The Identity of the European Union and the European Pedagogic Identities

Issue 2

“The Identity of the European Union and the European Pedagogic Identities”

Stavros Moutsios
Page 62-94


Νowadays the search and stabilisation of an identity seems to be a crucial issue for individuals, societies, and states. This is due to the structural transformations induced by capitalist reorganisation and globalisation, as a growing literature in the area and the empirical record on the matter testifie. Individual and collective identities are becoming problematic because of changes in social practices, of the multiplication of role expectations, of the plurality of contexts of communication and interaction and of many other destabilising forces of our post-modern era. Fluidity, incoherence and inconsistency seem to be the features of contemporary identity formation. ‘Lifestyle’, ‘individualised’, and ‘narcissistic’ identities constructed by material, symbolic and visual commodities are dominating developed societies and are undermining feelings of wholeness and belonging. As a reaction to consumerist individualism and to the global economic and political forces large parts of modern societies seek affirmation in the traditional values of religion, family, nation, and ethnicity. To all these the widely observed loss of trust to politics –and hence the crisis of liberal democracy– should also be added.It seems that the European Union is fully aware and puzzled by these trends and it seeks policies and measures which promote the creation of a new basis of solidarity amongst the Union’s peoples. In other words, the EU is seeking to create its own identity. So far this endeavour – endlessly ‘disturbed’ by nationalistic movements, enlargement processes, decision-making crises and suspicion for its ‘democratic deficit’ – has hardly been successful.However, the construction of a European identity seems to be a sine qua non condition for the Union to achieve its major goals (i.e. ‘to become the leading knowledge economy in the world’). This paper argues that education systems are now called upon by the EU’s policies to formulate its identity. To this end EU policy-making in education attempts to construct new ‘pedagogic identities’. ‘A pedagogic identity arises from embedding a desired career in collective basis – a moral career, a skills career and a locational career’, according to Bernstein (1992). Using this concept and similar analytical categories by him as well as by Castells (1997), and adapting them to the observed educational developments in Europe, this paper suggests a typology of project and resistance pedagogic identities. Resistance pedagogic identities are retrospective, bureaucratic and therapeutic. In short, retrospective pedagogic identities are those which draw knowledge resources and practices from the past to deal with what is regarded as threatening present and an unknown future. Bureaucratic are those which emphasise input control and prescribed content reproduction for fixed, linear careers, where as therapeutic are those pedagogic identities which are constructed by emancipation ideologies and ‘progressivist’ educational theories. On the other hand, project pedagogic identities, promoted by the EU, are instrumental and pluralistic. Instrumental are those pedagogic identities which draw from economic discourses and attempt to create trainable subjects, who are able to sustain economic growth and survive in the labour market. Finally, with pluralistic identities the EU attempts to fill the value gap left by its instrumental educational goals by promoting social and personal skills, so as to enable people tolerate cultural diversity, to deal with identity fragmentation and to revive trust to democratic institutions. Both project and resistance pedagogic identities, as we argue, are now in a process of struggle in many individual member-states, reflecting social identity conflicts as well as established educational structures and cultures.