Social Studies and Civil Society: Making the Case to Take on Neoliberalism


  • Paul Orlowski Department of Educational Foundations College of Education University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, Canada (306) 966- 6907



social studies education, neoliberalism, ideology critique, critical media literacy, deconstructing hegemony


The biggest threat to civil society in Canada and the United States is the economic doctrine known as neoliberalism. Sometimes referred to as the corporate agenda, this philosophy supports the deregulation of industry, the privatization of the commons, the weakening of workers’ rights, and corporate tax cuts. Acknowledging that teaching is a political act, this paper makes a case for social studies and history teachers to develop pedagogy that lifts the hegemonic veil for students. Progressive economic policies--progressive tax reform, support for workers, strengthening social welfare, and regulating industry--work in tandem to create resistance to neoliberalism. After describing the effects of neoliberalism today, the paper highlights important victories for working- and middle-class citizens based on Keynesian economics and social democratic values that have strengthened civil society in both countries. All are threatened today because of neoliberalism. The paper outlines a pedagogical approach for social studies teachers based upon ideology critique, critical media literacy, and reframing of neoliberal discourses with progressive ones. Deconstructing hegemony is the crucial component of this critical pedagogy.

     Keywords: social studies education; neoliberalism; ideology critique; critical media literacy; deconstructing hegemony