Higher Education – Academic Whistle-Blowing

Administrative and Legal Questions of Educational Institutions in the Context of Modernising Education and Social Relations – The Socio-Cultural Perspectives

Notes for a presentation on the occasion of the conference ‘Deviation within the context of transformation of social relations and education.

Moscow, February 21st, 2013

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to address this important event. Thanks to Andrey Lymar my contribution during thesxe conferences can claim already some tradition.

In some sense it is difficult to contribute – I am contributing as outsider to a debate on topics that are very much questions that fully develop their meaning n national or even local contexts. This is true for both: education on the one hand and administration and law on the other hand.

However, there are also general questions and they are surely general in two respects:

  • law and administration are obviously relevant for everything we do
  • and at the same time we see an increasing relevance: law and administration taking over, reaching into all pores of life and determining the professional space and our professional activities – it does not really matter much that this is a complain that we can find already formulated for instance by Aristotle and Socrates.

We take it frequently as matter of heteronomy – an external power and rationality taking over.

My thesis will be: Talking about increasing meaning of judification and administration is an expression of the very same rationality that we claim as genuinely our own ‘academic’ mission of Western enlightenment.

This may sound to some a provocative argument – and it will take some effort to develop it in detail. However, in the following some indications will give you an idea from where I am coming. It is at the end a fundamental critique of the path Western modernisation took.

First, this Western enlightenment ideology is very much guided by the idea that progress equals ‘distancing from nature’. This went hand in hand with the development of anthropocentric interpretations of the world. And it went – to some extent paradoxically – hand in hand with a process of de-socialisation. This culminated in the absolutist state and later even in the absolute state.

Second, rather than developing an integrated rationality, we saw with the Renaissance the emergence of understanding rationality as something that is inherent to and in everything:

Omne ens habet aliquod esse proprium

– every entity has a singular essence

This doesn’t mean anything else that we are creating externalities: rationality is not genuinely about action but about detecting the rationality and following its requirements. – Actually it is the very consequent conclusion of Christianity.

Third, this way we created not least the methodological individualism – the core of Western social science. At its heart we find the ‘survival instinct’: excessive individualism that is guided by excessive hording of goods and money and that is finally steered by equally excessive means of control.

Fourth, and finally, this is fertile ground for administration and legal systems, taking over according to their own rules. And they do it to such an extent that they even strangulate themselves.

Fifth, in order to end on a more positive note, looking for a re-orientation I see in particular the following four points

  • the need to re-introduce the social – not as normative concept but as responsible reflection of the means and mode of production in the light of a socio-ecologically sustainable way;
  • fully acknowledging the public character of educational systems and processes
  • accepting that education is more and different to transferring knowledge and skills training
  • not least the orientation on education as process of actively engaging in public spaces and on public issues

Law and administration can then actually play an important positive role – and from various contacts, that to Andrey being an important one here too I know that there is futile ground here in Russia to acknowledge also this direction of thinking.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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