act certain ways, do particular things, believe unique beliefs and feel specific emotions.
  • “Youth” Is A Product: So far, youthification is largely a topic of interest to marketers, whether in the form of urban planners who want to grow cities or businesspeople who want to sell products and services.
  • Youth Will Stand Still: Ironically, youthification seems to be fixated on pinning down static representations of young people in order to attract older people to what younger people like, want or do. Its ironic because youth cannot be seen as a static station; similarly, its consistently shown in adult development studies that fixing perspectives is a behavior of adults; ergo, we’re applying adult beliefs to youth in order to get adults to aspire to be youth.

 

The most interesting piece I’ve found related to youthification comes from an author who connected it with neotony, which is the physiological act of staying younger longer. Applying this concept to youthification may be akin to phrenology though, and I don’t advocate anyone taking that analysis seriously.

And from there comes my conclusion: “Youthification” is a manufactured reality that’s designed to help sell things to gullible people by preying on adults’ fear, denial and naivety, much the same as phrenology was a century ago.

The idea of “youthification” is part of the adultist notion of the monolithic youth, which is driven by adults’ belief that, “Because I can observe all youth doing one thing, all youth must be one way.”

This denies the consideration other factors that shape the identities of youth, ie socio-economic backgrounds, race, gender, etc., as well as individual personalities, private beliefs, and non-adult approved ways of being in the world.

Youth don’t need the approval of adults to exist in their own ways, and adults don’t need to act like youth, either.

Similarly, adults don’t need to act like youth, live like youth, be like youth, and youth don’t need to act like adults, either.

Consumerist to the core, I believe the intent of this marketing ploy is to reinforce “in” behaviors and “out” behaviors throughout our society by reinforcing particular ways of being that can be marketed to, and ignoring or denying ways of being that cannot be marketed towards, packaged, bought or sold.

Here are my conclusions about “youthification” so far:

  • “Youthification” is Manufactured: The term “youthification” is being promoted to sell people things.
  • “Youthification” is Derogatory: The concept of “youthification” is largely demeaning and belittling to youth, since it dumbs down their identities and makes them into statis, ascertainable, replicable robots.
  • “Youthification” is Irrelevant: Any serious discussion about trends in sociology will avoid or dismiss the concept entirely, and its to be taken with a grain of salt.

What are your thoughts about “youthification”?

Selling Ourselves

Tonight on Facebook, my friend Lilian Kelian shared her sadness about people who relate to each other through interpersonal hegemony. I thought about it a while… Is the growing phenomenon of interpersonal hegemony the deep impact of neoliberalism on our personal and collective psyche?

The word hegemony means dominance; interpersonal hegemony is when we try to dominate others with our selves, our sense of what makes us us. 

The word hegemony is mostly used to talk about cultures, economics, educational practices, and social relationships. But the idea of interpersonal hegemony sticks in my craw, mostly because I see it and practice it myself!

 

It’s as if we are all trying to sell ourselves to each other, including our ways of being, feeling and experiencing the world. We do this inadvertently, pitching our ideas and sharing our problems and rallying our celebrations all through social media and in person and with family, friends, colleagues, and sometimes anyone who will listen. This heightened egotism reflects our own insecurities, showing others how, in order to feel better about ourselves, we have to make others see our superiority and power.

I think we do this as a mere echo of the dominate cultural hegemony all around us, all the time. There’s a reason why companies use logos, why restaurants use the same designs in their construction, and why all magazines are laid out the same. They do it because we crave familiarity and likeness. We do the same thing by surrounding ourselves with people who are like us and do the same activities, listen to the same music, and follow the same trends we’ve always followed.

Our practices of interpersonal hegemony make others look at our ways of being and doing and feeling and thinking, and want to do the same. It is like we’re selling ourselves to each other, instead of having genuine human interactions.

