Two manifestos – paper for NERA-conference 2020

This text is a slightly revised version of af paper written for the NERA-conference in Turku, Finland, March 3-6,

Two manifestos

We seem to have hit an era of manifestos. In a way, it is easy to understand because a combined noisy and voicy intellectual interruption is perhaps the most effective form of communication in centralized and oligarchic structures of modern states, where policy- and research elites appear in increasingly closed systems of self-reference. Furthermore, we have had manifestos throughout modern history, e.g. in “The Communist Manifesto”, and postmodern life in a way reinforces the relevance of the genre due to its constant search for fractures and displacements situated in an “incredulity towards metanarratives” (Lyotard 1979). Another modern example is Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” (1997) and even John Dewey’s “My pedagogic creed” from 1897 is a kind of pedagogic-theological manifesto.

Also within the modern strands of our own discipline, we have had two recent manifestos. In 2011 came the so-called “A Manifesto for Education” by Gert Biesta and Carl-Anders Säfström (hereafter: BS). The manifesto appeared in Policy Futures in Education with two short accompanying remarks by each of the authors.

In 2017, a new manifesto appeared: “Manifesto for a Post-Critical Pedagogy”, written by Naomi Hodgson, Joris Vlieghe and Piotr Zamojski (Hereafter: HVZ). The book consists of three parts. First, the manifesto itself, which, like the 2011-manifesto, has only four pages. In addition, the book contains six short responses from invited colleagues. Finally, these responses are the object of a quite lengthy common dialogue between the three authors. During the discussions, there are frequent references to the 2011-manifesto. For these reasons, there are good reasons to examine the two texts together.

Basically, both manifestos are part of the same conceptual paradigm, that is, various combinations of Arendt, Ranciére, Levinas, Foucault and others that have inspired left-wing intellectuals in European education over the years. This common heritage is the reason why the manifestos can talk together so effortlessly, although they differ in many important matters as well.

In what follows, I will explain the views of the two manifestos. I want to show that they both contain a complex mix of problems and potentials. Therefore, if one take away a little here and adds a little there, the manifestos will mark, as a whole, an important advance in educational theory; a progress that is open to further clarifications and new studies.


1. Gert Biesta & Carl Anders Säfström (BS): A Manifesto for Education, 2011

The first manifesto is made up of seven more or less overlapping theses or sentences.

In the first thesis BS try to establish that education has its own place that you can speak from and defend. Therefore, the thesis is: “Speaking for education”, which is supplemented by the last thesis: “Standing up for education”. With this powerful and stimulating framing, a new landscape appears that both manifestos may enter into. This is the landscape of our own science and practice. A strangely familiar and wonderful place full of things, layers and stories, untamed by external domination.

As a direct consequence of this, BS say that education cannot be derived from external interests, such as political or economic agendas, and therefore education cannot be instrumentalized under structures of “what works”. Therefore, BS rejects both what they term as “populist” and “idealistic” agendas. Populism is, in a somewhat strange use of the term, about instrumentalism, and idealism is about achieving external normative goals. This framing, however, risks being too simplistic, as it tend to reduce Bildung, the suspended interplay between past and future, to its opposites. It risks tearing apart major traditions instead of examining them for the benefit of the newly conquered land. However, I fully agree that idealism and populism, even in its broadest sense, should be criticized: Idealism for pointing to a golden future that education must pursue, eg. “OECD-21. Century skills” or “UN world sustainable goals”, and populism for making selected aspects of the past a defining feature of a community. However, in my opinion, both populism and idealism – and not only “populism” – is in danger of producing instrumentalism and structures of “what work”.

With this important guardian-thesis as starting point, BS raise a kind of barrier against political-economic influence and external determination of education. Therefore, BS is able to state in a fine phrasing: “This manifesto aims to speak out of a concern for what makes education educational”. I totally agree with this simple question: “What makes education educational?”. That is simply what educational theory and practice should be all about. It is an opening of education’s own landscape, its own place. It is – as Biesta says in his comment – an investigation into the “educational object”. But we have lost the habit of inquiring into its paths and fields.

