Radical servant leadership: cultivating information citizens

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by Angelo J. Letizia

Globalization entails the compression of figurative space between people, nations and institutions (Dare, 2010; Spring, 2008). With the advent of new communication and transportation technology, ideas, goods, people and money move across the globe with relative ease (Spring, 2008). No event is truly local anymore, all occurrences are global. Globalization has led to cultural diffusion and cultural mixing on a global scale (Spring, 2008). Globalization is not a neutral process however. Rather, the compression of global space has made it easier for certain institutions to dominate this constricted area (Peet, 2009). Seen in view of the information age that the world finds itself in, this prospect is especially threatening to any type of democratic ethos. Information and knowledge are the life blood of a democratic society; citizens must be knowledgeable and educated to participate in democratic governments. In this constricted global space however, all types of information are dominated by the most potent form of capitalism, neoliberalism (Giroux, 2011; Peet, 2009). The quest for profit is the central tenet of neoliberalism and this quest crowds out any notions of democracy, communal virtue or public spheres (Giroux, 2011; Hill, 2012; Peet, 2009; Zizek, 2009). Democratic training and the public sphere which are vital to democracy are seen as inefficient and not cost effective by neoliberals (Giroux, 2011; Hill 2012). During the 1960s and early 1970s, there was an effort, partly successful, to mobilize the growing information for justice.

During the 1980s and 1990s however, neoliberals and conservatives led a vicious smear campaign to discredit the social justice gains of the 1960s. They branded any social justice claim with the moniker of “political correctness” to paint it as an absurdity (Newfield, 2008). Social justice was cast as an expensive farce propagated by liberal and communist college professors (Newfield, 2008). During the 1980s and 1990s, the left did not help its cause either. Instead of meeting the right wing attack head on, leftist scholars degenerated in a vicious and pedantic criticism of each other (Rhoads & Torres, 2006). The right used this as proof of the ineffectiveness and wastefulness of disciplines like the humanities and philosophy and many social sciences (Newfield, 2008; Rhoads & Torres, 2006). Since the 1990s, the humanities have been in a state of neglect, confusion and humiliation.

Despite this lack of social prestige scholars in the humanities, in education and the social sciences produce a vast corpus of information on a variety of topics such as poverty reduction, improving race relations and better pedagogical practices to name a few. Scholars in all the above disciplines deal with and write about issues regarding social justice, human happiness, morality and positive social transformation–which usually go unnoticed by policymakers and the general public, or are cast as subversive or wasteful by right wing critics. Many of these scholars also engage in critiques of the present order with the aim of improving society. This information is published in journals and presented at conferences. While neoliberals disdained the humanities and the arts, they relished (most of) the hard sciences, business and engineering because these disciplines have the ability to create profit (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004; Washburn, 2005).

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The hard sciences and engineering also have the potential to produce valuable research such as cures for diseases and to alleviate hunger and provide structural improvements such as plumbing and electricity to people who do not have them (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). In 1973 Daniel Bell noted how the proliferation of information is magnified in post-industrial society (Bell, 1999). New knowledge is produced, new disciplines are created to handle and classify this knowledge and new specializations develop. New journals and publications become necessary to codify the growing amount of information (Bell, 1999). The situation that Bell described in 1973 is truer than ever. Neoliberalism however obscures and actively represses any type of information that does not lead to profit or that challenges it. Much of the information in the humanities, education and social sciences is cast as superfluous, as a luxury and not necessary for the global economy (Hill, 2012; Vestritch, 2008). This neglected information however is not irrelevant; it is information dealing with social justice, democracy and criticism and it cannot be repressed. This is why it is imperative that radical servant leaders emerge to fight for just and moral knowledge in the post-industrial age.

Famed business guru Peter Drucker noted that the market as a distribution mechanism is only useful for short term actions. In regards to information that may be far reaching or beneficial to the advancement of the human race in the long run, the market is not effective (Drucker, 2002). Since it is only a short term distribution mechanism predicated on the immediate acquisition of profit, the market has a difficult time utilizing any type of information that may only be useful in the long run (Drucker, 2002). As information proliferates, the market only values what is potentially profitable. Most other types of knowledge are neglected (Drucker, 2002; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004; Spring, 2008; Washburn, 2005).