Adults do this all the time with youth – and I say that from experience! Giving a youth I worked with a CD of my music was pure interpersonal hegemony, as I tried to get them to like the things I liked. When young people start showing up wearing the style of clothes we wear; when they use the phrases we use; and when they talk the ways we talk its not just flattery. Its interpersonal hegemony and the worse kind of dominance, intentionally or otherwise.

Hegemony does not have to be explicitly forceful, either. The most well-meaning, kind and intentional people can be accidentally hegemonical. The question rises of how to defeat it, and that I cannot answer well right now. The answer surely lies in a pedagogy of freedom, and the need to learn, teach and lead in freedom.

Thanks again, Lilian.

 

My Questions

  • Where does suggestion become dominance?
  • How can we promote personal freedom in our relationships with others?
  • With the dominance of hegemony throughout our lives, is there anyway to escape perpetuating it?

 

Why Challenge Neoliberalism?

fraying rope

The word neoliberalism describes anything making money from democracy. It is a philosophy in action across the US and around the world right now that is selling off the public good every single day.

In these days of rampant neoliberalism, there is no place safe from the infiltration of capitalism and the marketplace ideology that is decimating the democratic fabric of our society.

I have been committed to the public side of social change since I was a teen. As a student, I have experienced the rise of the privately-funded public university. As a worker, I experienced the continued infusion of right-wing corprocratic methods into all levels of government. As an activist, I have seen allies fall to the gradual reform of public schools as they become propaganda tools for money-making. As a community member, I have been in the fallout from the obliteration of the public commons. 

I found those situations more than negotiated – they were tremendously compromised. Seeking a middle ground, I wanted to work for the social good through networked and grassroots teaching opportunities. I started consulting and speaking as a result. As more people sought me out, more people became willing to pay me for my services, and that’s where my business came from. I provide more than 50% of all my income and time to non-profit generating activities; however, billing myself as a speaker/trainer/freelance writer/consultant allows me to do that.

I don’t have a perfect model, and I know there isn’t one. However, as I’ve spent a lifetime living this evolution, I have found that its important to stay sane and solvent, especially in times of struggle. Working the ways I do allows me to continue challenging neoliberalism, or feel as if I am.

Maybe its a myth I tell myself in order to feel better. However, since there isn’t a perfect work, I continue committing myself to imperfection. That’s the nature of this human work, commitment to the unfinished. That’s why I challenge neoliberalism.

You?

NO "Marketplace for Love", Mr. Pollota.

We need to do it differently, and that much is agreed upon. However, that’s about it.

Another white guy wants to sell nonprofits better.

Earlier this week I watched a video of Dan Pollota‘s recent talk at the 2013 TED conference. Hoping it was another version of INCITE‘s absolutely powerfully essential book, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, I was sorely disappointed when it turned out otherwise.

From the beginning of the talk, Pollota actually said, “Philanthropy is the market for love”. Cole Porter was talking about prostitution when he wrote “Love For Sale”, and I guess, sadly, that Pollota doesn’t seem far from this in his video. Rather than saying that nonprofits need to be turbo-charged engines run on the fuel of love in order to build democracy, Pollota actually says that running as businesses with marketplace accountability, the nonprofit sector should pimp poverty, sell missionary perspectives, and monetize humanity.

Nonprofits are not in business, they’re not selling products and services, and they do not belong tied to the neoliberal measures Mr. Pollota is advocating in his video.

There are counter-narratives on transforming the work of nonprofits. A constant advocate is the powerhouse Arundhati Roy. Accompanying what she’s written about the deeply neoliberalism roots of charity work, this spectacular speech has her discussing the purpose behind much philanthropy today. She also writes about the genuine motivations of philanthropists that support Pollota and others like him. Its a clear analysis that deftly distinguishes the real work from the purpose of what Pollota is talking about. Needless to say, alongside neoliberal drumbeaters like Pollota and Melinda Gates, Roy will never be invited to TED.

We don’t need neoliberal accountability in nonprofits, marking philanthropic “investments” against “lives saved” in a tit-for-tat approach to charity. We also don’t need nonprofits that string out social issues and make society reliant on their existence in order to rationalize their funding. What is needed is a new understanding of need, capability, and engagement throughout our society. Nothing less.