A further attempt to determine the place and the interior of education appears in the second thesis, which is dealt with under the heading “The interest of education”. Here everything become less accurate. BS say that education is about “freedom” and that this freedom is “relational”. That is not all together wrong, to be sure, but such a formulation may easily end up in new forms of “idealisms”, a risk that BS actually note as well, if I understand it correctly.

This relational freedom is inscribed in a relationship of “authority that carries an orientation towards freedom with it”. This phrase is very similar to Hannah Arendt, who also emphasized the importance of both freedom and authority. Arendt links authority to the past and to roman antiquity, but this aspect of Arendt’s work is normally forgotten or opposed by Biesta. Therefore, the concept of authority cannot really materialize, and BS tend to end up with “free relations”, which take us towards “idealism”.

However, BS is partly aware of this pitfall. They write that freedom cannot be made into a goal that education must realize. Education should not be reduced to a “not yet”, to the realization of a specific future. There is freedom within education itself, freedom is “carried” by “authority”. I agree with that. The question is just what is meant by “future” when authority and “past” cannot materialize? There is no answer. In this way, the second thesis does not really add anything to the first besides the indefinite “freedom and relationships”, which tend to end up in an isolated “not yet”, leading to “idealism”, that BS otherwise wants to get rid of.

The third thesis is: “Education in the tension between ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’”. Here we are told, again, that education is neither about a “what is not yet”, such as 21st century goals (my own example) or various utopian dreams, nor about a “what is”, ie. socialization into an existing practice. Instead, BS wants to situate education in the present, not as a flat point in actuality, but as the place where “what is”, and “what is not yet”, are connected to each other in a state of tension. One must “stay in the tension” between “what is and what is not”. But as I just said, the “what is”, authority and the past, cannot materialize. Therefore “freedom” and “relations” risk running away into “what is not yet”, that is, idealism.

However, in more positive terms, BS end up with a situated practice in which the relationship between authority and freedom is constantly inquired into and re-established in critical processes full of tension. Education becomes the “responsibility”, they say, “of this tension in the present”. As Biesta discusses it elsewhere, responsibility, taken from Levinas, is the opposite of “accountability” that belongs to instrumentalism and learning.

These ideas ought to prepare for a more basic philosophy of educational truth and essence. But unfortunately BS stop here, which in my opinion is due to an unfortunate post-structuralist legacy working in the background, where “the right wing” seems to be the cause of all evils (eg. Säfström’s comment). Therefore, BS cannot arrive to a more genuine “inter-est” in “what is”, causing this important part of the tension to collapse in to “populism”.

The fourth section elaborates further on the state of tension just mentioned. Tension is a “dissensus” that brings subjectivity into the world, something “radically new” and a “fantasy (…) that forever remains beyond the real”. These are far too powerful theses in my opinion, where the “what is” cannot find expression at all. We end up with a kind of revolutionary idealism, separated from the past, leaving any real “tension” into oblivion. The constant talk of the “radically new” and the ongoing subjective “uniqueness” as well as the sociological standardization of “what is” tend to forget the real tension, thereby indirectly reinforcing populist processes and idealist futures.

Finally, however, BS say that education is “fundamentally historical” and that the tension means to “take history seriously”, but these sentences stand somewhat alone in my view, taking the past too much “out of education”, thereby reducing history from being past proper, that is, the experiental layers of a common place, to “a chain of events”” (comments from Biesta)[1].

In the fifth and sixth theses BS talk about the research-implications of the manifesto. They tell us that it is not possible to reduce educational research to sociology or psychology because these disciplines end up studying “what is” and “what is not” in isolation, causing the whole state of tension to collapse. The task of educational theory and research, therefore, is to investigate into the specific nature, reality and significance of the tension itself. I generally agree with this, particularly if the tension is not crippled by a post-structuralist philosophy of history just mentioned.

