“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” James Howell
Alone in the presence of nature, we people are weak and vulnerable. Not surprisingly, since our origins, the human instinct of survival has pushed us to group together. Then, much of what has allowed us to live together socially can be reduced in a very compact way to the concept of “culture” (Freud, 1973). From here it is worthwhile to focus on a fundamental and constituent ingredient of it, knowledge. Starting from the fact that there are many paths, but only one method (Martín Belloso, 2020), it is valid to say that the most refined version of knowledge is, of course, scientific knowledge; but not everything we know has suffered the exhaustive scrutiny of its technique. Much of what we have accepted and will continue to accept as “true” is based on pure intuition or even belief. This announces a conflict between the different ways of accepting reality; and therefore, consensus usually works to respond to that coexistence necessary to live in society. And on some occasions, knowledge comes to us from sources of authority, so it is easy to trust them. All these forms of knowledge exist, and they escape from the rigor of the scientific method. For better or worse, the transmission of this knowledge has helped human beings to develop a series of shortcuts that have led them to progress as a species.
In chronological terms, there have been a number of crucial moments for social progress. And these explain very well how we got from small groups to the massive societies of today. The extreme technological dependence that our society possesses today is not accidental; since our social origins, we have used it to progress. For Lenski (1969), there have been five major phases in what he called “sociocultural evolution”, or the changes that occur in society as it acquires new technologies. These stages are known as hunting and gathering societies, pastoral societies, horticultural societies, agricultural societies and industrial societies. Today there are still societies such as hunting societies, and their group dynamics for obtaining food results in rather low levels of social inequality.
With hindsight, it can be said that the domestication of plants and animals brought about by agriculture allowed people to settle in fixed places for the first time; and thus to leave nomadic and pastoral life aside. This is where the social changes of a transcendental nature began to occur, and it is that when the group effort to obtain food was reduced, the characteristic human ingenuity began to flourish; giving rise to the emergence of professions and specializations in function of society itself. With this, the sense of family also began to change.
Being a society less concerned with obtaining food, the symbolic importance of the role of survival changed and even diminished. Education ceased to be a task exclusive to the home, and passed into the hands of institutions such as churches and schools. With the industrial revolution, the changes became even more acute, and with it the demands of the labor market began to be linked to the curricular agendas of the institutions in charge of education.
WATCH FROM THE ENCLOSURE
Thinking isolated becomes more and more a routine part of everyday life. Physical distancing has been imposed on a global scale, and for those of us involved in teaching, this has meant a drastic change in the pace of doing things.
Currently, the amount of information available is unmanageable; and it makes necessary the existence of a critical stance towards all the content that surrounds us. The particular context in which we live makes us think about why social dynamics should be understood in a different way (Žižek, 2020, 2020). In the face of this reality, the teaching processes cannot remain the same; and must fully consider contemporary habits of information consumption.
Google is perhaps the largest synonym for the Internet in existence today. And as faithful believers of their answers and suggestions, it is not surprising that the behavior of search results for phrases such as “virtual education”, “online teaching” and the like, show abnormal and increasing behavior in their search trends from mid-March 2020.
This suggests that there is a strong concern, experienced mostly by teachers, about continuing to develop their pedagogical plans in the face of this untimely methodological change. Up to this point, it can be said that the virtual learning experience is not close to the face-to-face one. Likewise, the pedagogical exercise has also suffered a lot in these weeks of physical distance. I consider that for most of my life I have maintained a close relationship with the digital world; and in 2015, this became an everyday element in my professional development. Thanks to this, I have been able to help, in one way or another, fellow teachers and even former students with resources and technological solutions to deal with this particular situation. As the fourth industrial revolution absorbs us, intergenerational collaboration becomes increasingly indispensable.
Certainly, many learnings will come out of these extraordinary circumstances; and from them new pedagogical and socio-educational paradigms. However, it is important to take a critical look at movements that promise structural changes based on social facts that are deeply rooted in human behavior and culture. This does not mean that we should remain indifferent to the course of the social. But it is important to maintain an active look that allows us to discern the usefulness of certain revisions and novel recommendations that various academic disciplines may raise around social changes, especially when it comes to education (Úcar, 2016).
