Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 269–281 | Cite as

Educating Political Adversaries: Chantal Mouffe and Radical Democratic Citizenship Education

  • Claudia W. Ruitenberg


Many scholars in the area of citizenship education take deliberative approaches to democracy, especially as put forward by John Rawls, as their point of departure. From there, they explore how students’ capacity for political and/or moral reasoning can be fostered. Recent work by political theorist Chantal Mouffe, however, questions some of the central tenets of deliberative conceptions of democracy. In the paper I first explain the central differences between Mouffe’s and Rawls’s conceptions of democracy and politics. To this end I take Eamonn Callan’s Creating Citizens as an example of Rawlsian political education and focus on the role of conflict and disagreement in his account. I then address three areas in which political education would need to change if it were to accept Mouffe’s critiques of deliberative approaches to democracy and her proposal for an agonistic public sphere. The first area is the education of political emotions; the second is fostering an understanding of the difference between the moral and the political; the third is developing an awareness of the historical and contemporary political projects of the “left” and “right.” I propose that a radical democratic citizenship education would be an education of political adversaries.


Democracy Citizenship education Agonistics Chantal Mouffe Eamonn Callan 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational StudiesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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