Resources

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Neoliberalism in Youth Programs

Democracy is a practical, hands-on approach to operating our society. Everyday, every young person can contribute to the health and well-being of themselves, their families, their neighborhoods, the nation, and the world. That’s the power of democracy today: More than ever before, it’s changing the world.

But there are forces trying to undo democracy. Right now, neoliberalism is tearing at youth programs across the nation today. It’s happening so deftly and insidiously that most youth workers and organization leaders have no idea what’s going on. 

Here are some characteristics of neoliberalism in youth-serving programs. They can be found in nonprofit or government settings at the neighborhood, city, county, state, or federal level.

Signs of Neoliberalism in Youth Programs

  • Bean counting. Counting youth-adult “encounters” as a measurement of change. This makes youth-adult interactions transactions similar to the way a salesman encounters a customer.
  • Pay to play. Charging youth to participate in historically free programs, including educational, recreational, cultural, and similar activities. Reducing youth work to a fiscal transaction incapacitates youth workers and denies the human right all young people have to access the resources of their communities.
  • Pre-packaged programs. Increasing “impact” in the lives of youth through by increasing the number of adult-facilitated, corporate-produced, curriculum-driven programs. This makes youth attendance in pre-packaged programs consumption, like a candy bar that is filled with empty carbs and nothing healthy.
  • Racist implications. When the same organization offers wildly different programs in different neighborhoods to meet different youth needs, they’re being responsive. When they track poor youth and youth or color into different programs than white youth and middle class youth, they’re being racist. 
  • Tracking to fast food. Teaching youth that the only jobs they’re eligible to get and the only impact they can make on their families and communities is through fast food and other service sector jobs denies their democratic roles and responsibilities. 
  • Signed in blood. Using contracts between youth and adults as a basis for interactions. This makes behavior and attendance a consumer interaction, and equates it to a consumer contract enforceable by law.
  • Poverty pimps. Selling donors on the horrors faced by youth in their neighborhoods without exposing the reality they’re faced to, including deep neighborhood roots, strong family backgrounds, and positive adult role models, is neoliberal to the core. It relies on feelings of noblese oblige for donatinons, and sells the worst side of youth today.
  • Youth as consumers. Referring to and understanding youth or parents as consumers of programs. This reduces nonprofit programs into supermarkets, and sells youth on the idea that “The customer is always right.”
  • Dramatizing reality. Writing grant applications or recruiting youth by over-emphasizing neighborhood challenges or youth inabilities is responsible and belittling. It sells programs on perceived need and hysteria rather than practical applications and meaningful community building. 
  • Zero tolerance. Enforcing zero-tolerance rules, particularly in low-income communities and with youth of color, who attend youth programs. This makes youth who comply eligible to participate, and pushes those who don’t further to the fringes, promoting a youth program-to-prison pipeline.
  • Being buddy buddy. Partnering nonprofits and for-profits in relationships that emphasize company values, corporate ideas, or consumerist perspectives.
  • Not all that counts… Using rigid evaluations and assessments of youth, youth performance, and program impacts in order to justify funding, employment, and youth activities. This makes all the impacts that aren’t measureable largely irrelevant, and promotes a “what you see is what you get” mentality, undermining the fabric of community in order to maximize the look of programs.
  • Sleeping with the enemy. Using corporate volunteers from local businesses to teach youth about financial responsibility and equity is an easy way to infuse youth with anti-democratic ideology and community apathy.
  • Over counting. Measuring every single component of a program. This makes all program activities artificially responsible for impacting youth, when there are many activities that indirectly affect them or don’t effect them at all that need to be done.

If these characteristics seem sensible or practical to you, you might consider what assumptions are driving your perspectives. That’s how neoliberalism works: Gradually taking over our conscience, we routinely and coincidentally perpetuate the very problems that caused our programs to need to exist in the first place. 