For good or ill, those of us involved in the social field of education learned in a particular way; therefore, it will be a great challenge to change the conventions that allowed us to make ours that knowledge that constitutes us today. This inevitably pushes us to try to look again at our reality in order to understand (verstehen) in a critical way the social phenomena that surround us.
The usefulness of this reflexive act allows us to fix our attention on the changes that are totally dissolved in our human nature; and have already become a constitutive characteristic of our species. This action should not be limited to the present; and it is worth reviewing past postulates that in their moment did not find fertile ground for their development; and it was preferred to leave them aside by circulating between the “complex” and the “superfluous”. And if this is to be useful, then theoretical efforts on education should not be watertight; and they should allow the construction of integrated scenes where other disciplines can contribute to this way of seeing things. In view of this suggestion, it is not surprising that the Frankfurt School’s outlook has historically been closely linked to artistic and cultural productions; since in them the symptoms that afflict society are usually evident (Jameson, 1991).
One of the great problems of educational action is its colonized character (Úcar, 2016). This has pigeonholed the teaching profession around the classrooms; with the aggravating factor of responding to the demands exercised by the economic structure on education, specifically through the labor market. Despite the fact that this approach is beginning to be corrected, many of the educational actions have focused on the area of “the classroom” itself. This limits the phenomenon in a temporary and physical way, and responds only to its dramaturgical nature (Goffman, 1971) in which the recipients of knowledge adapt to the role of “student”, and those who facilitate it are located within the boundaries of their roles as “teachers” or “educators”. In current and general terms, education tends to focus on the transmission of knowledge; and not on how we learn by having so much information in our pockets.
As we continue to see education as a strategic tool that allows us to achieve concrete utilities, it is even easier to open up to the demands of the labor market to constitute the curricular agendas and purposes of education. Learning is a social fact, and cannot be seen as a synonym of the market (Úcar, 2016). Educational efforts must increasingly respond to the problems individuals face in becoming part of society; and educational institutions are the closest level of contact with society after the family or the home. Vast examples have been given to us by popular culture about the simile that exists between educational formation and the lines of assembly. The latter are the icons par excellence of industrial economies oriented to maximize productivity and efficiency. The great price of this dynamic is alienating if we remember how that particular model considered people as necessary resources within the production chain.
Former human resources now boast brand new euphemisms such as “human talent”, “internal customers” or “corporate partners”. Titles vary according to niche and geography; but the solution to the dehumanizing price of this situation is not to call people working within an institution pretentiously. To this end, it is important to recognize that we, the current educators, were trained under rather nineteenth-century logic. Our great challenge is to transmit knowledge to people who aspire to join a society that believes it depends on the clean face of a service economy, intangible, creative, as if the devices where this moves were not manufactured away from us by cheap labor in subhuman working conditions.
Here, a scenario is presented in which we educators are faced with a generation gap in relation to the transmission of knowledge. And by continuing to repeat the dynamics that helped to form the knowledge that defines us today, we will continue to widen this gap even further. The situation becomes dangerous if we consider that we will continue to train people under industrial logics in an increasingly accelerated and changing context. We will continue to grease the old machinery that will expel “competent professionals” and “highly trained” to face a post-industrial world that we are not understanding. We will continue to throw people into a world for which they are not prepared, with the excuse that “real life is not like in the classroom”.
The colloquialism behind “real life” brings with it much of the world of work, and with it economic models, which turn out to be increasingly individualizing. This places us in a context where self-employment has become increasingly popular, and where the desire to be our own bosses becomes an attainable reality. The term gig economy illustrates very well the promise of a dynamic economy, driven mostly by individual entrepreneurship. But there is something that is not usually taken into account, and that is the precarious condition to which this can lead us in terms of benefits and other guarantees offered by a more aspirational work according to the educational models still in force.
Temporary work is nothing new; what is innovative about the current case is a scenario that is loaded with services, and not with machinery. Highly specialized technological services, whose development requires creative solutions and whose function before the market is to solve quite specific needs. A couple of examples can be the hotel and transport industry, traditionally offered by hotels and taxi drivers. But thanks to mobile applications such as AirBnb or Uber, individuals can make money from their idle assets by offering to meet these needs. Is there an unoccupied room in the house? You can offer it on AirBnb, and generate an extra income. Do you have a car and some free time at the end of a day? You can earn money during this time by taking trips in Lyft, Uber or similar. Do you have only a bike and free time? It doesn’t matter, with Glovo, Ubereats and so on, you can even make an additional financial profit.