And again, the three concrete conceptualizations of freedom proposed by BS contain too much revolutionary romanticism, that disconnect the “what is” from the underlying theories, eg.: “politics of emancipation” (Arendt), “aesthetic of freedom” (Rancière) and “ethics of subjectivity” (Levinas). Furthermore, we are told, for example, that one must not investigate into “the normative” because it binds education to “what is not”. But isn’t BS’ three suggestions just mentioned normative? Certainly so. And what happened to the concepts of authority and history, which was mentioned earlier in the manifesto? Instead, BS’ conceptual trend moves towards the vocabulary of revolution, reducing Arendt’s rich conceptions of past to a matter of a free-floating “emancipation”. Thus, in my view, BS cannot realize an educational research that examines the full existence and possibility of what they, correctly, have announced as a state of tension.

At the end of the manifesto, BS call for a kind of active defense. They want to stand up for the essence of education when it is threatened by utopian (ideological) or reactionary (populist) attempts to freeze “what is not” or “what is” without maintaining the tension. As mentioned at the outset, this short seventh paragraph is related to the first. In combination with the overall tension-thesis, it constitutes the central contribution of the manifesto.


2. Naomi Hodgson & Joris Vlieghe & Piotr Zamojski: Manifesto for a Post-critical Pedagogy, 2017

The manifesto from 2017 has five theses/principles. Although, as I said, the vocabulary comes from the same philosophical paradigm as the old manifesto, the two manifestos sound somewhat different.

There is a theoretical difference concerning the relationship to post-structuralism/postmodernism. HVZ criticizes post-structuralism for relativism and for closing both speech and action through demands for idealist emancipation based on a conceptual “regime of inequality”, and also for a politics of identity and for “political correctness”. They even say that the critical traditions are “driven by the passion of hate”. Because BS’s concepts and opinions are somewhat based on post-structuralist critique, the inherent structuralism and the problems with the “past” in the old manifesto is affected by this post-critical thesis.

However, HVZ actually refer explicitly to a radical posthuman branch of poststructuralism (Haraway), which tend to undermine their critique and thereby the humanism of their first principle, which is: “There are principles to defend”. Haraway’s theory is criticism at its self-disruptive end, whereas the manifesto is a beginning made of love to the world, to a distant father, it is a carrier of care, as a mother of natality, whereas Haraway and her followers causes a disruption of the father and the mother as such, dissolving gender and cultural essence into a “cyber-feminism”. However, overall HVZ want to protect and rebuild speech and action by, as I noted, breaking the bonds to poststructuralist critique. Therefore, they celebrate a post-criticism (Actually, one of the authors of the manifesto, Naomi Hodgson, wrote about her critical views on post-structuralism in an article co-authored with Poul Standish back in 2009 (Hodgson & Standish, 2009)).

Regarding the philosophical basis of the manifesto, it is also worth mentioning that in HVZ’s closing dialogue and in some of the response-papers there are frequent references to Italian philosopher, Georgio Agamben. Agamben is also a Foucault-person, something the authors completely forget. But Agamben’s use of Foucault is one of the least structuralist interpretations I have seen so far. Agamben has brought a new spirituality into “critical” pedagogy. However, the combined references to Agamben and particularly to Haraway contradicts the author’s very critical approach to poststructuralism.

An important similarity between the two manifestos is the interest in Hannah Arendt’s work, but HZV’s take on the matter is very different from BS’s. Especially, HZV has a much more elaborated interest in Arendt’s essay “The Crisis in Education”, that focuses on – to put it in BS-terms – the “what is”, of the past-present-relation, whereas BS is more concerned with Arendt’s philosophy of action from The Human Condition, the present-future-relation, which take them towards a vocabulary of revolution. This has a number of consequences, one of which is HZV’s second principle of “Pedagogical hermeneutics”, which is about “a space of commonality”, a “common world” somewhere in “between past and future”, to paraphrase the title of the book by Arendt, where her essay on education appears.  HVZ shares BS’s interest in what is new. But they link this new-ness to a practice characterized by constant transaction in the relationship between suppressed and surface experiences grounded in a common cultural past and in common life as such. With this positioning of pedagogy in the concept of experience in commonality – in a “pedagogical hermeneutics” – there is an open land for the entire pedagogical tradition to flourish. The first manifesto was a kind of preparation for this experiental and cultural existence, but it could not realize its intention due to the bonds of structuralism.

