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Introduction

Childhood Innocence and the Politics of Corporate Culture
  • Henry A. Giroux

Abstract

This book explores the seemingly separate but interrelated nature of three myths, all of which function to limit substantive democracy, the welfare of children, and socially engaged scholarship. The first myth, “the end of history,” assumes that liberal democracy has achieved its ultimate victory and that the twin ideologies of the market and representative democracy now constitute, with few exceptions, the universal values of the new global village.1 Within this myth, liberal culture becomes synonymous with market culture, and the celebrated freedoms of the consumer are bought at the expense of the freedoms of citizens. Little public recognition is given to either the limits that democracies must place on market power or how corporate culture and its narrow definition of freedom as a private good actually may threaten the well-being of children and of democracy itself. In short, the conflation of democracy with the market cancels the tension between market moralities and those values of civil society that cannot be measured in strictly commercial terms but that are critical to democratic public life. I am referring specifically to values such as justice, respect for children, and the rights of citizens.

Keywords

Young People Popular Culture Cultural Politics Corporate Culture Critical Educator 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    The end of history theme was made famous in Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Marina Warner, Six Myths of Our Time (New York: Vintage, 1995), p. 56.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The universalized notion of childhood and innocence is dismantled in a range of historical work on childhood. See Philippe Aries, Centuries of Childhood (London: Cate Press, 1973, c. 1962);Google Scholar
  4. Chris Jenks, Childhood (New York: Routledge, 1996);Google Scholar
  5. Anne Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence: The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1998).Google Scholar
  6. For a history of contemporary youth cultures and history, see Joe Austin and Michael Nevin Willard, eds., Generations of Youth (New York: New York University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  7. See also Paul Goodman, Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized System (New York: Random House, 1960).Google Scholar
  8. 4.
    Edward W. Said, Representations of the Intellectual (New York: Pantheon, 1994), p.74.Google Scholar
  9. 5.
    Richard Johnson, “Reinventing Cultural Studies: Remembering for the Best Version,” in Elizabeth Long, ed., From Sociology to Cultural Studies (Malden, Mass.: Basil Blackwell, 1997), p. 461.Google Scholar
  10. 6.
    See, for example, Harold Bloom, The Western Canon (New York: Riverhead Books, 1994).Google Scholar
  11. For a critique of this position, see Stanley Aronowitz and Henry A. Giroux, Postmodern Education (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991);Google Scholar
  12. and Lawrence Levine, The Opening of the American Mind (Boston: Beacon Press 1996);Google Scholar
  13. Stanley Aronowitz, The Knowledge Factory (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  14. 9.
    This national tragedy is captured by one national commission on youth when it acknowledges that “Never before has one generation of American children been less healthy, less cared for, or less prepared for life than their parents were at the same age.” See National Commission on the Role of the Schools and the Community in Improving Adolescent Health, Code Blue: Uniting for Healthier Youth (Washington, D.C.: National Association of State Boards of Education/American Medical Association, 1990), p. 3.Google Scholar
  15. 11.
    As Mike Males has pointed out, drug use and arrest for violent crimes among youth has declined significantly since 1995. See Mike Males, “Five Myths and Why Adults Believe They Are True,” New York Times (April 29, 1998), p. 9. David Cole, No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System (New York: The New Press, 1999). For a passionate and moving commentary on the plight children face when incarcerated with adults, see Anthony Lewis, “Suffer the Children,” New York Times, July 7, 1997, p. A23.Google Scholar
  16. 12.
    Lauren Berlant, The Queen of America Goes to Washington City (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997), p. 5.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    For a brilliant and moving commentary on the changing politics and experience of youth in the 1980s, see Lawrence Grossberg, We Gotta Get Outta Here (New York: Routledge, 1992);Google Scholar
  18. also see William Finnegan, Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country (New York: Random House, 1998);Google Scholar