Against this background, the great individualizing threat will be that people will begin to see everything as things, depending on their usefulness. Translating all these services into a simple commodity, completely objectifying those who supply our needs. The result is an even more alienated relationship with the world, and that is why education must pay attention to these scenarios. And thus help people to better understand how to join this world without making their existence precarious; without leaving aside the values that help combat the new alienating turn of global and advanced capitalism that we are living today (Jameson, 1991).
The current context around the pandemic has shown that the economy can individualize us even more (Žižek, 2020); but to talk about it would result in something still too speculative. The important thing is to see how the forms of knowledge transmission have been affected. To do this, I start from the existence of a generation gap clearly defined by the great differences that exist between the way in which we teachers learned; and the way in which today students, and people in general, make knowledge their own.
We need to understand an accelerated world, whose pace distances us more and more from our students; it makes us apathetic and unresponsive to their real concerns and needs. The clues that I propose below allow us to see with greater clarity the strengthening of this phenomenon that separates us from those we seek to help by sharpening our alienated relationship with the world:
- The acceleration proposed by Hartmut Rosa
- The dyssynchrony that Byung Chul-Han explains
- Hysteresis understood according to Pierre Bourdieu
The text written here does not pretend to be a treatise on alienation in post-industrial times, but I think that the circumstances that exacerbate the widening of the gap discussed above are manifestations of this social phenomenon. Historically, this concept has been developed by a large number of intellectuals; but it is perhaps Karl Marx with whom it is most often associated. Alienation and work go hand in hand, and for Marx work should be a creative and vitalizing activity; but in the nineteenth century, this was mostly a dehumanizing activity. Pre-existing trade relations were refined to such an extent that each person could trade in the marketplace with other people and also with institutions. This led those people who had nothing else to trade to sell the only thing they had to offer, their physical labor force.
The relationship between the market and the curriculum agenda was mentioned above, but it is important not to lose sight of the origin of this trade dynamic, which is burdened by a considerable degree of “commodity fetishism” (Marx, 2010). This phenomenon meant the result of alienation after the capitalist mode of production had treated the worker as a simple input necessary for the generation of capital, the latter becoming the true social subject. This is still happening today, and even more acutely if we contemplate the inclusion of outsourced labour in maquilas, free trade zones, and other forms of labour famous for their labour exploitation.
The problem in itself was not the commercial dynamic that was taking place, but how this was being rewarded by the capitalist bourgeoisie towards the proletarian class. Physical exhaustion, precarious pay, and deplorable working conditions drove people to alienate themselves. In other words, they were increasingly detaching themselves from this utopian vision of rewarding work that would meet the most abstract and intellectual needs. Today, the situation has changed considerably, and we are faced with a capitalism that Marx did not manage to measure (Jameson, 1991).
Thanks to several labour reforms and new business dynamics, there are now greater possibilities of meeting these needs through and by means of work, to such an extent that it has enabled a few people to accumulate a modest amount of cultural and symbolic capital (Bourdieu, 2002), in addition to traditional capital. The distinction here is important to emphasize, since I am not talking about the work that allows access to experiences offered by the market thanks to the income it generates; but to be able to carry out gratifying tasks in a remunerated way. Before this loss of the subject to the hands of capitalism, György Lukács explained in his book “History and Class Consciousness” this alienating phenomenon under a more eloquent word; the “reification” (Giner, Lamo de Espinosa, & Torres Albero, 1998).
The concept that directly alludes to placing people in the same plane of things. Many thinkers such as Theodor Adorno, Raya Dunayevskaya and others, developed it further. Recently, Rahel Jaeggi has given a new turn to the concept of alienation; and contextualizes it in terms of a capitalism that is already ubiquitous. For her, alienation has reached a state that makes us unable to recover ourselves, generating a problem with the way we become who we are (Jaeggi, 2016).
The alienation is, as Hartmut Rosa exposes quoting her, “the relationship of absence of relationship” (Rosa, 2019b, p. 240) in a cold, rigid and non-responsive world. The importance of this antechamber lies in better understanding the panorama for which we are preparing the new generations, because in their hands is the struggle against a rhythm of alienation different from that which occupied us when we were in their place.
