Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 171–181 | Cite as

Habermas, Pupil Voice, Rationalism, and Their Meeting with Lacan’s Objet Petit A



‘Pupil voice’ is a movement within state education in England that is associated with democracy, change, participation and the raising of educational standards. While receiving much attention from educators and policy makers, less attention has been paid to the theory behind the concept of pupil voice. An obvious point of theoretical departure is the work of Jürgen Habermas, who over a number of decades has endeavoured to develop a theory of democracy that places strong significance on language, communication and discourse. This paper is an attempt to gauge the usefulness of Habermas’ approach to understanding the theory of pupil voice, in particular how his theory of universal pragmatics lends itself to a ‘philosophy of between’, a philosophy that finds echoes in the conflicted nature of schooling that ‘pupil voice’ is supposed to rectify to some extent. The paper also explores the drawbacks of a Habermasian approach, in particular his overreliance on rationality as a way of understanding communication. Lacan’s concept of the objet petit a is introduced as an alternative way of understanding pupil voice.


Pupil voice Rationality Habermas Lacan School democracy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Education and Children’s ServicesUniversity of ChesterChesterUK
  2. 2.King’s Learning InstituteKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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