Peter Mclaren Essay

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Peter McLaren, Professor of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles, is a leading educational theorist who, since the 1980s, has played a central role in the development of critical pedagogy worldwide and the organization of what he terms the “educational left.” Tremendously prolific as an author, and known for his virtuosic rhetoric and conceptual imagination, McLaren has made wide-ranging contributions over the course of his career to myriad educational discourses including critical ethnography and qualitative research, educational policy debates, ritual and performance studies, literacy theory, multiculturalism and the development of postcolonial pedagogy, cultural studies, critical media pedagogy, and curriculum studies, as well as work on globalization in education.

McLaren spent much of his early career in founding what he terms critical, or resistance, postmodernism in education through the deployment of novel syntheses of Frankfurt and Birmingham School critical theory, French poststructuralism, the Freirean and Deweyean philosophic traditions, and other radical ideas. Since 1994, he has turned toward a more specifically Marxist humanist analysis that seeks to illuminate the crucial function played by political economy and the relations of production in blocking truly democratic forms of schooling, culture, and general politics across society.

Although his work since the later 1990s should be understood as an evolution, and not rejection, of his earlier work, McLaren has become an outspoken critic of scholars’ wide reliance upon faddish forms of postmodernism, which he believes often result in an inattention to the underlying reality of economic exploitation or unwittingly play into Rightist political agendas through the postmodern desire to deconstruct and de-universalize all forms of macro social analysis and struggle.

Consequently, beginning with books such as Revolutionary Multiculturalism (1997) and Che Guevara, Paulo Freire and the Pedagogy of Revolution (2000), up to the more recent Capitalists and Conquerers (2005) and Life in Schools (5th ed., 2006), McLaren has sought to delineate a “revolutionary critical pedagogy” that challenges the domestication of critical work in education under capitalism, works internationally to organize resistance to imperialist and neoliberal policies, and attempts to resituate the necessity for sustained Marxist critique both popularly and within educational research proper.

Despite his radical goals, McLaren’s theories appear to be finding wide audiences. In 2005, La Fundacion McLaren de Pedagogía Critica was inaugurated to more widely establish knowledge of his work throughout Mexico as a basis for political action, and in 2006, the Venezuelan Ministry of Higher Education created the Peter McLaren Chair for the Study of Critical Pedagogy at the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela.


Pruyn, M., & Huerta-Charles, L. (2005). Teaching Peter McLaren: Paths of dissent. New York: Peter Lang.

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