  19. Angela McRobbie, Postmodernism and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 18.
    I have taken up this issue in Henry A. Giroux, Fugitive Cultures: Race, Violence, and Youth (New York: Routledge, 1996);Google Scholar
  21. Henry A. Giroux, Channel Surfing: Racism, the Media and the Destruction of Today’s Youth (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  22. 19.
    This argument is taken up in Mike Males, Framing Youth: 10 Myths About the Next Generation (Monroe, Me: Common Courage Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  23. 20.
    Sharon Stephens, “Children and the Politics of Culture in ‘Late Capitalism,’” in Sharon Stephens, ed., Children and the Politics of Culture (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995), p. 13.Google Scholar
  24. 22.
    Cited in Robin D. G. Kelley, Yo’ Mama’s Disfunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1997), p. 44.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood (New York: Vintage Books, 1994);Google Scholar
  26. David Elkind, The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1981);Google Scholar
  27. David Elkind, Reinventing Childhood (Rosemont: Modern Learning Press, 1998); David Elkind, “The Social Determination of Childhood and Adolescence,” Education Week, February 24, 1998, pp. 48–50.Google Scholar
  28. 31.
    Steve Farkas and Jean Johnson, Kids These Days: What Americans Really Think About the Next Generation, a report from Public Agenda, sponsored by Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Advertising Council, 1997, pp. 1–13.Google Scholar
  29. 34.
    James R. Kincaid, Child-Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture (New York: Routledge, 1992).Google Scholar
  30. 36.
    For an excellent analysis of corporate culture and its role in American society, see Charles Derber, Corporation Nation (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  31. 39.
    For an excellent commentary on how adults construct a number of myths to suggest kids need to be contained for emulating the worst behaviors of adults, see Mike Males, Framing Youth. Also, see Ann Powers’ insightful commentary on the various ways in which young people defy such stereotypes and make an enormous number of diverse contributions to society, exhibiting both their own sense of individual and collective agency and social contributions to the larger world. I am referring here to Ann Powers, “Who Are These People, Anyway?” New York Times, April 29, 1998, pp. 1, 8. For a complex rendering of youth that completely undermines many of the stereotypes circulated about youth, see an adult world punish kids for allegedly imitating the adult behavior emulating the violence, see Jenkins, “Introduction: Childhood Innocence and Other Myths,” pp. 1–37. For an excellent collection on the history of youth cultures, see Joe Austin and Michael Nevin Willard, eds., Generations of Youth (New York: New York University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  32. 44.
    One index measuring the quality of children’s lives claims that the social health of children is at its lowest point in twenty-five years. See 1996 Index of Social Health (New York: Fordham Institute for Innovation in Social Policy, 1996), p. 6. See also Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Cornel West, The War Against Parents (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998).Google Scholar
  33. 45.
    Henry A. Giroux, Border Crossings (New York: Routledge, 1992)Google Scholar
  34. and Henry A. Giroux, Pedagogy and the Politics of Hope (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  35. 47.
    George Lipsitz, “Listening to Learn and Learning to Listen: Popular Culture, Cultural Theory, and American Studies,” American Quarterly 42:4 (December 1990), p. 621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 49.
    Richard Johnson, “Reinventing Cultural Studies: Remembering for the Best Version,” in Elizabeth Long, ed., From Sociology to Cultural Studies (Malden, Mass: Basil Blackwell, 1997), p. 465.Google Scholar
  37. 50.
    Tony Bennett, “Cultural Studies: A Reluctant Discipline,” Cultural Studies 12:4 (1998), p. 538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 53.
    Jon Katz, Virtuous Reality (New York: Random House, 1997), p. 173.Google Scholar
  39. 55.
    Cornel West, “America’s Three-Fold Crisis,” Tikkun 9:2 (1994), pp. 41–42.Google Scholar
  40. 58.
    Cindy Patton, “Performativity and Spatial Distinction,” in Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Andrew Parker, eds., Performativity and Performance (New York: Routledge, 1993), p. 183.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Henry A. Giroux 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry A. Giroux

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