Many of the great scientific discoveries and innovations of the twentieth century however were the result of basic scientific research, which is not profitable (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004; Washburn, 2005). They were the result of curiosity, exploration, trial, error and vision. Basic research is undertaken for exploratory purposes and ultimately for gaining new knowledge (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). Unfortunately, neoliberals do not have time to wait for new knowledge because it is not profitable (Spring, 2008; Washburn, 2005). The aim of science is changing from one of discovery and advancement of new knowledge to short term profit making (Drucker, 2002; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004; Washburn, 2005). Additionally, this short term profit driven mentality further erodes any sense of social harmony or unity and perpetuates an atomistic and hyper competitive milieu which in many ways is antithetical to true scientific discovery because science is predicated on community and open information sharing (Washburn, 2005).

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Since knowledge and information are the foundations of post-industrial era, education is absolutely necessary (Bell, 1999). Yet, the acquisition and accessibility of knowledge in the post-industrial age is threatened by neoliberalism. Knowledge is inherently non-hierarchal because theoretically it can be acquired by anyone (Drucker, 2002; Marginson, 2007). Currently however, the acquisition of knowledge is restricted. Since the 1980s, neoliberal policies in the United States and globally have accounted for a massive redistribution of wealth upward (Giroux, 2011; Hill, 2012; Newfield, 2008; Peet, 2009; Wolff, 2012; Zizek, 2009). Income disparity has risen dramatically over the last thirty years. This has had a disastrous result on college accessibility for low-income, middle class and minority students (Levin, 2010; McSwain, 2007). Many students in these groups simply cannot afford to attend college. Coupled with this is the dramatic decrease in state funding for higher education, which has caused massive tuition hikes. Many policymakers view this reduction of funds as a way to discipline higher education and turn higher education into a market good (Rhoads & Torres, 2006; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004; Vestritich, 2008).

As a result of stagnant wages, rising tuition costs, rising cost of living and income gap disparity many students find themselves either unable to attend school or having to work over 20 hours a week while attending school. Working students are much more prone to dropping out and not obtaining a degree (Pusser, et. al, 2009). In addition, as institutions of higher education are restructured by neoliberalism, they have switched from need based aid to merit aid in an effort to attract brighter students (who already come from privileged backgrounds) to boost up their rankings. This allows the university to charge higher tuition (Duffy, 1998; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004).

This has affected secondary schools as well. As precious tax revenue disappears and is re-routed to charter schools, religious institutions, virtual schools and other for-profit ventures, the quality of education at already strapped public schools will deteriorate further. In affluent areas, this will be mitigated by raising taxes and donations, but in lower income areas, such as rural towns and the inner city, the loss of tax revenue will simply add to their plight (Fowler, 2009). What the changes in secondary and higher education amount to is that an increasing number of students are receiving lower quality public educations as well as facing the prospect of being unable to receive higher education. Bell argues that the new stratification of post-industrial society will be marked by those having knowledge and skills inhabiting the upper classes and those who do not inhabiting the lower classes (Bell, 1999). The allocation of funds in both secondary and higher education is putting society on a path to this new class division.

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Another way access to knowledge has been affected by neoliberalism is in higher education funding models (Newfield, 2009; Washburn, 2005). Engineering, applied sciences and business schools receive the lion’s share of university funding because they supposedly generate the most revenue and have the ability to produce profit (Newfield, 2009; Washburn, 2005). In actuality however, the research that these disciplines undertake cost far more than the revenue they produce. As a result, anywhere from half to two thirds of the revenue that the humanities generate from enrollment is diverted to the supposedly profitable disciplines (Newfield, 2009; Washburn, 2005). As Newfield argues, it is actually the humanities that subsidize the supposedly profitable disciplines (Newfield, 2009). Washburn argues that university administrators are all hoping that their profitable disciplines will yield profits in the form of patents and commercial revenues (Washburn, 2005). Yet this rarely happens. Most of the time this scientific gambling comes up short and the institution recoups its losses through the humanities enrollment funds (Newfield, 2009).

Since the profitable disciplines have more money at their disposal, money that came from the humanities, they have greater sway and lobbying power with administrators and policymakers. In turn, the humanities continue to decline in prestige and funding, while in the supposedly profitable disciplines prestige is raised in the eyes of the public (Newfield, 2009). Of course Newfield points out there is no national data of funding patterns, but much of the literature supports that these funding patterns are pretty universal at large research universities. Liberal arts universities do place much more emphasis on the humanities, but these universities usually do not hold the power and prestige of the large research universities (Newfield, 2009). Funding and budgeting are not just money allocation patterns; they are priorities (Fowler, 2009). Budgets reveal the priorities of an institution; the aggregate of budgets gives a glimpse of the public’s priorities. Information produced by the humanities, such as valuable cultural knowledge is demeaned, and the profitable disciplines are elevated at the expense of the humanities and other less profitable disciplines (Engell & Dangerfield, 1998).