ACCELERATION, DYSSYNCHRONY AND HYSTERESIS
Hartmut Rosa worries about our relationship with a world that pushes us more and more to yield and to accelerate, with the simple purpose of surviving. Alexandre Lacroix (2019) mentions a very interesting analogy about how to understand this phenomenon. He says that it is “as if we were offered a bicycle that, at first, is kept in balance at 5 kilometers per hour, then at 6, then at 7, 8, 9, 10, etc.” (p.21). This would undoubtedly lead us to try harder and harder, with the sole purpose of staying on our feet; with the sole purpose of surviving. In historical terms, for Rosa we find ourselves today within a late modernity that has a different temporal fabric than the classic modernity that preceded it. This leads her to think that the essence of modernity is the acceleration of life, and with it the world. The result is a daily life without present, where everything circulates around the here and now (Rosa, 2003).
The most advanced societies have resolved that for economic growth, technological acceleration and cultural innovation to exist, they must maintain their institutional structure (Rosa, 2016). And this, as in Lacroix’s bicycle analogy, can only be achieved through perennial dynamism. He calls this “dynamic stabilization”, and it is very well understood when we see it as a projection of the absurd myth of Sisyphus (Camus, 2012). It is not necessary to be very versed in social theory to suppose that this is only the antechamber of an imminent and generalized exhaustion; that it will be suffered not only in an individual way, but also as a social group. How many more progressive iterations will we be able to support?
In addition to the immense acceleration of our relationship with the world, it has too much to offer. There are enormous amounts of cultural products, placed at our discretion and which exceed any limits of experience. This leads us to a soft relationship with a world that seems to place no major limits on our daily life. It also offers us the world in an immediate way, immense amounts of information that annihilate almost completely any need to strain the memory. In view of this, it is important to mention that memory saturation continues to be the most recurrent, and even preferred, strategy of formal education during childhood and adolescence; and even of university education in some cases.
For this reason, we should not forget that in typical circumstances, it is educational institutions that continue to be the most immediate contact that any person experiences with society in addition to their family. In order to try to reformulate the ways in which knowledge is transmitted, based on an accelerated relationship with the world that needs to be slowed down, it is important to find and understand the drivers of this acceleration. We are at this time in a peculiar state of our human history (Žižek, 2020). This is the situation that could allow us that longed-for breath needed to think better about how to slow down our relationship with the world; before reaching that point of collective exhaustion that is so close at hand.
Hartmut Rosa (2019a) proposes a series of angles that help to better understand the late modernity he mentions. Dynamic speed has long been perceived as an expression of the progress that drives societies to accelerate consumption cycles. But we have reached a point where it seems that future generations will not be able to enjoy the same pattern of life as their parents.
It is important to note that the “process of individualization” is not the same as the “individualization of being”. In the former, we speak rather of a state of well-being in which the context is capable of guaranteeing autonomy to a person; and with it, his development as an individual. Meanwhile, the individualization of the being is understood as the result of an excessive promotion of competition between people (ibid). In view of this, the novel proposal of teaching by competencies does not seem to me to be an adequate solution if we wish to begin to slow down our relation with the world. It seems that with this educational position, the logic of consumption would have slipped somehow. Giving rise to a continuum of training energized by the desire for extreme individual sophistication.
Societies are increasingly composed of people with a strong desire for autonomy that is truncated by a very particular contradiction. Although we are situated in a globalised society (Castells, Fernández-Ardevol, Linchuan, & Sey, 2007) which has shown that we are sailing in “the same boat” (Žižek, 2020, p.15), this does not allow us to satisfy the impulse of individualisation in a uniform way (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 2012). This situation is problematic, not only because of the paradox it contains, but also because of the ulcerating effect that is undermining the depths of being. We run to keep up with the world, postponing our life projects indefinitely.
There is no traceable algorithm, much less exact one of social acceleration. But Rosa (2016), tries to formulate a firm definition in theoretical and even empirically debatable terms of what the process of acceleration of societies could mean. To this end, he refers to “technological acceleration”, “acceleration of social change” and “acceleration of the pace of life” as the three dimensions that make social acceleration dynamic.
a. Technology Acceleration
This is the quintessence of advanced capitalism as defined by Fredric Jameson, and it is perhaps the most empirically experimental of all. We have here the brutal acceleration of the processes of production, transport and communication. In addition to all the new forms of management that have as their sole objective the maximum productivity of time.
