Freire and Marx in Dialogue

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To understand the work of Paulo Freire, its roots as well as its relevance in the present time and in generations to come, one cannot ignore the influence of Karl Marx. As Mayo (2004) points out, “The Marxist-humanist element is all pervasive in Freire’s work” (p. 5), and “Marx’s early writings are constantly referred to and provide the basis for Freire’s social analysis in his most celebrated work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (p. 2). Indeed, a number of prominent ideas that emerge in Freire’s philosophy are derivations of themes in Marx’s work including their parallel views of the dynamic concept of knowledge and history, their views of praxis, consciousness and alienation as well as the dialectical relationships between proletariat/oppressed and bourgeois/oppressor. In this paper we demonstrate Marx’s influence on Freire by bringing to life the ways in which Marx’s writing is woven into Freire’s work and is also a representation of historicity in praxis; that is, the historical authenticity of the influence of Marxism on Freire’s work is undeniably philosophical but it is also enacted in the world. We have utilized, as much as possible, direct quotes from both Freire and Marx, which we have woven together into a conversation that reflects our understanding of Freire and Marx in relationship to each other, to the past, and to the contemporary moment. This approach allows us to accomplish a number of things: First, the conversation we have constructed models of Freire’s praxis of dialogue and of being “in conversation with” others and the world. Second, it demonstrates how these ideas are alive as much today as they were in Marx’s time and in Freire’s time. Third, since critical pedagogy involves having a dialogue with people, we aim to cultivate in our audience what we hope becomes a permanent practice, that is, engaging with text in a way that it becomes the voice in their heads, not just words on a page.


American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting (AERA)


San Francisco, CA