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Not only has access to knowledge been restricted as a result of neoliberalism, but the actual transmission of knowledge and what constitutes knowledge has been detrimentally affected as well. Since the Internet went public in 1990, it has drastically restructured society and further brought us into the information age (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). The Internet is a democratic space and individuals and groups have a right to internet space. The Internet was first developed for use by scholars and for the military to share ideas and information (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). In 1990, the Internet opened to the public, and by 1995, the Internet became a legitimate and profitable tool of commerce (Drucker, 2002; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). Yet the original intent of the Internet was to share information free and publically for the benefit of humanity (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). And it does serve this purpose well. Sites such as Wikipedia offer users free encyclopedic information, outlets such as National Public Radio on the web and other educational sites provide up to date current events and information. Rural areas from the United States to Pakistan utilize online learning to bring education to remote places (Hall, 2013; Suoranta & Vaden, 2007; Spring, 2008). Further, many scholars are in the process of digitizing academic journals and placing them online in an attempt to provide open and free access to other scholars and the general public. The Arab spring revolutions of 2011 were conducted mainly on twitter and facebook (Anderson, 2011). All of these examples show how the sharing and dissemination of information has been revolutionary and transformed by the Internet, as well as the great potential it has to benefit humanity.

Yet the democratic and free nature of the Internet is being challenged by corporations and other for-profit entities who are attempting to control internet time and space. As they usurp the democratic space of the Internet, for-profit entities such as Google restructure the way in which individuals receive and process information. For instance, when individuals use Google to search for information, the information procured by the search engine is the result of complex algorithms. These algorithms are based on which entities pay to have their sites put up. In some ways we are not informed by scientific research, but rather the algorithms of Google and other sites (Halpern, 2003). Information can even be seen as a new type of currency. Social media sites such as facebook “sell” their users’ personal information to data-mining companies for fractions of a penny (which add up to millions in the aggregate). Companies will then buy this personal information and tailor specific advertisements to your supposed desires and needs which are calculated from algorithms.

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Another disturbing trend is for-profit news media, especially on the air waves. Over the last 20 years, really beginning with the emergence of Rush Limbaugh, right wing radio programming has increased drastically (as has sports radio) pushing out more liberal programs (Collins, 2013). Right wing talk radio is labeled as “non-guested confrontation talk radio” (Collins, 2013). This format is not really conducive to enlightening discussions between bipartisan participants. Rather, what occurs is usually a two-hour diatribe with little dialogue and reflection (Collins, 2013). This elimination of dialogue and the increased use of confrontational style can obscure true knowledge acquisition and can lead to one-sided partisan understandings.

With all this information available, citizens of the post-industrial age are prone to experience information overload (Fullan, 2001). There is simply too much information to process and understand by one individual or organization. A distinctive feature of the information age is the growth and expansion of various organizations in an attempt to make sense of this information. Schools, administrations, bureaucracies, government agencies, new companies have all grown or expanded to decipher the ever growing corpus of information (Bohman & Deal, 2008; Dare, 2010; Morgan, 2008). The process by which organizations make sense of the overwhelming data is necessary but simplistic (Bohman & Deal, 2008; Morgan, 2008). Organizations, especially organizations where employees are knowledge workers who possess special skills (i.e. teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants etc.) are prone to “pigeonhole” or simplify information in such a way as to make it easily classifiable (Mintzberg, 1979). In the process, many times organizations lose the ability to truly understand the complexity of information and how to integrate new information and how to truly use information to deal with problems (Mintzberg, 1979).

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Pigeonholing is absolutely necessary to understand information however. For instance, when a doctor assesses a patient’s ailment, the doctor draws upon his prior knowledge and his training to cure the patient. The patient, or the students, or the law case are classified as repeatable and specialized units that can inform the doctor, the teacher or the lawyers’ present understanding. As information grows more complex, pigeonholing will become more of a necessity. Pigeonholing essentially classifies new information according to experience (Mintzberg, 1979). Pigeonholes however can become too constructing and block new information from being integrated into the organization (Bohman & Deal, 2008; Mintzberg, 1979).