I would like to bring up the dynamics of lean startup; very typical of the technological service industries, where an unfinished product is launched into the market to be refined according to the feedback that users can give back to it. This methodology invites acceleration by delivering a prototype that is refined over time. I am in no way against the healthy practice of listening to those who use the solutions to better adapt them to what they really need. The problem is that this pushes the market to a greater boom in supply at a strenuous pace. And it is with this world, with ever more acute development cycles, that the students who pass through our hands find themselves.
It is perhaps in the space-time regime of society that the effects of technological acceleration can be felt most clearly. Our encounters with society seem never to end, and they transgress the moments of privacy that become scarcer every day. We are connected all the time, consuming the privacy of others as a form of entertainment where celebrities (Bourdieu, 2001) are mostly less unreachable. Either because we really know them outside the world of screens, or because they are revealed to us thanks to them. From an anthropological perspective, it is important that we see ourselves as educators who knew a world without the Internet; and at the same time, we propose to transmit knowledge to people who did not know a world without the existence of the Internet.
b. Accelerating Social Change
Less visible, but no less disturbing, is the speed with which changes of a strictly social nature are taking place today. Attitudes, fashions, prejudices, perspectives, lifestyles and even languages; everything is changing with increasing speed. At the global level, one can speak of a single society composed of constantly moving cultural flows (Appadurai, 1990).
However, although we agree on the existence of this social fact, there is still no adequate way to measure it. It is thus suggested the development of a systematic sociology of social acceleration, which contemplates the Gegenwartsschrumpfung, that would come to be more or less the conceptual equivalent of the progressive contraction of the present; to perhaps obtain a rule that allows to empirically calibrate the speed of social change (Rosa, 2016, p.25).
c. Life Rhythm Acceleration
It is in this dimension of microsocial character that the current existence of a kind of “hunger for time” can be observed. It seems that our society has found a way to consume time to such an extent that it is today an increasingly scarce resource. Paradoxically, we have come to need more and more time, in a world where many things can be done immediately. Not surprisingly, the most pressing complaint in these days of social isolation was that time was not enough. We gained time by not having to move around physically to exercise our daily lives, and we quickly filled those gaps in poor quality leisure with more alienating activity. All of this modern dynamic generates what Rosa calls a “desynchronization”; a phenomenon that results from the differentiated rhythms with which the different parts that make up our world accelerate.
This leads me to think that this phenomenon of acceleration affects the generation gap that I propose. We must understand the weight of the way we learned, and how we intend to teach those who are natives of a world that is more accelerated than the one we experience in terms of age. Until a few days ago, our daily lives were highly governed by the aggressive drive to satisfy our desires and needs.
It could even be fragmented into a continuous series of unfinished business; in which we complete some, but accumulate even more. Thus remains our experience with the world, saturated with things to be done; but with no apparent end (Han, 2015). And this is only one of the many manifestations of a phenomenon that Byung-Chul Han calls “dyssynchrony”.
Phonetically, the word “dysynchrony” is very similar to the “desynchronization” mentioned by Hartmut Rosa; and although they do not pose the same thing, both refer to specific manifestations of our relationship with the world. The first understands the scarcity of time from a more individual level, and the second from a more structural approach. Therefore, both concepts help to better see the totality of time in our daily lives, thus allowing a better understanding of the behavior of the generation gap in learning.
For Han, time does not accelerate, for it becomes more and more dispersed and atomized. This is related to the iterative way we lead our lives. Each space of our time is filled with activities that must be fulfilled, so we have less and less space left for leisure and contemplative life. This never-ending appearance is the latent manifestation of the disappearance of the computer element from our lives. Having been formed in an era of less powerful virtual connections, we have been able to perceive time in a more linear and less atomized way.
Immediacy was not the norm, and waiting was more abundant. This is key to understanding the contradictions that occur in contemporary teaching. When time is atomized, events are dispersed and released, and in some cases even lose their hierarchy. Thus, it is not surprising that the solution of many fellow educators during these weeks has been the cramming of tasks and materials; with which they cut off the pedagogical spirit of teaching.
