quarta-feira, 13 de janeiro de 2016

Paulo Freire e o Google Scholar – Um diálogo com Paul Spicker - Parte II

Texto original para o Autopoiese e Virtu elaborado por Paul Spicker, professor emérito da cadeira de Políticas Públicas da Robert Gordon University, Escócia.

People studying Social Policy can expect to encounter a range of work in social science.  Because people come to the field from different disciplines, the range includes a very disparate selection of material from sociology, economics, political science and other fields.  My website at www.spicker.uk offers an introduction to Social Policy, and as part of that I suggest readings and point to sources. I was interested to find out which works were most often cited in Social Policy, and to that I applied a simple test: how many citations were recorded on Google Scholar? 

This is a very crude indicator, and there are some obvious reservations to make about it.  The first is that international work will be cited more widely than important national papers - the Beveridge Report, which can legitimately be seen as the inspiration for several welfare states, is not referred to often enough to be included in the list.  Second, the count is biased towards the countries with the largest academic industries - material published in the USA gets far more attention than material published in Europe.  Third, material that appeals to people in the major disciplines will always be cited more than material in a specialist field: there are far more people studying sociology than public administration.   

At the top of the list, with more than 51,000 academic citations, was Paulo Freire’s book,
 The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  Freire’s work is international in scope, and mainly read in translation.  It’s widely referred to in education and community work.  Having said that, its prominence and popularity is still striking - its reach and influence leave other work standing.  I’ve heard it referred to by community workers, educators and local authority officers in Scotland and England.  It’s a part of the intellectual landscape - one of the standard works that people are expected to come to terms with.    

 Pedagogy of the Oppressed combines theory and practice, and that combination is central to studies in social policy.  It’s open to challenge in both respects.  As theory, Freire’s rhetoric about freedom and oppression sometimes leads him to understate his evident, but less explicit, focus on solidarity and collective action.  It’s really not enough to say that people will be liberated if they reject oppression:  

“The pedagogy of the oppressed ... makes oppression and its causes objects of reflection by the oppressed, and from that reflection will come their necessary engagement in the struggle for their liberation.”

As practice, Freire seems at times to be more concerned with the political environment than he is with achieving outcomes.  My own background is in welfare rights, and I sometimes despair when my colleagues are more concerned with broadening the range of poor people’s learning experiences than they are with getting something done about their poverty. In the USA, community work - as favoured by former community worker Barack Obama,  or Hillary Clinton - is more likely to depend on the slyly pragmatic work of Saul Alinsky than on Freire’s overt positions.    

I’d like to think that the world has moved on since Freire.  Around the world, techniques that used to be extraordinary have become a routine part of democratic governance.  International organisations are heavily engaged in empowerment, the development of community capacity and collective deliberation.  But it’s precisely because these approaches are now so widespread that the work which expounded them is more widely cited than ever.

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