After the denial of the poststructuralist argument, the world, the past and the emotions flow in vast rivers of natality, and HVZ is much more happy with Arendt’s concepts of world, love and conservatism than BS appears to be, although HZV even more than BS forget about “authority”, which – together with natality – was Arendt’s most important educational concept. Again, BS emphasizes primarily the “uniqueness” that comes from Arendt’s political theory, while HVZ emphasizes Arendt’s educational concepts, such as care, protection and love, and they even mark a positive approach towards the conservative sides of Arendt’s philosophy of education, thereby opening op for a reconsidering of “the past” and of “what is”.

Thus, we end up with a Hannah Arendt, including both past and future, and (almost) without Michel Foucault’s destruction of worldliness and poetic place. In this way, HVZ wants a more situated and common normativity, based on ruptures of experience causing the future to appear inside the past, in “pedagogical hermeneutics”, which comes very close to the Danish tradition for historic-poetic folk-pedagogy, as I see it (Rahbek 2019).

This more ontological approach of “pedagogic hermeneutics” that is related to a “space of commonality” is linked to a distinction that HVZ take from Ranciére, which BS also mention, namely the difference between ‘equality as goal’ and ‘equality as assumption’. Equality as a goal refers to social or economic goals of equality that instantly leads to an instrumentalization of pedagogy by trying to close down any statistical variation. It corresponds to “the crisis of education”. Equality as assumption, on the other hand, is about precisely those educational practices in which equality is verified despite various social hierarchies. It corresponds to “the crisis in education”. The practices of equality as assumptions may very well result in statistical variations, but now conceptualized as “plurality”[2].

It is in this context of Rancière’s “equality as assumption” that HVZ announces their third principle, a shift “from critical pedagogy to post-critical pedagogy”. So, post-criticality rests on an assumption of equality that may break through any scientific or political structure of power in real and situated actions of world-caring, forcing truth and plurality to appear. In this sense, post-critical pedagogy is extremely critical. And, furthermore, post-critical pedagogy is about reclaiming, protecting and caring for “the suppressed parts of our experience”. Education is not primarily about the individual subject’s unique appearance, as BS sometimes seem to claim, but about a whole “practice to happen anew”. A whole practice is cared for and appear from hidden layers of cultural experience and memory. And this event of a past-future-concentrate must be promoted in a process where the subject takes power over the language and practice of which he is a part already and which is intrinsically worthwhile. Here in quote:

“This means (re)establishing our relations to our words, opening them to questions, and giving philosophical attention to these devalued aspects of our forms of life, and thus (….) to defend these events as autotelic, not functionalized, but simply worth caring for”.

Formulations such as these are neither positive psychology nor naive optimism. On the contrary, the central (fourth) principle is that we must go from “cruel optimism to hope in the present”, and this expanding and multilayered “present”, is the both hidden and appearing experience of life in a world worth caring for. The “present” connects to communal worth, pedagogical hermeneutics and intrinsic hope. This is, I think, a proposal for a modern concept of Bildung[3].

Both manifestos want to avoid utopias, but the “tension” is not the same in the two manifestos. BS, on the one hand, believes that the tension is about the relationship between is and is-not, where in particular the “is”-part is poorly conceptualized, and the “is not” tends to become a revolutionary utopia. HVZ, on the other hand, believes that the tension is situated in discrepancies within the formation of experience and its relation to common practices with multilayered dialogues and roots. With this ontology, HVZ begins to talk about pedagogy as a caring cultural conservatism, a concrete “love for the world”, instead of idealist notions such as “citizenship” and “sustainability”:

“Traditional and conservative as it may sound, we wish to defend education for education’s sake; education as the study of, or initiation into, a subject matter for its intrinsic, rather than instrumental, value so that this can be taken up by the new generation”.

The both open and hidden cultural processes, the care for the content and the concrete pedagogical engagement flows through the text, largely, but not completely, without the problematic influence of post-structuralism. Therefore, HVZ end up with a final and fifth principle, that “takes us from education for citizenship to love for the world”, for what is worth preserving. The ontological structures of experience, which are perhaps suppressed or hidden, must be brought to light and remembered in highly critical processes of natality. In my view we are heading towards a rethinking of the best aspects of Romanticism of the 1820’s and of Ancient Philosophy instead of post-structuralism, which, after all, draws on ​​post-1860, that is, the late Marx, the late Nietzsche and Darwin in a number of configurations, that together with the two World Wars tended to cripple both reason and sensitivity. One of the commentators even think, that the manifesto points towards religious themes.

