Henry Giroux & the ‘culture of cruelty’

With reference particularly to modern-day commercialism and the threat of mass incarceration, education philosopher Henry Giroux has coined the phrase “culture of cruelty” to capture dynamics influencing young people’s experiences of school (Giroux 2012).

In a recent interview published on Salon, he adds white-nationalist populism, institutional violence, and domestic terrorism to the mix. Giroux asks:

[H]ow did that all come together to produce a kind of authoritarian pedagogy that basically isolated people, and made them feel lonely? (Devega 2017)

He refers to single-issue separatist groups interested in racial division and in arresting demographic trends that point to a shrinking white European population and growing presence of Latin@ and other ethnicities.

The question arises how such aggressions affect second-language learner identities, particularly Latin American migrants occupying the “unskilled” labor sector. What effects do a “culture of cruelty” have on them as they are trying to acquire English?


Devega, Chauncey. 2017. “Philosopher Henry Giroux on the Culture of Cruelty and Donald Trump: America Is a ‘Democracy on Life Support – It Can’t Breathe.'” Salon, 23 April.

Giroux, Henry. 2012. Disposable Youth, Racialized Memories, and the Culture of Cruelty. Framing Twenty-first Century Issues. London: Routledge.

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