About Neoliberalism

In my work across the country over the last few years I’ve met and talked with many youth workers who are very concerned. They see their organizations faltering under pressure from foundations and donors, they’re watching young people become consumed by corporate identities and values, and they’re being laid off and replaced as workers caught in a seemingly never-ending cycle of hiring-and-firing.

At the same time, nonprofit organizations once committed to community development are now promoting consumerism and low-wage efforts to pipe up local economies. Executive directors and fund development managers have to pit corporate interests against the public well-being, often hiding sophisticated consumerist agendas behind simple-appearing neighborhood programs. They generally do this not from their own conscience, but as a response to threats from corporatized transnational foundations.

This is neoliberalism, which is a way the world is run. Neoliberalism places capitalism before social good, privatization before the public good, and business interests before the government. The ultimate idea of neoliberalism is to let capitalism run society, wholly eliminating the role of the government for the benefit of money-driven profiteers. 

In 2004, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said, “Privatization is a neoliberal and imperialist plan. Health can’t be privatized because it is a fundamental human right, nor can education, water, electricity and other public services. They can’t be surrendered to private capital that denies the people from their rights.”

Stop Neoliberalism

As my mentor and The Freechild Project advisor Henry Giroux has written, democratic education- which many youth-serving programs should be embodying- is under assault from neoliberalism in a huge way. But there are things we can do right now. 

  • If you’re a youth, stand up to neoliberalism by teaching your friends and educating youth workers. Share this article. Learn more about neoliberalism and work to stop it whenever, wherever you find it. Please.
  • If you’re a youth worker, stop neoliberalism by treating all youth as humans, right now. Stop enforcing dehumanizing zero tolerance rules, throw away company-mandated curriculum, and using your body to advertise for companies. 
  • If you’re a nonprofit board member, stand up to funders that are pimping your nonprofit for corporate gain. 
  • If you’re a neighborhood member or parent, check up on the nonprofits your youth is involved with or that serve youth and find out where their funding comes from, what it’s teaching youth, and how it’s being measured.

I offer websites, including The Freechild Project and SoundOut, social media, and outreach activities as weapons for this ongoing work, and I look forward to fighting with you along the way.


Long live democracy.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Privatizing Afterschool, and Privatizing Society

I just read about a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 3498, that will expedite the process of privatizing afterschool activities across the country. This greatly concerns me as a career-long youth worker, as an advocate for nonprofit social services, and as a lowercase “d” democrat.

Let me begin by suggesting that in addition to being aware of wholesale efforts to privatize public education, every single privatized area of public education needs to be strategically cataloged and made apparent to the Public. They range from curriculum to assessment to professional development to food services, now tutoring and teachers, and so many other areas. The process that got us to this point started in the 1950s, caught steam almost three decades ago, and is well underway.

This process was not the gateway into our possible future as a privatized society; it’s just the biggest door to indoctrinate young people. The original doors were utilities, the military, hospitals, prisons, and transportation. Once all regarded as public essential bastions of democratic living, now almost all these institutions are privatized across the United States.

Social services are one of the last great pillars holding up the roof of the so-called “public good”. Once a public service, most mental health services are privatized today. Social welfare management is increasingly private, as are services for developmentally differently-abled people. Libraries, public health, social security, and so much more sits squarely in the sights of private corporations and people committed to profiteering off a unconcerned and disengaged Public. Schools are high on their lists, and afterschool programs are next.

Young people are obviously the best objects for privateers to target, both because of their susceptibility, and because of the long-term impact of “teaching them right”. Since the decimation of public schooling is well underway, the battlefield for the next wave is afterschool programming. I am watching this unfold right now as standards for afterschool programming are emerging across the U.S. and internationally. As public schools proved, the process of standardization lends itself to professionalization, which in turn morphs quickly into privatization.

