Educational Philosophy and Theory vol:42 issue:5-6 pages:588-605
The defence and promotion of democracy through (and in) education is a major concern today. Scholars, educationalists and policymakers insist on promoting the democratic function of school education by focusing on the democratic organisation of schools or by exploring how the curriculum can instil competencies for democratic citizenship and participation. The aim of this article is to discuss today's taken-for-granted concern with democracy, education and equality. The point of departure is a feeling of unease in relation to what is done in the name of democracy (and closely related terms such as participation, inclusion, deliberation). The term democracy seems to refer currently to the carefully organised infrastructures of participation and inclusion. It feels, however, as if those infrastructures and policy measures lead to a tamed version of democracy. By drawing on a Foucaultian approach, we will describe this taming in terms of the ‘governmentalisation of democracy’ through the production of specific ‘governmental subjectivities’. The focus on governmental subjectivities allows us to articulate our uneasiness around the apparent taming of democracy; however, it does not explain where this uneasiness comes from. Here, we supplement the work of Foucault with the challenging ideas of Rancière. In line with Rancière, we will discuss whether the current attempts to enhance, promote and develop democracy through procedures of participation, negotiation and consensus, and to mobilize education for these objectives, turns into the exact opposite: the neutralisation of democratic conflicts. While the Foucaultian perspective draws attention to processes of neutralisation through processes of ‘governmental subjectivation’ (or identification), Rancière helps us to focus on its limits, that is, on the field of democracy and ‘political subjectivation’.1 We will argue that democracy takes place through the paradoxical process of political subjectivation, and that today's consensus society tends to depoliticize all processes of subjectivation. A final step in the argumentation is to introduce the concept of ‘pedagogic subjectivation’—to be understood as the experience of potentiality—that is to be distinguished from governmental subjectivation and also from political subjectivation.
In sum, the analysis presented in this article is situated at two levels: it is a critical analysis of what is happening today in the name of democracy and education, and at the same time a theoretical elaboration of the perspective of Foucault using the ideas of Rancière.