Without a time frame nothing ends, and nothing begins. And so, the meaning and purpose of things is lost. And this is compounded as an individual aggregate of the dynamic stabilization that Rosa explains when talking about social acceleration. Returning to the myth of Sisyphus, it is as if he had awakened and found himself pushing his immense rock, without knowing in what moment his tragic task began; and without having a peak to reach. The implication of this atomized character of time is the teleological annihilation of our activities.
We are at the gates of a major existential problem, the absence of meaning left by the teleological void produces inevitable anguish. Added to this is an individualized way of life, very marked by constant performance and continuous competition. In the face of the evident announcement of the death of the contemplative life, it is unhealthy to continue promoting an educational scheme by competencies. It would be preferable to have a pedagogy of solidarity (Ferrer i Guàrdia, 2002; Freire, 1985; Gramsci, 1985) that helps students to recover the teleological meaning of their lives.
One of the many complaints that have been expressed collectively during the current health crisis has been the perception that every day is the same. A phenomenon that was already well illustrated some years ago with the following phrase, “there are no longer dikes that regulate, articulate or give rhythm to the flow of time, that can stop it and guide it” (Han, 2015, p.14). As the temporal tension between the future and the past has been annihilated, we are at the mercy of a present that ends only with death. Body and mind wear out at unsynchronized rates; and it is natural for the body to die before the mind, under normal living circumstances. However, Han observes that contemporary man, highly individualized, wears out at a reverse rate, and dies at the wrong time.
Here it is important to return to the focus on knowledge. The quality of this knowledge depends on the time that is dedicated to it, as long as it is done in a reflective and contemplative way; and not in a saturated way. Otherwise, education will continue to emulate the schemes and accelerated rhythms of the market. A minimum of reflection on this subject would help us to see the important impact that something as simple as transparent communication between colleagues would have on the recovery of the “Scent of time” as Byung-Chul Han would say. The result would be a broader picture of the many academic demands that we as an institution place on our students. Our educational work must dispense with the demand for activities to be solved, and better consider the joint construction of solutions that help to reframe time.
Having access to unprecedented amounts of information, it is important to make the distinction between information and knowledge. It might be mistakenly believed that these are equivalent, substitute or even synonymous concepts; and Han explains that they are not. For him, knowledge requires an apprehension of time; it remains accumulated in our memory. In contrast to information, which lacks time. It accumulates in databases, and we access it. The key is to transmit useful knowledge, which helps in every decision-making process that arises when we are faced with all the information we can access.
Let us remember how our learning was in a world where access to the Internet was still incipient. As it became more democratic, we began to see with enthusiasm the great advantages that this technological event allowed and foresaw. Therefore, it would be worth recognizing that our way of practicing teaching in today’s world could be biased according to the following formula:
An expression that could be read as follows:
If before it took us X amount of time to solve N amount of tasks; then today we could solve N amount of tasks in X amount of time.
The reason simplistically describes why we have perhaps normalized the widespread demand for student performance. This might have helped pave the way for competition to flourish with a particularly individualized stress. In the face of such a frenetic scenario, standing out from the crowd becomes increasingly difficult to achieve. Paradoxically, this leaves a world inhabited by individuals who are less different from each other.
The paradox that makes us all equal through an individualizing process is already a phenomenon of everyday life. Its momentum is perceived outside the classroom (Goffman, 1971), as it is also present in social networks and in the consumption of cultural products (Han, 2017). The totalizing capacity of choice that we live today, could have been seen as emancipating some years ago. But we have come to romanticize so much the distinction between individuals, that it has become today the preferred neoliberal strategy to give us a life anesthetized by the indulgences of “self” (Mead, 1972).
It is not necessary for us to understand the technical specificities of technology, to realize that our lives are increasingly resting in its wide and comfortable arms. But there is something that as educators we are obliged to understand. This is that both technology and our human existence have different rhythms and dynamics. As expected, both are out of sync according to Pierre Bourdieu because of a phenomenon he explains using the concept of “hysteresis” as an analogy to it.
Perhaps habitus is the best known concept of the French sociologist; and this can be understood as the gradual mental inclusion of social structures through routine and everyday practices. This is how we carry the structures inside, but not in a finalized way (Bourdieu, 1997). Its interiorization occurs at an individual pace as we interact with other individuals in society; it helps us to function in the social world in an individualized way (Joas & Knöbl, 2009). His social theory illustrates how the habitus constantly interacts with the fields where we as individuals evolve (Ritzer, 2011). And these, work thanks to a series of mechanisms of which the hysteresis is part of them (Grenfell, 2012).
