Henry A. Giroux: neo-liberalism’s nemesis

Picture - America's Not Coming Off Well On TV is by Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t. Reproduced here under a Creative Commons licence (Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic).

Henry A. Giroux: neo-liberalism’s nemesis. Henry A Giroux is well-known for his explorations of critical pedagogy, neo-liberalism and the condition of young people. Doug Nicholls reflects on his contribution and continuing significance.

contents: introduction · henry giroux – background · some key themes · publications · about the writer · how to cite this piece

Henry Armand Giroux (1943 – ) is currently Global Television Network Professor of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada. He is one of the foremost contemporary writers on critical pedagogy, schooling, higher education, neo-liberalism and the condition of vulnerable young people. He sees the abandonment of youth in the neoliberal economy as a critical indicator of the new authoritarianism that has accompanied this project and he advocates a recommitment to community development and learning for social justice, equality and democracy. Educators themselves must become more politicised.

Henry Giroux, background.

Henry Giroux was born September 18, 1943, in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Armand and Alice Giroux. He came from a working class background and community. Giroux stumbled into the academic world through his ability to play basketball and win scholarships. His experiences led him to feel the joys of warm communal solidarity, camaraderie and pleasure. They also made him sensitive to the fragmentation and prejudices of sexism, racism and class oppression. Utopian alternatives – whether through sport or popular culture – stood in sharp relief to the dominant ideologies that dehumanised, and caused poverty. In reflecting on this background Henry Giroux has appreciated how racism and class hatred are learned activities. He repeatedly envisages throughout his work an education system and approach that will counter and replace divisive and authoritarian systems.

Henry Giroux won a basketball scholarship to a teacher training college. He went on to do a Masters in history and was radicalised by a teaching assistant professor and the general political environment of the time. He became a community organizer and high school teacher of social studies. Gripped by the theoretical work of Paulo Freire, Henry Giroux worked with a black community in a highly segregated neighbourhood in Baltimore. He was identified with progressive curricula and organisational proposals in schools where he taught.

Returning to higher education and studying critical educational theory and practice, Henry Giroux received a Doctorate from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1977. He became a professor of education at Boston University (1977 to 1983) but was initially denied academic tenure by senior management opposed to his progressive views as expressed in his first two books Ideology, Culture and the Process of Schooling and Theory and Resistance in Education. However, his academic career flourished as popular and academic support for his analysis developed. In 1983 Henry Giroux became professor of education and renowned scholar in residence at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where he also served as Director at the Centre for Education and Cultural Studies. From the he moved to Penn State University where he took up the Waterbury Chair Professorship at Penn State University (1992 to 2004). He also served as the Director of the Waterbury Forum in Education and Cultural Studies. Giroux moved to McMaster University in 2004, where he currently holds the Global Television Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies. He currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada with his wife, Dr. Susan Searls Giroux.

Some key themes

Where I grew up learning was a collective activity. But when I got to school and tried to share learning with other students that was called cheating. The curriculum sent the clear message to me that learning was a highly individualistic, almost secretive, endeavour. My working-class experience didn’t count. Not only did it not count, it was disparaged. Border Crossing, 1993

Henry Giroux’s work develops many key themes in the overall challenge to neo-liberalism and class divided society and the development of a progressive critical pedagogy. He speaks constantly of the importance of democratic engagement in public life. He develops a language not just of critique of oppressive institutions and policies, but a language of possibility. His work is firmly associated with the progressive insistence that educators must advance human empowerment and participative democracy whatever their subject area. Inevitably this leads Henry Giroux into one of the most powerful multidimensional critiques of the political, social, cultural, education and economic features of neo-liberalism. To teach well you confront the system as it is today. In challenging this overarching new phenomenon, the question of how we are constructed as subjects and agents of either change or acceptance is of profound significance and requires more diverse understanding and knowledge and a more subtle and committed pedagogy. Quite simply progressive educationalists need to know more about the formation of identity and moral values than previously because neo-liberalism itself has exploited its recognition of the sensitive impact certain influences can have. Hence the domination of the media in few hands.

Giroux concentrates on the role of teachers in both the school system and higher education and sees them initially as transformative intellectuals and in later work in the more politically charged role as public intellectuals. In turn, as public intellectuals, teachers have to be cultural workers across a range of pedagogical domains. He focuses considerably on the responsibility of teachers and their trainers in knowing more and crossing the boundaries of knowledge. This leads Henry Giroux to a radical critique in some works of the domination of the universities by the US military industrial complex and the skewing of the academic culture to teach exploitation and imperialism.