The growth of structures to decipher this information is also not a neutral phenomenon. Over the last thirty years, neoliberalism has obscured the way many individuals and organizations understand, classify or “pigeonhole” the ever increasing amount of information they are inundated with (Peet, 2009; Spring, 2008). Success is measured in simplistic terms and almost always seen in terms of profitability (Cohen & March, 1975; Drucker, 2002). This is evident in educational policy. Many education “reformers” funded by neoliberal and conservative entities argue that both higher and secondary education should produce trained workers for the global economy, should be assessed in the form of standardized tests and accountability measures and should be a revenue enhancer for the individual and the state (Giroux, 2011; Hill, 2012; Rhoads & Torres, 2006; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004; Spring, 2008). The complexity of the information age is lost among the easily quantifiable and classifiable test scores and notions of accountability (King, 2000; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004).

Many policymakers, administrators and the general public, in an effort to understand the complexity of secondary and higher education, rely on easily classified, pigeonholed images to guide their thinking; such as education should be profitable, education can be measured by test scores, colleges should produce workers, the humanities are a luxury, etc. This notion of education as a product on the global market is taken for granted (Giroux, 2011; Rhoads & Torres, 2006; Spring, 2008). There is never any mention of justice or morality in regards to education. Education as profit, this is now a “truth.” The idea of using pigeonholed information to organize information is not simply an organizational technique but rather a state of reality in the post-industrial age. The detrimental uses and functions of information can begin to be mitigated by a new type of leadership, radical servant leadership.

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Radical servant leadership

Servant leadership calls for leaders to put the welfare of their followers above all else (Barnabus, Anbarasu & Paul, 2010; Northouse, 2013). From a critical standpoint, leadership can be a conundrum. How does one lead without oppressing, dominating or being an authoritarian? Servant leadership is a leadership paradigm that can help equalize power differentials between leaders and followers and work to eventually erase the distinction. The notion of servant leadership was first put forth by organizational theorist Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s (Barnabus, Anbarasu & Paul, 2010; Northouse, 2013). First and foremost, a servant leader must develop the potential of followers (Northouse, 2013). Servant leaders cultivate a shared vision for their followers and try their best to help each follower achieve this vision. Servant leadership, unlike many other leadership paradigms, is ethical because its central component is ethical action toward followers and society as a whole. Instead of autocratic or coercive leadership, servant leaders effectively communicate with their followers (Northouse, 2013). Most importantly, servant leaders actively solicit feedback from their followers and act upon that feedback. Other behaviors that are exhibited by effective servant leaders are empathy, the ability to heal the emotional tensions of their followers, social and emotional awareness, stewardship and a commitment to building community (Northouse, 2013).

Much of the original servant leadership literature argues that business leaders can be servant leaders (Northouse, 2013). Greenleaf was originally a businessman. Barnabus, Anbarasu and Paul (2010) argue that servant leadership exists in business and in the private sector. However, there might be a conflict of interest here. How can one serve followers if their bottom line is ultimately profit? Although outside the scope of this paper, it does caution us to be cognizant of the true meaning of servant leadership and who qualifies to be a true servant leader. It is my contention that servant leadership can only exist in the public sphere because the end goal of public institutions is ultimately service, not profit (Giroux, 2011).

The new leadership paradigm that I am proposing is rooted in servant leadership. The paradigm is called radical servant leadership for leaders in the public sector. It is aimed primarily at educators, both secondary educators and college faculty. However, any public servant can utilize the tenets of radical servant leadership. Radical servant leaders must possess all the attributes of servant leaders. Yet they must possess other attributes as well. The key to radical servant leadership is for radical servant leaders to not only make the welfare of their followers the number one priority, but to make justice regarding their followers, and society in general, the number one priority.

