Democracy and Education: Defending the Humboldtian University and the Democratic Nation-State as Institutions of the Radical Enligtenment

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Endorsing Bill Readings’ argument that there is an intimate relationship between the dissolution of the nation-State, the undermining of the Humboldtian ideal of the university and economic globalization, this paper defends both the nation-State and the Humboldtian university as core institutions of democracy. However, such an argument only has force, it is suggested, if we can revive an appreciation of the real meaning of democracy. Endorsing Cornelius Castoriadis’ argument that democracy has been betrayed in the modern world but disagreeing with his analysis of modernity, it is argued that the tradition of modern democratic thought can only be properly comprehended in relation to the ‘radical enlightenment’ originating in the Renaissance, efforts to subvert this by the ‘moderate enlightenment’, and the revival and reformulation of the radical enlightenment in Germany at the end of the eighteenth century. It is shown that subsequent political thought only becomes fully intelligible in relation to the on-going struggle between the radical and the moderate enlightenments, and that it is necessary to appreciate that the moderate enlightenment, manifesting itself in neo-liberal thought, is profoundly anti-democratic. While the radical enlightenment was developed in the nineteenth century by philosophical idealists, it is suggested that the achievements of the idealists can be successfully defended now only on naturalistic foundations through process metaphysics. Process metaphysics, it is shown, provides the basis for reviving the Humboldtian model of the university, the democratic nation-State, and a vision of the future as ‘communities of communities’ to counter the dissolution of all communities into the global market promoted by neo-liberals.
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The Spirit of Laws.Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat & Alembert, Jean Le Rond D'
The Crisis of Western Societies.Castoriadis, Cornelius

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