Finally, a few critical remarks:

One level is still lacking for the potential of Hanna Arendt’s pedagogy and ontological phenomenology to be fully realized. For example, there is no reference to her idea of “darkness”, a concept that is also used in recent university pedagogy (Bengtsen & Barnett 2016). Without such a reflection, we may end up in another kind of ontological darkness, the so called “dark pedagogy” (Lysgaard & Bengtsson 2019). This is the life with monsters, death, fragile identities, shame and anxiety under the hyperfact of climatic and virological terror, but completely devoid of the layers of common life. This, in my view, is a new and highly problematic kind of “idealism”, which is completely disrupted from “the past”, leaving the youth on their own without “commonality”. Actually, it is not far from post-humanism. Furthermore, as I mentioned, the role of Arendt’s “authority” is ambivalent, and actually the word “natality” doesn’t appear much.

Therefore, HVZ lacks a final and more thorough determination of the ontological levels, an even further investigation into “what is?”. In the dialogue at the end of the book, however, the ontological aspect become clearer, for example on p.72 and p.94, where Joris Vlieghe and Piotr Zamojski talk about love as “caring for things” and about “the thing”, on page 97 where they say “the manifesto is addressing what already is”, and on p. 86, where Joris Vlieghe distinguishes between the ontic and the ontological in the same spirit. The “what is not” and the “tension” seem to be inside the “what is”. In these vocabularies education is taken from the critical Biesta/Säfström-tradition towards the line of thought present in the works of Jan Masschelein, Graham Harman and Georgio Agamben, opening up layers of history and natality in wonderful old ways. However, “Dark pedagogy” is also inspired by Harman.

Occasionally, despite the overall trend, the authors run into the naive-positive trap. This happens when they say that criticism should not “reveal”. Why on earth should criticism not reveal? Especially if the world is ontologically structured in processes of pedagogical hermeneutics and things in themselves? Gert Biesta made the same mistake in an article he wrote back in 2001, but in his version of ‘anti-revealing’, he drawed explicitly on mainstream Foucault, so in a sense his logic was clearer (xxxx 2021). Thus, when this idea appears in the manifesto, it is a remnant of the exact same post-structuralist ontology, that HVZ tries to refuse. And it is precisely here that the new manifesto tends to forget “the tension”, turning the “critical” into “the positive” instead of into the “post-critical”, which is the critical attitude proper.

Finally, it is worth noting that the old manifesto speaks of “education” while the new one speaks of “pedagogy”. The new manifesto also talk about “pedagogues” rather than about “teachers”. This is another way of saying that pedagogy and upbringing, Bildung and Erziehung, overdetermines “education”. The consequence of this is an upgrade of the Central European tradition of pedagogy in opposition to educational sciences, which increasingly has become synonymous with both practice and research based on instrumentalism; a move that I think BS would appreciate as well. If such a shift is realized, it will have a tremendous critical effects on post-structuralism and on policy levels. However, none of the manifestos speak about “Bildung” as such.


3. Response papers

Finally, I want to mention some of the accompanying remarks to the second manifesto:


Tyson Lewis believes that the word “manifesto” tends to lead HVZ towards the very kind of idealism they are against, even more than the first manifesto did. Instead, he suggests that we use the word “declaration”. Indeed, the best answer to that objection comes from Gert Biesta, who in his commentary on the first manifesto writes that a manifesto must always be an ironic interruption to the existing state of affairs. A kind of opening. Thus understood, as part of the postmodern tradition, the term “manifesto” makes good sense. A postmodern manifesto is the result of the experiences of experienced intellectuals to speak from pure emotion without references, so that the plurality of the world may appear. As a pure manifesto-form, the 2011 manifesto is actually the best. It is entirely without the many somewhat indeterminate references that characterize the 2017-manifesto and which make it a little submissive and in the end even too positive. The first manifesto is also fresher and more direct in the overall vocabulary. It is a rupture that opens the field. So does the 2017-manifesto, but not as effective in its form. However, as I have tried to argue, Tyson’s critical remarks about risking ending up in “idealism” actually is more to the point concerning the first manifesto.


