Anarchism, Schooling, and Democratic Sensibility

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This paper seeks to address the question of schooling for democracy by, first, identifying at least one form of social character, dependent, after Marcuse, on the historical emergence of a “new sensibility.” It then explores one pedagogical thread related to the emergence of this form of subjectivity over the course of the last two centuries in the west, and traces its influence in the educational counter-tradition associated with philosophical anarchism, which is based on principles of dialogue and social reconstruction as opposed to monologue and reproduction. The idea of a dialogical school has been made possible by a historical shift in adult views of child as interlocutor rather than “othered” object of adult formation—a shift that can be observed in an historical process of “closer approaches” between adult and child and a recognition of childhood and adulthood as forms of subjectivity that lie on a synchronous rather than a diachronic lifespan continuum. Finally the author identifies an archetype of “school” understood as a specific type of intentional community—an experimental zone in which participants are allowed and encouraged, through explicitly dialogical practice, to develop the personal and relational habits that make authentic democracy possible—a communal form that gives practical meaning to Dewey’s notion of school as “embryonic society”: a utopian space where natality is recognized as a fundamental cultural force, and where the evolutionary possibilities inherent in neoteny are taken as normative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-568
Number of pages18
JournalStudies in Philosophy and Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • Democracy
  • Schooling
  • Social anarchism
  • Subjectivity


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