The word was taken by Bourdieu from physics, and served to explain the delay that exists between the rhythm of the camp, and that of the habitus (Bourdieu, 1977). Several fields today have a traditional and a virtual dimension; in which both are part of the social construction of reality (Berger & Luckmann, 1976). Just by getting older, we already experience the presence of hysteresis at some point. It takes us time and effort to adapt to the rhythm of the surrounding field; and by the time we have reached the pace, the new rhythm is different, and we are already tired.
As the fields are transformed, their rhythm becomes different. What was normal yesterday, is now something completely new. Our way of learning had to follow the rhythm of the surrounding fields, especially those relevant to the world of work. Only when we dealt with them empirically did we realize that something was wrong. The aggravating effect of hysteresis is that a few people are able to take advantage of this surprising encounter with the world. As educators, we must seek a solution that will reduce the anesthetized and catatonic state with which the new generations relate to the world. But first, we must stop the widening of the generation gap in learning that we have been nurturing for so long. And this will help us to find solutions that will allow us to dispense with the techniques of wear and tear as the star model of teaching.
Social fields are usually well enough defined to be categorized in some way; however, this does not mean that they are independent of each other. Cultural, economic, linguistic and social changes generate abundant amounts of hysteresis that make the process of human adaptability more complex (Grenfell, 2012). In reduced words, the incongruities generated between the habitus and the field, are agglomerated within this phenomenon that is translated in social malaise for the majorities. By operationalizing the concept, a tool is obtained that helps to make explicit the links between external systematic changes, and the individual nature of each person in society. The result of this dialectic is the ontological disconnection of individuals with the fields where they move (Strand & Lizardo, 2017).
The increase in health diagnoses linked to exhaustion (Bianchi, Schonfeld, & Laurent, 2015) should be sufficient warning of the impossible business of keeping up with the world. Occupational health and safety risks are no longer exclusive to the world of work, and have begun to take their toll on a significant number of college students (Salmela-Aro & Read, 2017) and school children (Kim, Lee, Kim, Choi, & Lee, 2015; Walburg, 2014). However, we have had the opportunity to see how the pace of our environment has slowed down (Butler, 2020; Dacil, 2020). Here, we cannot ask ourselves whether or not it is worthwhile to slow down our lives as well. The relationship between both rhythms is symbiotic, and we can correct it.
Education has worked as a constitutive and constitutive socializing agent. It has been the first contact with society after the family, and in turn it should help people to develop in a healthy way in society. So far, I have raised the existence of a phenomenon that separates students from educators or teachers in a considerable way. The gap maintains an important generational component, and with this I try to reflect on how our way of learning in the past can negatively affect our students. Not because the methods are outdated or even obsolete, but because they reacted to the demands that social fields imposed on educational institutions at the time.
Figure 01 – Own elaboration.
In pedagogical terms, the untimely imposition of social distancing has impacted the way knowledge is facilitated and built. To this, we should add the aggravating factor that has led us to ignore that we should already be building a new normality. The world will not go back to the way it was; and as educators, we have to continue with the task of intervening in the lives of our students so that they can relate to the world in a more holistic way (Hooks, 1994).
ACTION AND RESONANCE
The vital need to rethink education has been one of the many discourses that have emerged during these days of confinement (Meisenzahl, 2020; Shihipar, 2020). But it seems that it refuses to detach itself from the shadow of the world of work, and is content to emulate its dynamics and its solutions. For better or worse, we have today the opportunity to rethink education. And thus, to be able to incorporate more people who are capable of continuing to slow down the pace of our world. Figure 01 illustrates how the generation gap in learning is affected thanks to our accelerated relationship with the world, to the dyssynchrony produced by the teleological absence of time and the hysteresis generated by the constant changes that occur in the social fields that surround us.
By reading a little of the works of Hannah Arendt and Hartmut Rosa we could somehow heal our relationship with the world. First, we should consider Arendt’s concept of “action” because of the following, the popularity that vigilance for health has taken has been vast and global (Malaspina, 2020).