Unfortunately, The Radical Left has been largely useless in fighting the privatization movement. As demonstrated by what is happening in public schools, their voices have been co-opted by The Right to fight against the institution of public schooling, rather than the process of privatization. Even the non-radical Left has historically reduced school privatization to anti-unionism, which is a myopic perspective at best. By taking these stances, The Left is actually contributing to the further decimation of the democratic infrastructure that built the American middle class and provided a utopian ideal to motivate social mobility, particularly among the poor.

All of this critique examines the heinous nature of neoliberalism, which describes the process of privatizing all public services, including education, social security, water, prisons, public transportation, and welfare services. Neoliberals believe that when the government, acting on behalf of The People who vote for them through democratic process, is a bad manager of these services. They think all these institutions need fixed, and the only way to fix them is in through privatization. History has shown us there are very few benefits for The Public in privatization, while large corporations controlled by small groups of people make great deals of profit. I first learned about neoliberalism and its effects on young people from my mentor Henry Giroux, and I have continued to examine the ill effects of neoliberalism throughout society through the writing of many other writers, including Noam Chomsky and Amartya Sen.

From all of this I arrive at the belief that we need a new conversation in our society that goes beyond revolution for the sake of revolution and “anarchism as hope”, because both of these fail. We have to make plain the mythologies of history. Let’s examine our social capital and the social contract. Take our afterschool programs, along with our schools systems, social services, community development activities, democracy building movements, and let’s critically explore their intentions, outcomes, and assumptions. Let’s peel this onion throughout our society in order to make meaning of the chaotic disembowelment democracy is experiencing today. However, let’s not abandon the positive powerful future we could all share together.

Who is to write that future? I have an idea that I’ve written about before – let’s start with young people.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

My Review of “The Terror of Neoliberalism”

The Terror of Neoliberalism was written by Henry Giroux. Here is my review for The Freechild Project.

Every person who works with young people should know that politics is more than the Democrats or who you are voting for in the next election. Much more. Dozens of people have spent hundreds of hours speaking and thousands of pages writing to explain how politics underscores everything that we–as individuals and as a society–do every moment of every day of our lives. This kind of politics helps us make up our minds about what clothes to wear to work; what job to work at; who we work for; and, most importantly to youth workers and educators, what work we actually do.

A new book illustrates how a hellacious political reality is actually altering the society we live in right now. In The Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy, scholar/author Henry Giroux outlines how neoliberalism–the belief that the private sector should be wholly responsible for the public good–is about more than money. Throughout this book, Giroux explains how neoliberalism is actually a set of values, ideologies, and practices that is actively recreating America today–for the worse. Of course, CNN, the presidential elections, and the never-ending war in Iraq have proven that the political and economic reality of democracy in the US has changed. But Giroux exposes a more terrifying plot.

Neoliberalism is changing the very meaning of democracy today. Where democracy once depended on people becoming socially and politically involved throughout their communities, today that is an option. The schools, youth programs, community centers, and agencies where many young people spend the majority of their days have lost their place at the table of democratic importance. Do you want to understand the onslaught of high-stakes testing in schools? The defunding of programs for children and youth? The ongoing newspaper stories about so-called youth apathy? The seeming disregard for children and youth that fills our communities today?

Giroux cites the resistance against neoliberalism in all of its forms around the world today. The work of The Freechild Project, the mass movement against globalization, and the struggle for social justice in education each epitomize the struggle; but individually none summarizes the whole effort. Giroux writes, “…[Activism is] not limited to identity politics focused on particularized rights and interests.” Instead, the interests of young people and their communities, as well as those of the anti-globalization movement and many others are put into the larger context of building democracy. As Giroux explains,

“Democracy in this view is not limited to the struggle over economic resources and power; indeed, it includes the creation of public [places] where individuals can be educated as political agents equipped with the skills, capacities, and knowledge they need…”

With that premise established early in the book, Giroux proceeds to dissect and examine the realities of neoliberalism. He details the ability of the government to extinguish the capacity of society to make significant change in society by examining the effects of September 11, 2001, and the militarization of America. Giroux also outlines how neoliberalism has created a “new racism,” evidenced by the corporate powers that control law enforcement, education systems, and increasingly, community governments.