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Justice in this sense is defined as contribution to society. Public school teachers, college faculty and administrators in both secondary and post secondary institutions contribute to the greater good of society (Giroux, 2011). Public school teachers and college professors serve children, educate children, create knowledge, do research, and enhance society in a number of ways (Bowen, 1996). Overall, educators contribute to society by educating its future citizens. The notions of nonmonetary contribution to society, democratic discussion and creativity are all antithetical to neoliberalism because they do not lead to profit and they cannot be quantified (Giroux, 2011; Peet, 2009). A radical servant leader must fight this. A radical servant leader’s main priority is to ensure that his or her followers are treated justly by policymakers and society in general because without the democratic space of education, modern society may slide into authoritarianism (Giroux, 2011; Zizek, 2009). A radical servant leader has two ethical tasks, one is to act ethically to his or her followers and the other is to try and force policymakers and influential members of society to act ethically and justly toward the public sector (Peet, 2009; Rhoads & Torres, 2006).

Most likely, radical servant leaders will not be hierarchal leaders with formal authority although they might be. Instead, radical servant leaders will usually be emergent leaders. Emergent leaders are leaders without formal authority but that become well respected by their peers and able to lead them (Northouse, 2013). Common examples of emergent leaders in education are classroom teachers and college professors. While the formal power lies with principals and deans, emergent leaders draw on other sources of power, usually their knowledge of particular systems, events or institutions (Bohman & Deal, 2008; Northouse, 2013). The notion of emergent leadership is crucial to radical servant leadership. Most likely leaders at the top of the hierarchy of educational systems will have more vested interests in maintaining neoliberalism in education. Or they may feel passionately about education and the ill effects of neoliberalism but by virtue of their position they may not have much room to maneuver. Thus, emergent leaders can be quite vocal and have more flexibility to make their radical positions known.

A leader cannot exist without followers (Northouse, 2013). So who would follow a radical servant leader? This obviously depends on what position the servant leader occupies. Most likely a radical servant leader would be a teacher or professor. In that case, high school and college students would be the immediate followers. The needs and welfare of these students would be the leader’s first priority. Each must be viewed as a citizen, a creative individual that has potential to contribute to the republic and it is the educator’s task to cultivate this potential. In the widest sense, the radical servant leader must think ahead to all of his or her potential students and really all students in general. The radical servant leader would work to establish justice for these students, both in the present and in the future. The leader would also work to develop a sense of justice in these students so some of them could potentially become radical servant leaders and fight for their followers if they assume a position of leadership.

Of course, the radical servant leaders could have other followers outside of students; other colleagues, teachers and faculty at other institutions and possibly even hierarchal leaders who have more formal authority. Radical servant leaders must think of the welfare and justice of these followers as well, and he or she must look to enlighten them so they can be radical servant leaders. Radical servant leaders should work to establish formal and informal networks through peer reviewed and invited publications, social media, scholarly conferences and colloquia. The hope is that if enough radical servant leaders emerge and touch enough followers, and those followers then continue the fight against neoliberalism, eventually the neoliberal edifice will begin to weaken.

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The radical servant paradigm derives from servant leadership and critical theory. Critical theory, unlike other philosophical systems, aims to promote human happiness and above all justice (Adorno, 1973; Ingram, 1990; Jay, 1996). Unfortunately, the claims of social justice have been largely eroded by neoliberalism (Giroux, 2011; Newfield, 2008; Peet, 2009). The quest for social justice during the 1960s and 1970s has been largely replaced with the quest for profit (Peet, 2009; Rhoads & Torres, 2006). The only morality or ethics of neoliberalism is the market (Giroux, 2011; Peet, 2009). The market determines what is moral and just. A return to ethics, morality and social justice must be sought for neoliberal society and a radical servant leader must lead the way for this return.

As global space constricts and boundaries melt, it becomes easier for exploitive entities to control this smaller space and the information in it (Mallot, 2012; Peet, 2009). Within this compression of space and the proliferation of information in this compacted space sits a tremendous potential for either social advancement or stagnation. Here is where a new type of leadership is crucial.

There is a plethora of information regarding the supposed benefits of marketization and privatization and on the inefficiency of the public education (Giroux, 2011). Further, some of this information is truthful. Many times public sector organizations have a tendency to become inefficient or overly bureaucratic. But the market is not the solution because the market is not compatible with the public servant ethos (Drucker, 2002; Giroux, 2011). Public institutions may need reform but the market is not the way to go about this reform. A radical servant leader must fight for public entities by researching, understanding, disseminating and ultimately reframing just information to their followers, to policymakers and to the public (Bohman & Deal, 2008). Reframing is essential. To reframe something is to cast it in a new light (Bohman & Deal, 2008). The notion of the market must be reframed. Leaders must show how the one-sided advocacy for market solutions is potentially unjust for public education and instead advocate for more just and democratic solutions. These one-sided solutions fit pigeonholes.

