28 SES 08 A, Time for Change? For a Temporal Turn in the Sociological Study of Education and Europe (Part 1)
Symposium to be continued in 28 SES 09 A
Modernity is faced with a paradox: while we certainly have much more knowledge than ever before, we have at the same time much less certainty (Beck 1992), especially as regards the future (Rosa 2010). The future as we see it is increasingly made of multiple, largely unknown, possibilities. Faced with this specific mode of problematizing the future, which Niklas Luhmann (1976) refers to as the “futurization of the future”, different functional systems (law, economy, politics, education,…) can react in different ways (Opitz and Tellman 2015). This research starts out from this paradoxical situation and aims to study its consequences for education and education policy: how do both systems cope with a plethora of knowledge and a lack of certainties? How do they process future uncertainties? This situation, which, on the systemic scale, is one of crisis (how does one know what is to be done? how and what should one learn in order to prepare for an unknown future?) has the clear consequence of dismantling education as an institution and turning it into a problem that is posed on a global scale and for which solutions can / must be sought, everywhere in the world and at every moment. In other words, the future cannot simply remain open. Attempts to shape the future – i.e. acts of defuturization (Luhmann 1976) – emerge in response to increased uncertainty. These attempts take the form of goals setting, guiding principles, benchmarking,… In this way, future uncertainties do not amount to a limitation or an obstacle but rather constitute a resource for the development and expansion of a global governance of education, capable of absorbing more and more elements by turning them into goals to be pursued in the future. The Working Groups of Education and Training 2020 are one instance where such processes of futurization and defuturization take place. In these instances, strategies of defuturization give rise to “knowledge work”. The observation made by Elena Esposito in her analysis of the economic system resonates here: “in times of high uncertainty attention tends to shift […]: one observes what others do rather than how things are” (Esposito 2013: 8). Hence, knowledge about what oneself and others do, how well oneself and others do (Lawn 2003; Grek 2009), is collected in an attempt to defuturize the future. In the presentation we will describe how complexity (ie. the excess of (future) possibilities) is produced and reduced.
Beck U (1992) Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Sage. Esposito E (2013) Economic Circularities and Second-Order Observation: The Reality of Ratings. Sociologica (2): 1–20. Grek S (2009) Governing by numbers: The PISA ‘effect’ in Europe. Journal of education policy, 24(1), 23-37. Lawn M (2003) ‘The “usefulness” of learning: the struggle over governance, meaning and the European education space’, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 24(3): 325–36. Luhmann N (1976) The future cannot begin: Temporal structures in modern society. Social Research 43: 130–152. Luhmann N (2002) Theories of Distinction: Redescribing the Descriptions of Modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Opitz S & Tellmann U (2015). Future Emergencies: Temporal Politics in Law and Economy. Theory, Culture & Society, 32(2), 107-129.
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