Activist‐led Education and Egalitarian Social Change

Journal of Political Philosophy 29 (4):456-479 (2021)
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In this article, I offer an account of what one of the short-term political aims of proponents of greater equality ought to be. I claim that the strengthening of reflective capacity—citizens’ ability to impose a temporary level of distance from their commitments, to consider alternatives to them, and to evaluate their origins and validity—ought to be one key aim of egalitarian politics under present political conditions. I then propose activist-led education programs as one desirable means to deliver this end of strengthened reflective capacity. Where activist-led education provides plentiful informational resources and opportunities to practice deploying one’s reflective capacity, and also emphasizes and encourages intellectual humility, it seems well placed to help bring about this aim. Activist-led education programs are commonly subject to what I term the indoctrination worry, but I try to show that there are not good grounds for concluding in advance of further study that the delicate balancing of ends that permissible activist-led education requires is either categorically unachievable, or avoidable in the way these objectors often press. The argument thus provides presumptive grounds for considering the proliferation of suitably organized activist-led education programs an important component of a broader strategy of egalitarian social change.

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Cain Shelley
London School of Economics


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