Discussion of volatile economic issues has ceded. In its place, neoliberalism is the taken for granted paradigm and is promoted as benefiting the “common good” (Giroux, 2011; Mallot, 2012). It is seen as the natural state of affairs by policymakers and the general public at large (Giroux, 2011; Habermas, 1973; Peet, 2009). The quest for profit amongst corporations and individuals is not only accepted but encouraged. Public entities are similarly encouraged to be profitable (Giroux, 2011; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). Severe economic downturns, lay-offs, mass unemployment, inflation, decreasing wages and other economic crises are cast by policymakers and neoliberal advocates as structural problems of a neutral system which need structural remedies or seen as deficiencies of the working classes (Giroux, 2011; Habermas, 1973; Mallot, 2012).

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This discussion will most likely not change many policies immediately, but it may show that the injustice of the system is not inevitable and it is preventable. A radical servant leader must also show his or her followers that they are not only victims of detrimental policies but that they must fight back. This is part of the developmental process of servant leadership. If public employees and aspiring teachers and faculty members willingly accept neoliberal dictates they become complicit in their own marginalization. A radical servant leader must get his or her followers to resist this marginalization and become active in the fight. All members of public education must become critical. Educators must become active on their own behalf; they must show the general populace their worth. Social inequality needs a rational foundation (Horkheimer, 1974). Neoliberalism gives it this foundation. A radical servant leader and his or her followers must work to destabilize this seemingly natural state of affairs.

The long term goal of radical servant leaders is to inspire a sense of justice in their followers. It is not enough to simply fight for followers. This implies they are helpless. Rather, a true radical servant leader must empower their followers so they can continue and expand the fight for justice. Followers must become digesters of the vast amount of information in post-industrial society and use this in their fight for justice.

The transformation sought by radical servant leaders cannot be static or open to ossification in the future. Today’s revolution cannot become tomorrow’s oppression. One way to guard against static transformation is by the notion of the dialectic (Jay, 1996; Kellner, 1992).

Dialectical change calls for the negation or destruction of what is oppressive in a current state of affairs and the preserving of what is beneficial. After this simultaneous destruction and preservation, a new, more beneficial and rational state of affairs will emerge (Adorno, 1990; Marcuse, 1990). The critiques of society that reason levels against it are not fantasies or illusions; rather they are latent tendencies within existing society (Adorno, 1990; Habermas; 1973; Marcuse, 1990; Horkheimer, 1974). Means exist in every society which can be turned against the status quo. Presently, these means lie in the vast corpus of information that is produced in post-industrial society.

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There is so much information that can be used in the fight against neoliberalism that is neglected or a target for neoliberal reform. History, humanities, the arts, many social sciences, many types of qualitative research, communication and even basic scientific research in the sciences have all come under fire because these disciplines do not produce profit and revenues (Newfield, 2008; Rhoads & Torres, 2006; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004; Spring, 2008). History and English degrees do not drive the world economy. Academic journals in the arts, humanities and education abound with the complex and ever evolving information on morals, ethics and ideas pertaining to the human condition. This abundance of moral information presents an opportunity to create a space for a more just and humane knowledge to guide post-industrial society. In the widest sense, this information can help to expose faulty notions of simulacra that masquerade as truths in post-industrial society.

This information cannot simply be for antiquarian purposes. It must become critical and dialectical. Radical servant leaders capture it, they can use this power level to force societal change (Bohman & Deal, 2008). Drucker noted that knowledge is the new means of production since it is knowledge and information that drives society (Drucker, 2002). Drawing off this sentiment, once a radical servant inspires other leaders, and they inspire more leaders, these radical servant leaders can take control of this new means of production by wresting it away from neoliberals.

A dialectical understanding defies simple cause and effect reasoning (Adorno, 1973; Jay, 1996; Marcuse, 1990). Instead, scholars can embrace the idea of a multifaceted constellation of motivation and meaning that undergirds post-industrial society (Adorno, 1973; Jay, 1996). This complex understanding of reality in the post-industrial age could pave the way for new forms of just and moral knowledge to expose simulacra that pose as truth. By decoding and making information more just and by pointing out ethical paths that policymakers should follow a radical servant leader can help to produce a dialectical change.

