Educational Studies in Mathematics

, Volume 92, Issue 3, pp 347–359 | Cite as

At the intersection between the subject and the political: a contribution to an ongoing discussion

  • Alexandre Pais


The issue of subjectivity has recently occasioned a lively discussion in this journal opposing socioculturalism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. By confronting Luis Radford’s cultural theory with Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalysis, Tony Brown sought to show the limitations of socioculturalism. This article takes advantage of that discussion to develop a critique of Radford’s theory of objectification, taken as an exemplary sociocultural theorization of the teaching and learning of mathematics. It does so by extending the criticism made by Brown at the level of the subject, namely by showing what is lost in socioculturalism when it reduces the Hegelian notion of dialectics to a relation between constituted entities; but mostly by exploring the possibility opened by contemporary theory to posit the discussion around subjectivity in the political. While socioculturalism assumes the possibility of a synthesis between person and culture thus making education possible, it will be argued that a theory which assumes the impossibility of education is in a better position to, on the one hand, conceptualize the resistance of many towards the learning of mathematics, and on the other hand, to address the ongoing political failure in achieving the desired goal of “mathematics for all”.


Cultural theory of objectification Socioculturalism Dialectics Subject Political School’s credit system Lacan Marx Žižek 



I am thankful to Roberto Baldino for rectifying my diligent misunderstandings of Hegelian philosophy, to Tony Brown for a tireless review of previous versions of the manuscript, and to Sylvia Violet for her generosity in proof-reading the text.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationManchester Metropolitan UniversityManchesterUK

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