Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 467-479

First online:

Towards the knowledge democracy? Knowledge production and the civic role of the university

  • Gert BiestaAffiliated withInstitute of Education, University of Stirling Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


In this paper I ask whether the University has a special role to play in democratic societies. I argue that the modern University can no longer lay claim to a research monopoly since nowadays research is conducted in many places outside of the University. The University can, however, still lay claim to a kind of knowledge monopoly which has to with the central role Universities play in the definition of what counts as scientific knowledge. The problem is, however, that the University’s knowledge monopoly is predominantly understood in epistemological terms. This leaves only one role for the University in a democratic society, viz., that of the expert. Based on ideas from John Dewey and Bruno Latour I suggest a different way to understand the distinction between ‘scientific’ and ‘everyday’ knowledge. Against this background I argue that the University can contribute towards the democratisation of knowledge if it articulates the difference between scientific and everyday knowledge in non-epistemological terms.


Higher Education Democracy Epistemology Knowledge society Knowledge economy Knowledge democracy John Dewey Bruno Latour