It is also one of the most visible elements of this new normality that has begun to be built (Milanović, 2020), so it should not be ignored in this attempt to better educate the new generations. In the face of this, various authoritarian measures have been taken all over the world, and these tend to prepare the antechamber of totalitarianism (Arendt, 1958). Later, it could be combined with the concept of “resonance” that Rosa proposes, which could be understood in a very summarized way as the antithesis of alienation (2019b). The “action”, is one of the ingredients that together with the “work” and “labor” constitute the vita activa that Arendt defined in contrast to the vita contemplativa. That is to say, the passage from intellectual reflection to a direct relationship with the world. She established a hierarchy between the three parts of the vita activa. The first is work, and it includes all the activities carried out as a means of survival. Then, work encompasses everything that is done to build our world. And action, finally, since it is the highest of human activities (Voice, 2014). Work and labor abound so much in our days that they do not give action time to develop fully.
Thinking in terms of “action” is important, especially in times of hyperconnectivity and extreme demand for performance. It is through action that we as individuals define who we want to be; and also what we want to do, thus gaining autonomy and identity. It is a way that allows us to be in the world in a conscious way; thus avoiding that others decide about our lives. And even if she thought in terms of totalitarianism and the banality of evil (Arendt, 2003; Stonebridge, 2019), action is still necessary in a world where multiple aspects of our daily lives are at the mercy of digital algorithms (Dijck, Poell, & Waal, 2018). We believe that we think for ourselves, but our experience and relationship with the world is mediated in an unprecedented way. And thanks to social distancing, we have given more of our time to connectivity with virtual platforms.
As educators, we can make efforts that awaken the action of our students, as long as they are prudent with others. Many things can be reflected upon today; but to stop the growth of the generation gap in learning, we will have to focus especially on the acceleration of the world. At the individual level, recurrent action triggers an awakening that could mean a constant aesthetic experience, no longer anesthetized, with the world. The more individuals we reach a healthy degree of vita activa, the more plurality there will be in the world (Arendt, 1958). This would reduce the constant expulsion of the different that Byung Chul-Han speaks of, widening the spectrum of the most accepted professions. We should not forget, that when we were educated, there were specific careers that were better seen by society. This aspirational nature still exists, and it continues to do harm. But this could change as there is more plurality in the world. As we reach that healthy state of constant active life on an individual level, social plurality will increase. But we must all contribute to its increase from our disciplines; because otherwise, it will not happen generally on a global scale. Connected to this titanic effort, something else must happen that will make the speed of the world stop hurting us; resonance (Rosa, 2019a). For Rosa, exhaustion is a visible symptom of the alienation that exists in our accelerated world (ibid). Therefore, it does not seem wrong to think that education can also become alienating by moving in an obedient manner before the demands of the labor market. Education acts as an institution without action, which does not question what is expected of it. If alienation removes us from our human nature, then its opposite should return it to us. This is the premise with the Rose initiates its concept of “resonance”, and illustrates it with examples linked to culture and ideas. In the moment that as human beings we can appropriate in a metaphysical sense an experience, then there exists a resonance with the world.
This does not happen immediately, and like the vita activa proposed by Arendt, it is reached in a scaled way. First there must exist social affection, or even empathy. Then, it is important to constantly maintain a degree of self-sufficiency that will allow us to transform our alienated state into one that resonates with the world (Rosa, 2019b). With this, she invites us to relate to the world in an equalized way. However, she recognizes that this does not always happen in an aesthetic or perceptible way; especially when the expectations are high, or when one wants to force the experience. Therefore, education should seek to promote disinterested social actions that allow both an active life in a pluralized manner and a resonant relationship with the world. Resonant experiences are an important element of identity, because they are made up of vital appropriations of the world. Certainly, the suggestion applies to many things in our daily lives, but we must not lose focus on our goal of reducing the extent of the generation gap in learning. Otherwise, we will continue to prepare people for a world that they will not understand, because even we are not reading it in the active way that is needed. Otherwise, we would not have disguised in an alienating way the displacement of leisure, with the anaesthetizing sensation of a more productive and effective rhythm of life, during these days of quarantine. The invitation to stop playing the speed game is complex, but it should motivate us. Otherwise, the situation will exceed our time and our hands. And it will be the new educators who will replace us, those who will continue to make the same mistakes; but in an even more accelerated, more alienated, more monitored and more wearisome society.
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