It would be foolish to simply ignore the market, the sciences and other purviews of neoliberalism. Rather these entities must be harnessed for the good of humanity and seen in the wider constellation of ethics and justice. The market does not have the capability of forging any constellation for the good of humanity; however, science has the ability to make the philosopher’s goals a reality (Drucker, 2002; Marcuse, 1990). Through modern science, every man, woman and child on this planet could conceivably have enough to eat, given adequate health care and have their basic needs met (Marcuse, 1990; Peet, 2009). Yet neoliberalism has rigged the distribution system. Only ones with money can afford these things (Giroux, 2011, Peet, 2009). Additionally, the market, science and engineering and other related notions are used not in the service of humanity but in the service of profit (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004; Washburn, 2005). For instance, many universities pursue the creation of cosmetics and other non-essentials over cures because these items are profitable (Rhoads & Torres, 2006; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004; Washburn, 2005). Radical servant leaders must bring this to the attention of other scholars, students and the public. The market is not just; justice must be brought to it.

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Of course not all scholars would agree with this critical turn but it only takes a handful of committed people to propagate an idea for it to take hold within a much larger setting (Bakunin, 1999). Again, these people need not be in a position of formal power, but rather in an influential position. And there is no more influential position than teacher. Teaching and publishing are cast as active theory. Sorel (1963) argued that capitalism is a new type of violence because it can destroy people’s lives, impoverish civilizations and lead to massive suffering. Radical servant leadership and active theory may be a new weapon to rebut the violence of capitalism. It can be thought of as academic guerilla warfare. This process will undoubtedly take a significant amount of time, and will require an amazing amount of patience on the part of its proponents. They may be fighting for an end they will not see. But over the course of time, if carried out dutifully, their ideas may begin to take hold in the very people that will eventually become leaders in society.

Some leadership scholars have argued that is naïve to attribute organizational success solely to a leader’s actions. These scholars argue that a leader does not have the ability to effect change; rather, he or she is more of a figurehead. When success or failure occurs, the leader is given the credit or blame (Bohman & Deal, 2008; Cohen & March, 1975; Tierney, 1989). Organizational success is so much more complex than simple causality; a leader can do everything right and his or her organizations can still not be successful. So in essence, the leader’s role is really symbolic rather than instrumental (Tierney, 1989).

If this view is applied to radical servant leadership, it might be said that no matter what actions a radical servant leader pursues, the success of his or her movement does not depend on these actions but on a complex arrangement of outside factors over which the leader has little control (Bohman & Deal, 2008; Cohen & March, 1975; Tierney, 1989). If this is true, a radical servant leader’s role may be even more important than if success depended on his or her actions alone. If the actions of a radical servant leader were ultimately futile, the leader would still be a symbol which may actually be more powerful than his actions. The leader could become a symbol of resistance and could hopefully inspire others to fight neoliberalism. As a symbol, a leader can become something bigger than himself and something that many individuals and organizations draw on for inspiration and guidance (Bohman & Deal, 2008; Tierney, 1989).

As a symbol, the radical servant leader could come to epitomize a new dialectical stage of history. Whatever the symbol, a revolution is necessary (Mallot, 2012). This is a transformational time in the history of mankind. We may be at the cusp of a new dialectical transformation. This is the dialectic of truth for the information age. This process can only proceed if the information of the post-industrial age is given structure and no longer manipulated by entities seeking profit and control. One hallmark of many great leaders is their conceptual ability, their visionary capabilities (Northouse, 2013). A radical servant leader must be able to understand the dialectic, the revolutionary transformation of the current neoliberal post-industrial era where truth is used for profit to a new era of human existence. In this new era, truth would finally be true because it is backed by justice and not the quest for profit. Once a radical servant leader understands the dialectic he or she can then empower his or her followers to become radical servant leaders and direct the dialectic to a new era of human history.

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References

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Adorno, T. (1990). “Why Philosophy?” In Critical theory: The essential readings, edited by David Ingram and Julia Simon-Ingram. New York, NY: Paragon House.

Anderson, K. (2011, December 26). “The Protester,” Time, 178, 54-75.

Bakunin, M. (1999). The basic Bakunin: Writings 1869-1871. Translated and Edited by Robert Cutler. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.

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[Thank you indeed Angelo for this essay.]

The writer is a doctoral student in higher education.

If publishing or re-posting this article kindly use the entire piece, credit the writer and this website: Philosophers for Change, philosophersforchange.org. Thanks for your support.

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