Free!* Reclaiming 'freedom' from the neoliberal lexicon

Gale, Cathy (2019) Free!* Reclaiming 'freedom' from the neoliberal lexicon. Message, 4, (In Press)


Intellectual and creative freedom underpins traditional notions of university. In late capitalism’s restructuring of education not only have pedagogic frameworks adjusted to corporate values and business models but the language of social justice and freedom has been seamlessly absorbed into a neoliberal habitus. ‘Free’ has entered the neoliberal lexicon in a distortion of Freire’s (1970) essence of education as the practice of freedom – the means by which people deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world – now usurped and muddled into a global discourse of consumption. This impacts on graphic design because its professional and pedagogic practices are not only entrenched in a market-driven culture but actively serve to facilitate and feed its growth. Drawing on Freire (1970), hooks (1994) and Giroux (2011, 2014) a critical reflexivity is brought to bear on the slippage of ‘freedom’ from agency and action to maintenance of the status quo. From ‘free’ schools in an unregulated competitive academic marketplace, to free speech in universities and galleries, the words we use to frame ideas and ideologies in the social field of design education require the closest scrutiny. ‘Free’ – so often associated with the asterisk, the small print, the catch and the clause which subverts the emancipatory offer – is interrogated as a social product. True freedom comes at a price.

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