Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 467–479 | Cite as

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



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 


  1. Barnett, R. (1997). Higher education: A critical business. Buckingham: SRHE & Open University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Biagioli, M. (Ed.), (1999). The science studies reader. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Biesta, G. (1992). John Dewey: Theorie & Praktijk. Delft: Eburon.Google Scholar
  4. Biesta, G. (2002). How general can Bildung be? Reflections on the future of a modern educational ideal. British Journal of Philosophy of Education, 36(3), 377–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Biesta, G. J. J. (2006). What’s the point of lifelong learning if lifelong learning has no point? On the democratic deficit of policies for lifelong learning. European Educational Research Journal, 5(3–4), 169–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Biesta, G. (2005). Knowledge production and democracy in educational research: The case of evidence-based education. South Africa Journal of Higher Education, 19, 1334–1349.Google Scholar
  7. Biesta, G., & Burbules, N. (2003). Pragmatism and educational research. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. Dawkins, 2006.Google Scholar
  8. Dawkins, R. (2006). The God delusion. London: Bantam Press.Google Scholar
  9. Delanty, G. (2001). Challenge knowledge: The University in the knowledge society. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Delanty, G. (2003). Ideologies of the knowledge society and the cultural contradictions of higher education. Policy Futures in Education, 1(1), 71–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. In J. -A. Boydston (Ed.). John Dewey. The middle works (1899–1924), (Vol. 9). Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Dewey, J. (1925). Experience and nature. In J. -A. Boydston (Ed.). John Dewey. The later works (1925–1953), (Vol. 1). Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Dewey, J. (1929). The quest for certainty. In J. -A. Boydston (Ed.). John Dewey. The later works (1925–1953), (Vol. 4). Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Dewey, J. (1938). Logic: The theory of inquiry. In J. -A. Boydston (Ed.). John Dewey. The later works (1925–1953), (Vol. 12). Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dewey, J. (1939). Experience, knowledge, and value: A rejoinder. In J. -A. Boydston (Ed.). John Dewey. The later works (1925–1953), (Vol. 14. pp. 3–90). Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Fredriksson, U. (2003). Changes of education policies within the European Union in the light of globalisation. European Educational Research Journal, 2(4), 522–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fuller, S. (2003). Can Universities solve the problem of knowledge in society without succumbing to the knowledge society? Policy Futures in Education, 1(1), 106–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gellner, E. (1992). Postmodernism, reason and religion. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Gieryn, Th. F. (1983). Boundary-work and the demarcation of science from non-science: Strains and interests in professional ideologies of scientists. American Sociological Review, 48, 781–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Giroux, H. A. (2003). Selling out higher education. Policy Futures in Education, 1(1), 179–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Horkheimer, M. (1947). Eclipse of reason. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Hutchins, R. M. (1936). The higher learning in America. New Haven, CN: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Latour, B. (1983). Give me a laboratory and I will raise the world. In K. D. Knorr, & M. Mulkay (Eds.), Science observed (pp. 141–170). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Latour, B. (1987). Science in action. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Latour, B. (1988). The pasteurization of France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Lisbon European Council (2000). Presidency Conclusions, Lisbon 23–24 March 2000. Google Scholar
  27. Oelkers, J. (2005). Pragmatismus und Pädagogik: Zur Geschichte der Demokratischen Erziehungstheorie. In F. Busch, & H.-J. Wätjen (Eds.), Erziehen – Lehren – Lernen. Zu Kontinuitäten, Brüchen und Neuorientierungen im Pädagogischen Denken (pp. 7–50). Oldenburg: Oldenburger Universitätsreden.Google Scholar
  28. Rowland, S. (2003). Teaching for democracy in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 8(1), 89–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sardar, Z. (2000). Thomas Kuhn and the science wars. London: Icon Books.Google Scholar
  30. Simons, M. (2006). ‘Education through research’ at European Universities: Notes on the orientation of academic research. British Journal of Philosophy of Education, 40(1), 31–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sleeper, R. W. (1986). The necessity of pragmatism. New Haven: Yale University Press. .Google Scholar
  32. Trow, M. (1973). Problems in the transition from elite to mass Higher Education. Berkeley, CA: Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of EducationUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK

Personalised recommendations