He takes a consistent interest throughout his work in the young people most marginalised and outcast by neo-liberalism and in his 2009 publication Youth in a suspect society demonstrates how it is the social policy abandonment of young people that best illustrates the brutal rejection of a democratic future. He recognises more sharply than many that the new economic forces require ‘disposable’ communities, those, whether homeless, unemployed, mentally ill or disabled, who can be dumped on the scrap heap of history in order to increase profit margins in other areas. The importance of engaging those in such predicaments in critical dialogue with educators capable of identifying the range of ways in which the system oppresses and teaches compliance is something that Giroux powerfully asserts.

The attempt to provide a comprehensive analysis of the mechanisms of division, control, oppression and incorporation led him naturally to include critiques of popular culture and economics which must inform the most progressive of educational practices if a complete emancipation is to be achieved. Significantly, this interdisciplinary approach has enabled others in other disciplines to become aware of the benefits of the traditions of critical pedagogy to their own spheres in literary, media studies and the like. ”Radical education” he writes “does not refer to a discipline, or body of knowledge. It suggests a particular kind of practice and a particular posture of questioning received institutions and received assumptions.” This is needed across the board.

Giroux convincingly demonstrates that this tradition is increasingly vital if the repression and terror of neo-liberalism is to be replaced by something more humane.


A full bibliography of Giroux’s publications, interviews and reflections can be found on his website www.Henryagiroux.com. His main books are:

Giroux, Henry A. (1981) Ideology, Culture and the Process of Schooling. Philadelphia, PA.: Temple University Press.

Giroux, Henry A. (1983). Pedagogia Radical: Subsidios. Editora Autores Associados. Brazil

Giroux, Henry A. (1983). Theory and Resistance in Education [Introduction by Paulo Freire]. Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey.

Giroux, Henry A. (1990). Curriculum Discourse as Postmodernist Critical Practice. Victoria: Deakin University Press.

Giroux, Henry A. (1988). Teachers as Intellectuals: Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Learning. Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey Publishers. [Los Profesores Como Intelectuales Ediciones Paidos. Barcelona, Spain: 1990. Los Professores Como Intellectuais Artes Medicas.Porto Alegre, Brazil: 1997.

Giroux, Henry A. (1988). Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life. Minneaplois: University of Minnesota Press. [La Escuela Y La Lucha Por La Ciudadania Siglo Veintiuno Editores 1993 Mexico]

Giroux, Henry A. (1987). Escola Critica E Politica Cultural. Editora Autores Associados, Brazil

Giroux, Henry A. (1985) Education Under Siege: The Conservative, Liberal, and Radical Debate Over Schooling (co-authored with Stanley Aronowitz).

Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey Press.

Giroux, Henry A. (1983). Critical Theory and Educational Practice. Victoria: Deakin University Press [1983] Australia

Giroux, Henry A. (1991) Postmodern Education: Politics, Culture, and Social Criticism (co-authored with Stanley Aronowitz). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Giroux, Henry A. (1992). Border Crossings: Cultural Workers and the Politics of Education. New York: Routledge Publishing. [Cruzando Limites: Trabajodores Culturales Y Politicas Educativas Ediciones Paidos. Barcelona, Spain: 1997. Cruzando as Fronteiras Do Discurso Educacional: Novas Politicas em Educacao Artes Medicas Sul. Porte Alegre Brazil: 1999.

Giroux, Henry A. (1992). Igualdad Educativa Y Diferencia Cultural (co-authored with Ramon Flecha) Barcelona: El Roure Press

Giroux, Henry A. (1994). Disturbing Pleasures: Learning Popular Culture. New York: Routledge Publishing. [Placeres Inquietantes: Aprendiendo la Cultura Popula Ediciones Paidos. Barcelona, Spain: 1996]

Giroux, Henry A. (1994) Education Still Under Siege (Second Edition) (co-authored with Stanley Aronowitz). Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey Press [1994]

Giroux, Henry A. (1993). Living Dangerously: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Culture. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Giroux, Henry A. (1996). Counternarratives (co-authored with Peter McLaren, Colin Lankshear, and Mike Cole). New York: Routledge Publishing.

Giroux, Henry A. (1996). Fugitive Cultures: Race, Violence, and Youth. New York: Routledge Publishing.

Giroux, Henry A. (1997) Pedagogy and the Politics of Hope: Theory, Culture, and Schooling. Boulder, Colorado: Westview/Harper Collins.

