Pedagogy of the Oppressed Discussion Paper

philosopher Paulo Freire espoused Leninism. The basis for this argument will be Freire’s work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Paulo Freire

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Paulo Freire’s work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, contains a thought-provoking passage whose gist is that oppressed individuals’ pedagogy, enlivened by genuine, humanist (rather than humanitarian) generosity, is manifested as mankind’s pedagogy. Pedagogy starts with the oppressor’s selfish interests (an egotism masked by the insincere magnanimity of paternalism), making the oppressed population objects of the oppressor’s humanitarianism, and itself maintaining and embodying tyranny (Freire, 2005 page 54). It serves as a dehumanization tool. Thus, as has been asserted previously, oppressed individuals’ pedagogy can neither be formulated nor applied by oppressors. The espousal as well as actual implementation of an education system that is liberating in nature, by oppressors, would be contradictory to their motives.

Another passage of the book states that nevertheless, it is, indeed (although it may appear ironic), in the oppressed community’s response to the cruelty perpetrated by their persecutors that a token of love can be found. Unknowingly or knowingly, the oppressed people’s act of revolt (an act that is almost always, as fierce and aggressive, as the brutality initially perpetrated by oppressors) may spark love. While the violence the oppressed were subject to at the hands of their oppressors stops them from being wholly human, their response to such cruelty is based on the yearning to pursue their right of being human (Freire, 2005 page 56). According to Freire, in the process of dehumanizing others as well as violating their rights, the oppressors themselves become dehumanized. As those who are oppressed strive to regain their human rights, they seize the authority of oppressors to rule and subdue others, and in the process, restore to their persecutors the humanity lost by them while exercising oppression. The above ideals would, definitely, not belong to a Leninist.

There is, however, a specific passage in the book that is most critical in justifying the argument that Paulo Freire wasn’t a Leninist. Freire states that oppressors fail to perceive that their control on procuring and possessing more is a privilege, thereby dehumanizing others as well as themselves. They fail to see that they are stifled by their personal possessions, and no longer remaining humans, but only having possessions, as a consequence of their selfish desire to ‘own’. For them, to have more represents an absolute right, won by them through personal “effort” and risk-taking “courage.” In their view, others possess less since they are indolent and inept, and nothing is worse than their inexcusable ungratefulness towards the superior class’s “generous gestures.” Indeed, as they are “unappreciative” and “resentful,” the oppressors consider the oppressed as likely enemies on whom they need to keep an eye (Freire, 2005 page 59). It is hard to envisage an alternative notion. If oppressed individuals’ humanization suggests subversion, so does their independence; therefore, constant domination is required. Further, the more oppressed individuals are controlled by their oppressors, the more they are changed into seemingly inanimate “things.” The oppressor’s tendency to “in-animate” everybody and everything he comes across, in the fervor to possess, undeniably resembles a sadistic tendency. Sadistic devotion is warped — it is not the love of life, but of death. Therefore, sadism is one trait of the consciousness of oppressors and their necrophilic world view. As their consciousness, with the aim to dominate, attempts to discourage the effort to search, the productive power and the restlessness characterizing life, it ends up killing life. In Freire’s view, oppressors increasingly utilize technology and science as indisputably powerful tool to serve their purpose of maintaining oppressive order via subjugation and exploitation. The oppressed, being mere things or objects, do not have any purpose apart from those defined for them by their oppressors. These views definitely do not belong to a Leninist.


Freire, P. (2005). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc.

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