, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 63-82
Date: 13 Nov 2012

Knowledge, Education, and Citizenship in a Pre- and Post-National Age

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This article uses ancient views of knowledge and citizenship to defamiliarize contemporary discursive paradigms and to suggest that they can, in some respects, provide a template for rethinking our views of citizenship and of the social function of the humanities. The discourse of the knowledge-based economy is at the heart of contemporary higher education policy. It implies not only the central significance of knowledge production and circulation for the economy, but also the primacy of economic considerations in defining the function of knowledge. By contrast, in the ancient world, the end of education and knowledge was conceptualized in political rather than economic terms, and this primacy of the political over the economic is historically one of the central tenets of a liberal education. Hence, the discourse of the knowledge-based economy itself plays a decisive role in bringing about the current crisis of the humanities. While this crisis cannot be resolved without rethinking the relationship between the economic and the political aspects of society, both philanthropic funding and a discursive engagement with the premises of the knowledge-based economy can constitute pragmatic ways of dealing with the crisis while it lasts.