Globalization and Paideia in the New Cosmopolis: A hubris or a blessing?

Issue 1

“Globalization and Paideia in the New Cosmopolis: A hubris or a blessing? ”

Andreas Kazamias

Page 13-43


First, this study refers to the contemporary discourse on globalization in its economic dynamic, highlighting certain of globalization’s key ideas and “discontents,” viz., global economies, neo-liberalism, “market fundamentalism,” “market democracy” and erosion of the public domain, possessive individualism, enterprise culture, erosion of the autonomy of the nation-state, democratic deficits, and the like. This is followed by a critical analysis of the effects of globalization on education, worldwide, as “discursive policy talk” and “policy practice,” highlighting the following ideas and discontents: emphasis on accountability, standards, productivity/performativity and efficiency; “deskilling” and “deprofessionalization” of teachers; erosion of the public domain in education and a concomitant trend towards privatization and deregulation; emphasis on “instrumental rationality,” commodification of knowledge and the development of marketable skills; and what may be referred to as the sacrifice of liberal humanistic paideia on the altar of information technology, techno-science, instrumental rationality and vocationalization.

In connection with the last point made above, it is argued that in order for contemporary nation-states or regional political entities like the European Union to participate effectively and competitively in the world economic system, modern systems of education, as state-steering mechanisms are called upon to emphasize certain types of knowledge and culture at the expense of conventional others. Schools and, more so universities, are being transformed in their identity and role. From socio-cultural enclaves, one of whose main functions has been the construction of persons and citizens with cultivated “minds and souls,” they are being metamorphosed into sites for the production of instrumental knowledge and the acquisition of marketable skills. Especially in the case of the modern European and to a large degree the North American university, the “idea of the university” is being transformed. University education is changing from one whose main ingredient has been the English and American concept of “liberal education/culture,” the German concept of Bildung, the French of culture, or the Greek of paideia to one where the main ingredients are “instrumental rationality” and what Lyotard, the postmodernist French thinker has called “performativity.” To use Robert Cowen’s apt terminology, the modern university is being transformed into “the market-framed university.”

Lastly, the study discusses, rather briefly, the challenge of globalization to the Greek national system of education. It refers to the growing literature on globalization by Greek scholars, economists, politicians and journalists, noting the emphasis being placed on the negative aspects or discontents of this global phenomenon. However, surprisingly little emphasis is being placed on globalization’s effects on Greek education and educational knowledge. In the concluding section, it is argued that in responding to the challenge of globalization, Greek education should seek to “re-invent” its traditional emphasis on humanistic paideia by promoting what E. P. Papanoutsos, the eminent Greek educational thinker and reformer, had earlier called “neo-humanism.”