The next response to the 2017-manifesto comes from Olga Ververi. She asks for more sociological realism. She believes that the manifesto falls into a functionalist and constructivist trap, and that HVZ’s focus on “hope, optimism and love” removes the focus from politics, resulting in a “consensus”-approach. In addition, she criticizes the authors’ conservatism for promoting “a rather elitist educational program”. But Ververi forgets that HVZ’s concepts were invented by Arendt and Ranciere, for whom criticism, thinking, equality and politics were essential activities. Therefore, Ververi’s critical remark misses its target.

Still, Ververi is right in saying that the manifesto has a social science deficit. But then again, maybe the manifesto even points to another and more subtle ontological/educational form of social science? In a sense, the manifesto calls for a new social science based on the layers of cultural experience. If that is correct, the post-critical pedagogical manifesto may even produce a social science manifesto with a basis in education itself. A little bit like in the pedagogy of John Dewey. That would be an example of the power of pedagogy.

In her comment, Ververi actually says that she appreciates the idea of ​​defending “education for education’s sake” rather than linking educational quality to “social mobility”. This corresponds 1:1 to HVZ’s/Rancière’s distinction between “equality as an assumption” and “equality as a goal”. Ververi also suddenly speaks about both “the liberal idea of ​​education known as paideia” and about Paulo Freire’s emancipatory pedagogy. In doing so, she leaves sociology and enters into discussion with the manifesto itself. In fact, she ends up saying that it is the sociologists who can learn something from the manifesto rather than the other way around:

“Consequently, I believe that post-critical pedagogy has much to offer sociologists of education and could enable them to redefine education, not in terms of what education is, but what education should be” (italics in original).

Ververi started with a sociological critique of the manifesto, but she ends up with a manifest critique of sociology.


In the next article, Norm Friesen supplements the manifesto’s points with thoughts based on the pedagogy of Klaus Mollenhauer and social phenomonology, in particular the Belgian pedagogue Max van Manen. These are important points that allow for the enrolment of the phenomenological and continental traditions – the status of which is unclear in both manifestos – in the discussion.


The next paper is by Geert Thyssen. He draws on posthumanist and feminist theory inspired by Barad and Haraway of the kind that, in my opinion, is destructive to educational practice in the spirit indicated by the manifesto, even though HVZ refers to Haraway too. Posthumanism is a techno-ontological radicalization of Foucault, making both manifestos impossible to realize. It is important for post-critical pedagogy that it engage in a critical battle against this influential posthumanist trend, which ends up in a dissolution of the common world, turning it into data, genes and identity-politics without love for common life, interest in the past or care for the foundations of democracy. Where both manifestos try to make humanism more humanistic than humanism itself, then post-humanism will abolish humanism as such, even turning it into a transhumanism. But Thyssen’s response points to an important existential decision, that HVZ must make: Does their “post-critical” ideas refer to more humanism or to more post-humanism.


The next response is a paper from Oren Ergas. He argues for a mixture of constructivism and mindfulness. Although there are remnants of educational interest in Ergas’ text, Ergas’ interest in the “mind” forgets both “the world” and the “pedagogical hermeutics”, resulting, I think, in affirmativity towards the tenets of positive psychology which  – as is also noted in the final dialogue by Zamojski – are the exact opposite of the philosophy of both manifestos.


In a last comment, Stefan Ramaekers points out that the manifesto’s use of Arendt draws on an understanding of “love for the world” that may become too blind and naive. However, Ramaekers bases his critique on a simultaneous analysis of private and sentimental love, which has nothing to do with the case in hand. But he is right in pointing out that “the love of the common things” needs more thorough theoretical work.