However, with his emphasis of the effects of neoliberalism across the spectrum, Giroux pulls a coup by reintroducing his ongoing analysis of youth in the US today with a chapter entitled, “Class Casualties: Disappearing Youth in the Age of Market Fundamentalism. What the chapter essentially proposes is that children and youth are subject to the whims of society, despite (or because of) the reality that young people “embody the project dreams, desires, and commitment of a society’s obligations to the future.” With this premise, Giroux sketches out how the American War Against Youth continues, as the programs and services which once benefited children and youth are slashed across the board, and as popular culture increasingly erases any optimistic expectations society may have of young people. Giroux explains,

“Rather than being cherished as a symbol of the future, youth are now seen as a threat to be feared and a problem to be contained… Youth are currently being framed as both a generation of suspects and a threat to public life.”

Giroux details how “the ongoing war against justice, freedom, citizenship, and democracy” is focused at young people today. He thoroughly explores how curfews, physical searches, profiling, and drug testing are heaved upon schools, youth programs, and communities as solutions to the “youth problem.” Poverty, childcare, healthcare, and education are all challenges that must be meant by an ever-growing private sector. Meanwhile, the number of children and youth who struggle to survive in low-income communities and communities of color grows, while federal policies increasingly legitimize “tough love” policies for all of America’s youth. Giroux also examines how juvenile detention for youth and lock-up rooms for 8-year-olds typify the norm, not the exception. This is neoliberalism at work in the lives of young people today.

Neoliberalism is seeping “into every aspect of American life… It thrives on a culture of cynicism, insecurity, and despair.” But the solution is as complex as the problem. “Democracy is too weak,” Giroux quotes Benjamin Barber as saying. When culture combines with politics to become entertainment (Giroux says think of the California governor), and when corporate powers– instead of the democracy– control the media, we’ve got a serious problem. And it is not an issue of whether education (and youth programs, or community organizations) has “become contaminated with politics; it is more importantly about recognizing that education is already a space of politics, power, and authority.”

Giroux proposes that we, as young people, youth workers, and educators “appropriate, invent, direct, and control” the politics within our efforts. Whether you facilitate after school activities, work with youth-led community organizing programs, or teach in a middle school classroom, you have the opportunity– or more appropriately, the responsibility– to “work against a politics of certainty, a pedagogy of censorship, and an institutional formation that closes down rather than opens up democratic relations.”

The one of his most directive moments yet, Giroux implores educators to “teach students to be skilled citizens… learn how to use the Freedom of Information Act, know constitutional rights, build coalitions, write policy papers, learn the tools of democracy, analyze social problems, or learn how to make a difference in one’s life through individual and social engagements.”

In the final chapter of this book Giroux deeply explores the implications of the work of Edward Said, renowned a renowned theorist, activist, and author. Giroux explores the implications of Said’s work on neoliberalism, sighting his recognition that “the war on terror has become a rationale for a war on democracy… against any movement that fights for justice, liberty, and equality…” Giroux offers Said’s life and work as a “model and inspiration for what it means to take back politics, social agency, collective struggle, and the ability to define the future.” He repeats Said’s call for “academics, students, and other cultural workers” to activate, mobilize, organize, and agitate society by “educating the public to think and act as active citizens in an inclusive democracy.”

But the conclusion the book holds the gauntlet over our heads, collectively, as people who are committed to young people, social change, and justice. Giroux cites Said’s call for groups to “put aside their petty squabbling over identities and differences and to join together collectively… [as a] coalition against those forces of totalitarianism lite, without anyone much noticing, or for that matter complaining.” This call for awakeness resonates with Dr. Martin Luther King’s message in his final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, where he wrote:

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”

In The Terror of Neoliberalism, Henry Giroux reissues this call, reemphasizes Said’s mission, and issues a new demand for all of us to become active, engaged, and effective allies in our collective struggles against neoliberalism, and for democracy. It is up to you to hear this call.