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Gert Biesta - Education between Bildung and Post-structuralism

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Is Gert Biesta is a philosopher of Bildung? The answer is “both yes and no. First I argue that Biesta's philosophy is based on a denial of the concept of Bildung, and that he, by the very nature of this fact, cannot be considered as philosopher of Bildung. This conclusion is based on Biesta’s roots in the post-structuralist tradition and its problems with enlightenment and humanism, approaches that normally defines Bildung. I consider two consequenses of this: On consequence of the poststructuralist discourse is the effect on Biesta's reading of Hannah Arendt. Biesta focuses on Arendt’s concept of action, while Arendt's cultural philosophy, as this is reflected in her educational essay “The Crisis in Education”, is diminished. Second, I show how Biesta's poststructuralist denial of Bildung is transferred to the structure of Biesta's main categories, namely qualification, socialization and subjectification and their respective overlapping areas: This triple structure, I argue, rejects and defend processes of Bildung simolultaniously. Thus, there is a fundamental division between Biesta’s post-structuralist starting point and his hopes for human sciences and educational philosophy. This division is rooted in the post-structuralist tradition itself. However, this does not mean that Biesta is in favour of instrumentalism and learning ideology, indeed on the contrary. I will argue that Biesta suggests a ontological turn, which, however, cannot be fully expressed because of the poststructuralist influence that undermines the ontological questions. Finally, I draw the entire structure into a model showing the various ontological constraints and possibilities in Biesta's work.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEducational Philosophy and Theory
Pages (from-to)34-45
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

    Research areas

  • Bildung, Gert Biesta, learning, ontology, post structuralism

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