MIND, AND SOCIETY: AN ANARCHIST THEORY OF INQUIRY AND EDUCATION.
*[J]ust as the
oppressor, in order to oppress, needs a theory of oppressive action, so
the oppressed, in order to become free, also need a theory of action.
This abstract sketches
the basic objectives of the plenary lecture. The lecture is based on the
sociological theory of mathematics outlined in my paper, "Mathematics,
Mind, and Society (MMS)". In my lecture, I will briefly summarise my theory
of mathematics, and then clarify the basic terms of my argument: mathematics,
mind, society, and anarchist theory. My objective in this lecture is to
begin the process of extracting, refining, and developing a politico-theoretical
framework and agenda that is at least implicit in MMS and has been slowly
emerging in my work over the last twenty years or so. By "politico-theoretical"
I mean to link theory, practice, and power. This is tricky in the sense
that properly understood, theories are or engage worldviews, so they are
or are integral with forms of discourse and practice, that is politics
*At the moment
in which you say, Look, but now I invite you to be responsible!, immediately
they think in opposition that your hypothesis is not rigorous....we have
to fight with love, with passion, in order to demonstrate that what we
are proposing is absolutely rigorous. We have , in doing so, to demonstrate
that rigor is not synonymous with authoritarianism, that 'rigor' does not
mean 'rigidity.' Rigor lives with freedom, needs freedom. I cannot understand
how it is possible to be rigorous without being creative.
For me it is very
difficult to be creative without having freedom.
Without being free,
I can only repeat what is being told me.
and embodies human labor; and human labor is always social labor. Even
when I sit and think alone, I am performing social labor because the language
of my thoughts and emotions is given to me by my society and culture, and
even the very self and consciousness I experience in this (as in every
other) situation are social because given to me and sustained in and for
me by everyday social interactions. This principle of the pervasiveness
of the social is very little understood. It is the basis for understanding
mind and consciousness as socio-cultural products and processes. Even the
brain is socially constructed. The significance of the social fact that
minds and brains are not independent, free-standing entities and that independent,
free-standing individuals are illusions has not yet reached into the social
worlds of education (although some progress in this direction has clearly
been made among those attending this conference).
the school as an instrument for social control and by dichotomizing teaching
from learning, educators forget Marx's fundamental warning in his third
thesis on Feuerbach: "The educator should also be educated."
Society is symbolically
useful in my title, but does not convey the central idea I want to emphasize,
that our selves are structured and re-structured, produced and re-produced,
in moment-to-moment social interactions during the course of our everyday,
everynight lives. These interactions are, in fact, ritualized and linked
(in what Randall Collins has called "interaction ritual chains"), and these
rituals and ritual chains are the crucibles in which we make and re-make
our selves and our cultures. We could, then, say that mathematics, like
language, and like any symbolic system, represents the product(s) of sets
of interaction ritual chains.
*Just as there
is no such thing as an isolated human being there is no also no such thing
as isolated thinking.
My conception of theory
reflects my anarchist objectives. The craft or practice of theory is widely
misunderstood.. It is, properly practiced, a subversive activity; indeed,
it may be the most subversive activity humans are capable of. From an anarchist
perspective (and here I follow Brian Martin), "Ideas are central to social
struggles. Most of the intellectual work in government, corporations and
universities is too technical or obscure to be of any value for popular
use, or else, like advertising, it is manipulative. Are there ideas and
methods of thinking that are specially suited for developing insights and
strategies to challenge hierarchical systems? How can "theory," thinking
systematically, become a popular pastime rather than an elite pursuit?"
The sociologist Charles Lemert has in fact argued that "Everyone can do
[theory]. Everyone should do more of it. Responsible lay members of society
presumably would live better - with more power, perhaps more pleasure -
if they could produce more social theories." We need to help ourselves
and others understand the power - the critical and subversive power - of
theory, and to help eliminate the idea of theory implied in such statements
as "It's only (or merely) theory," "It's fine in theory, but not necessarily
in reality," and the idea that somehow theories worth the label are constructed
in vacuums out of nothing, without any grounding.
*Dialogue in any
situation (whether it involves scientific and technical knowledge, or experiential
knowledge) demands the problematic confrontation of that very knowledge
in its unquestionable relationship with the concrete reality in which it
is engendered, and on which it acts, in order to better understand, explain,
and transform that reality.
Finally, I need to explore
the anarchist agenda. To begin with, I follow Peter Kropotkin's conception
of anarchism as one of the sociological sciences. For the moment, I can
only outline some of the basic ingredients of the anarchist agenda. In
my lecture, and in the paper that will generate that lecture, my objective
will be to integrate this agenda with the general sociological theory that
has guided and grown out of my work on mathematics and science. This integrated
agenda will form a foundation for reforming and rethinking mathematics
and mathematics education. Fortunately, I have the advantage of being able
to draw on a recent issue of Social Anarchism in which several contemporary
anarchists outlined their versions of the anarchist agenda. I have adapted
their program as follows:
The Anarchist Agenda
1.Human and ecological
contexts for human survival with dignity and integrity.
2.The self is a social
structure, community dependent and inter-connected.
in selves and communities.
4.To transform bureaucracies
into worker organized and operated organizations.
5.To strengthen popular
involvement in and control over mass media.
6.Demarchy: local networks
of volunteer based functional groups, dealing with various community functions
bringing the anarchist movement to bear on male domination and the oppression
and suppression of women.
8.To search for and
implement alternatives to state-market political economies.
into a strategy for social action.
ideas about material and intellectual property, and promoting non-ownership
and collective usage; the rejection of property, consumerism, and commodification.
nonviolent action in and by communities.
and technology for the people, alternative technosciences.
14.Theory as a subversive
theoretically, the rejection of transcendence, immanence, and psychologism.
16.The complexity of
the world requires that anarchists avoid become enclavists, and instead
work in consort with other activists for social change.
17.The anarchist tool
kit should be part of a larger variegated toolkit of strategies, skills,
tactics, and technologies for social change.
practice heterodox borrowing of ideas, perspectives, strategies, theories,
avoid dogma in theory and practice.
20.Anarchism is a form
In my lecture, I will
begin the process of developing and applying an anarchist sociological
theory to the problem of rethinking mathematics and mathematics education
as social constructions. Some of the questions participants might care
to consider are:
1. Reuben Hersh has
written a recently published book titled *What is Mathematics, Really?*
That question could (pre)occupy us for a bit.
2. Is mathematics invented
3. What does mathematics
4. What is a mathematical
5. What is the relevance
of the sociology of mathematics and mind to mathematics education? In particular,
what are the implications of the strong social construction conjecture
as formulated by David Bloor, and by Sal Restivo and Randall Collins for
designing relationships, structures (including the use of space and architecture),
and pedagogies in mathematics education?
6. What are the contributions
that we can anticipate from philosophy of mathematics and sociology of
mathematics to issues in problems in mathematics education and society/culture?