Ramaekers also criticizes the concept of “the world” as such. He is afraid it might become a populist or nationalist term, and in the closing dialogue, the writers of the manifesto agrees a little bit. But here they are all wrong, in my opinion. The point of “love of the world” is precisely to care for the “national”, for a love of a country’s history, language, actions and things in a way that opens for interest to other countries’ cultures, and for common grounds of national plurality, thus making both populism and idealism impossible. The second manifesto in particular can be used to cultivate ‘the national’, while post-structuralism tends to eradicate it, leaving us with a Trump-like politics and transhumanism.

With his criticism, Ramaekers and even HVZ in their closing remarks falls into the post-structuralist trap, where the things of the world are perceived as oppressive structures, thereby concealing processes of educational and scientific interest and common pasts.


3. Conclusion

The two manifestos complement each other. Both are interested in understanding the peculiarities of education and its object and in defending pedagogy against scientific and political attacks and instrumentalisation. BS’ central object of inquiry is the tension between what is and what is not. HVZ expands the field with a wider reading of Arendt, where love for the common world and the uneven layers of experience plays an important role.

There are pitfalls in both manifestos: the first manifesto is based in part on a post-structuralist critique of Bildung and nationality, which draws it towards an idealistic and almost revolutionary vocabulary that, in my opinion, tends to tear pedagogical practice apart, turning it into “dark pedagogy”. The second manifesto sometimes takes off in a too positive and idealistic approach to the world, forgetting “the tension”. However, these pitfalls should not hide the overall impression, that the two manifestos are key attempts to re-establish pedagogical practice and theory after a number of decades in which the vocabulary of pedagogy in itself has been ruined by harsh instrumentalist policies.



Bengtsen, S. & Barnett, R. (2016). “Confronting the Dark Side of Higher Education”, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 51, No. 1, pp. 114-131.

Biesta, B. & Säfström, C.A. (2011). “A Manifesto for Education”, Policy Futures in Education, Vol. 9, No. 5, pp. 440-447.

Hodgson, N. & Standish, P. (2009). “The Uses and Misuses of Poststructuralism in Educational Research”, International Journal of Research and Method in Education, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 309-326.

Hodgson, N. & Vlieghe, J. & Zamojski, P. (2017). Manifesto for a Post-Critical Pedagogy, Punctum Books.

Lyotard, J-F. (1979). The Postmodern Condition – a Report on Knowledge, Manchester University Press.

Lysgaard, J.A. & Bengtsson, S. (2019). Dark Pedagogy, Palgrave.

Rahbek, R.K. (2019). Stedets pædagogik, Aarhus: Klim.

xxxx (2021). “xxxxx“, Educational Philosphy and Theory, xxxx.

Yun, Suninn (2014). “Education, Freedom, and Temporality: A Pesponse to Biesta and Säfström’s Manifesto”, Journal of Philosophy of Education, vol. 48, no. 3, pp. 385-399.

[1] Suninn Yun has also discussed the problem of time in the manifesto. She argues, on heideggerian ground, – and I agree with her – that in the manifesto a superficial sense of history goes hand in hand with an intention of taking “temporality out of education” as Biesta says in his comment  (Yun 2014). As I see it, education do indeed involve a suspension of temporality, but only if this suspension takes education into a place, that is, a free interplay with the objects and practices of the past, thereby getting into contact with a deeper layers of time. This is also why Arendt talks about that the teacher simultaneously both should have her eyes “glued to the past” and on the “essence of education”: natality. This “place” actually comes near the first thesis of the manifesto but for conceptual reasons BS is unable to realize their pedagogical harvest.

[2] In Danish school-law the difference between “equality as a goal” and “equality as assumption” corresponds to the distinction between ”equality” and “equal worth”. “Equal worth” is actually mentioned in the law preamble, due to the influence of liberals. The socialists preferred “equality” (as a goal), that is, “ligestilling”. Today equality as a goal is radicalized in James Heckmans theory of human capital-statistics that has a profound influence on modern social democracy in Denmark.

[3] Perhaps, the “post” refers not to an “after” but rather to a kind of logical “before”, just like Lyotard preferred to interpret his “post-modernism”?: Postmodernism is “modernism at its nascent state, and this state is constant”, he said in The Postmodern Condition (Lyotard 1979). In such an interpretation, “post-critical” becomes critique in its essence.


Her er en tidligere version af teksten fra marts 2018 (på dansk):


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