Giroux, Henry A. (1998). Channel Surfing: Racism, the Media, and the Destruction of Today’s Youth. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Giroux, Henry A. (1999). Sociedad, Cultura Y Educacion (co-authored with Peter McLaren) Madrid, Spain: Mino and Darila Editores.

Giroux, Henry A. (1999). The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence. Lanham MD: Rowman and Littlefield Press. [ El ratoncito feroz: Disney o el fin de la inocencia Madrid, Spain: Fundacion German Sanchez Ruiperez, (2001) A Korean language version was published in 2002.]

Giroux, Henry A. (1999). Critical Education in the New Information Age (co-authored with Manuel Castells, Ramon Flecha, Paulo Freire, Donaldo Macedo, and Paul Willis). Lanham MD.: Rowman and Littlefield Press. [Neuvas Perspectivas Criticas en Educacion (co-authored with Manuel Castells, Ramon Flecha, Paulo Freire, Donaldo Macedo, and Paul Willis) Ediciones Paidos Barcelona, Spain: 1994, 1997. Novas Perspectivas Crticas em Educacao (co-authored with Manuel Castells, Ramon Flecha, Paulo Freire, Donaldo Macedo, and Paul Willis) Artes Medicas, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 1996]

Giroux, Henry A. (2001). Kriitten Pedagogiikka (co-authored with Peter McLaren). Finland: Tampere-Vastapaino

Giroux, Henry A. (2001). Stealing Innocence: Corporate Culture’s War on Children. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Giroux, Henry A. (2000). Impure Acts: The Practical Politics of Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge. [Cultura, politics y practica educative, Barcelona, Spain: Grao (2001) Atos Puros: A pratica politica dos estudos culturais Sao Paulo, Brazil: Artmed (2003)]

Giroux, Henry A. (2001). Theory and Resistance in Education (Revised Edition). Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey.

Giroux, Henry A. (2002). Breaking in to the Movies: Film and the Culture of Politics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Press/Cine Y entretenimiento Paidos (2003)

Giroux, Henry A. (2003). Public Spaces/Private Lives: Democracy Beyond 9/11. Lanham MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Giroux, Henry A. (2003). The Abandoned Generation: Democracy Beyond the Culture of Fear. New York: Palgrave.

Giroux, Henry A. (2004). Take Back Higher Education: Race, Youth, and the Crisis of Democracy in the Post Civil Rights Era, [co-authored with Susan Searls Giroux]. New York: Palgrave.

Giroux, Henry A. (2004). The Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy. Boulder CO.: Paradigm Publishers.

Giroux, Henry A. (2005). Against the New Authoritarianism: Politics After Abu Ghraib. Arbeiter Ring Publishing.

Giroux, Henry A. (2005). Border Crossings: Cultural Workers and the Politics of Education, 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge Publishing.

Giroux, Henry A. (2005). Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life, 2nd Edition. Boulder CO.: Paradigm Publishers.

Giroux, Henry A. (2006) Beyond the Spectacle of Terrorism: Global Uncertainty and the Challenge of the New Media. Boulder CO.: Paradigm Publishers.

Giroux, Henry A. (2006). America on the Edge: Henry Giroux on Politics, Culture, and Education. New York: Palgrave.

Giroux, Henry A. (2006). Stormy Weather: Katrina and the Politics of Disposability. Boulder CO.: Paradigm Publishers.

Giroux, Henry A. (2006). The Giroux Reader. (Edited by Christopher Robbins). Boulder CO.: Paradigm Publishers.

Giroux, Henry A. (2007). The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex. Boulder CO.: Paradigm Publishers.

Giroux, Henry A. (2008). Against the Terror of Neoliberalism: Politics Beyond the Age of Greed. Boulder CO.: Paradigm Publishers, University of British Columbia Press.

Giroux, Henry A. (2009). Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability? New York: Palgrave-Macmillan.

Acknowledgement: Picture – America’s Not Coming Off Well On TV is by Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t. Reproduced here under a Creative Commons licence (Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic). http://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/4086793604/.

About the writer: Doug Nicholls has been involved with youth and community work since the mid seventies and has published widely on the work and its political context. He has been a lifelong activist within the Community and Youth Workers’ Union, becoming its General Secretary in 1987 and since the union’s merge with Unite the Union, the National Secretary for Community, Youth Workers’ and Not for Profit sector. Doug was a member of the TUC General Council and has been a member of the Executive Committee of the General Federation of Trade Unions since 1995.

How to cite this piece: Nicholls, Doug (2010) ‘Henry Giroux: neoliberalism’s nemesis’, The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education. [https://infed.org/mobi/henry-a-giroux/. Retrived: insert date].