5 blocks • 11 months ago
The questions of autonomy. There is a sense in Illich that pushes for more autonomy in the guidance of our own education, with perhaps a presupposition that contrasted autonomy with the regimentation or control of these institutions. However, a number of us seemed to question what this autonomy would look like. Surely, a seven year old breaking free from the restraints of an institution is practicing something closer to hedonism than autonomy (they’d probably just play Fortnite for months on end, as Rich mentioned). And even for older students (of all ages in fact), we should be suspicious of how this autonomy is sold to us. There is a distinction in Foucault between discipline and the disciplinary mode and what he at certain points calls “governmentality,” or a kind of governmentality that comes after displine. We understand what discipline generally means: lines and grids, numbers and normalizations, barracks and regimentations, top-down dictates, centralized and possibly arbitary dictates. Prisons are disciplinary and most of us would recognize schools as disciplinary. In ways, discipline treats human subjects the way the older industrial model of production standardizes products, the ways Henry Ford produced the model T, a connection Illich would be quick to make. However, discipline has its limits in what it can accomplish, and in certain arenas, it makes more sense— or is even more profitable or advantageous— to have subjects self-direct, to give them more “autonomy” while controlling the ranges and possibilities. This is better understood as governmentality. Where we’ve seen this mode best exemplified is online, where our differences are encouraged but no less exploited and in a larger sense controlled: our actions and contributions are not dictated, but are only allowed within a certain range of permutations. This is what we might fear with a naive “emancipation” from disciplinary school forms: that any so-called autonomy would be captured by power structures outside of the educational systems. Rather than merely opposing autonomy against institutions, we would ask how and which institutions structure or even create autonomy? Likewise, if we ask “what structures power or outputs after we dismantle or disestablish this institution?” and the answer is “nothing: we’re free!,” you know you’re really in trouble.