30 SES 07 B, Informal ESE
Due to innumerable intervention postulates around the diagnosis of a socio-ecological crisis, small-scale social formations, which are frequently unterstood as ‚local‘, ‚transformative‘, ‚community-based‘, and (showing) ‚initiative‘, play a central role on the path to a sustainable future (e.g. Taylor Aiken et al. 2017; van Dyk 2018). Simultaneously, people are gathering under the invocation of „Gemein-Begriffe“ [engl. „community terms“] (Spitta 2013) in ecovillages, community supported agriculture (CSA), or alternative housing projects, for example, to explore and showcase more sustainable forms of living, working, and doing business.
My paper aims to describe and analyse these initiatives and projects as late-modern institutings of the pedagogical in a three-step agenda:
First, I will argue that eco-initiatives like ecovillages and CSA-farms can be understood as institutings of the pedagogical by ‚reading‘ them with Prange, Castoriadis, and Foucault. In this reading, the question arises, how it is possible for local, community-based initiatives to become meaningful as „pioneers of change“ (Göll 2017), „niches of socio-ecological transformation“ (Leitner/Littig 2016), „fields of experimentation for sustainable lifestyles“ (Kunze 2006), or „models of practiced sustainability“ (GEN Europe e.V. 2014) in the first place. By taking a closer look at the rationales that substantiate the ‚transformativity‘ or ‚transformative potential‘ of these initiatives, we see that they constitutively draw on the „social imaginary“ (Castoriadis 1987) of a „showing with regard to learning“ (Prange 2012: 25) – the „native“ or „basal operation of educating“ (ibid.). Without this pedagogic core that spells out in the intent to show that (and how) life and society could work differently, ‚transformative communities‘ could not become tangible as „objects of knowledge“ (Foucault 1972) and thus be brought into existence within the cosmologies of sustainability and socio-ecological transformation.
Second, I will show that this form of instituting the pedagogical can be identified as late-modern form of the „self-creation of society“ (Castoriadis 1987: 5) by adding Beck and Giddens to the story. Consulting theories of „reflexive modernization“ (Beck/Giddens/Lash 1996) draws our attention to moments in which modernisation encounters itself, resulting in a radicalisation and globalisation of its mechanisms. The phenomenon of transformative communities then becomes visible, for instance, as a product of „insitutional reflexivity“ (Giddens 1992). That is, they depict a joint product of activism, research, lobbyism etc., in which its observation and discursivation ‚elsewhere‘ is constitutive to the phenomenon itself. On these terms, the intent to show(case) emerges with the increasing taken-for-grantedness of being seen. Another important aspect to understand transformative communities as a ‚child‘ of late modernity is the increasing significance of reason and rationality. To begin with, individual engagement in local, community-based eco-initiatives often takes in persons as a whole. Sometimes continuous self-development is even an explicit requirement for participating. Rather than regressing into more traditional forms of relating to oneself, others, and the world – as the notion of ‚community‘ might suggest – responsibilisation of individuals is taken to the next level by making oneself as ‚whole person‘ an object of purposive-rational action. In addition, the entire enterprise to make the world a better place through model-like examples is devoted to the belief in the victory of reason and results in a pedagogisation of politics where the other is not someone to fight against or dispute with any longer but someone to show and teach my (superior) insights, skills and stances to.
Third, I will discuss the ambivalences, antinomies and paradoxes that prevail transformative communities as late-modern institutings of the pedagogical. Primarily the educational paradox of acknowledging the other as intelligent being at the cost of degrading her/him with the pedagogical ‚that-which-is-not yet‘, followed by the power/knowledge-paradox, the entelechy paradox, the dissociation paradox, the design paradox, and the reflexivity paradox.
My paper follows the idea of a „theoretical empiricism“ (Kalthoff/Hirschauer/Lindemann 2008) in which „empirical research derives its meaning from the formation of theory – from the refinement of sociological [or educational; note S.H.] soliloquy – while the latter, conversely, derives its meaning and its essential impulses from the empirical confrontation with social practice“ (Hirschauer 2008: 184). In a convergence movement between empiricism and theory, the aim is, on the one hand, to find out something general from a concrete empirical datum with a theorizing intention – thereby avoiding a constructivist or inductivist self-misunderstanding. Theories, on the other hand, do not simply serve to be applied as unchanging apparatuses or to be illustrated by empirical material. Rather, it is important to use the empirical „as play material for stimulating intellectual creativity“ (ibid.: 178), in order to be able to plausibilize, question, and advance theoretical assumptions and concepts. The empirical material consulted as ‚play material‘ on these terms comprises of multiple short-term ethnographic fieldwork, auto-ethnographic resp. auto-biographical reflections, and a wide selection of documents on local, community-based eco-initiatives that range from self-descriptions of initiatives to brochures and statements authored by associations and networks to governmental policy papers to scientific papers with a tendency to academic activism. This side of the outlined idea of „theorical empricism“ my research furthermore draws on Foucault’s „Archeology of Knowledge“ as a toolkit to grasp the „formation of objects“ analytically and theoretically (Foucault 1972), Castoriadis‘ „Imaginary Institution of Society“ as a post-foundational theory of the social-historical (Castoriadis 1987), Prange’s „Showing Structure of Education“ as systematic outline of the pedagogical (Prange 2012), and Beck and Giddens as representatives of the theory of „late modernity“ (Giddens 1992) resp. „reflexive modernization“ (Beck/Giddens/Lash 1996).
My analysis of local, community-based eco-initiatives as late-modern institutings of the pedagogical concludes to the identification and discussion of paradoxes with ambivalent and antonymical features: The educational paradox points to the ambivalence of acknowledging the other as intelligent being at the cost of degrading her/him with the pedagogical ‚that-which-is-not-yet‘. Whilst civilising resp. pacifying political conflict this kind of pedagogised politics is constituted on an asymmetrical posture that does not fully acknowledge the other in its current state but only in its potential to learn and achieve the ‚right‘ insights, skills, and stances. The power/knowledge-paradox follows the educational paradox insofar knowledge and reason depict the instruments of power in a society that is infused with reason and rationality thus paradoxically privileging the robustness of knowledge claims over the contestation and questioning of own beliefs. The entelechy paradox indicates that in the alternative life practice of transformative communities, a future is anticipated in which a bad status quo will be overcome and the diagnosed present problems will be ‚solved‘. It thus appears as the simultaneity of an action that is both entelechial practice and non-entelechial production process of a better future. Entelechial, that is completed in itself, is the present practice of future normality insofar as it is conceived as an element of a 'good life for all' under the condition that it encompasses the entire society. However, insofar as the enactment of this practice is conceived as part of a pedagogical endeavor that brings about the anticipated, better future, it simultaneously takes on the character of a non-entelechial process of production. By considering these paradoxes, followed by the dissociation paradox, the design paradox, and the reflexivity paradox, we can elucidate current social-historical dynamics and their interrelation with the pedagocgical in the realm of environmental and sustainability activism and education.
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