The challenges of learning to live together: navigating the global, national, and local

  • Liz JacksonEmail author


How people are to live together well in society, and learn to live together, have been continuously debated. These are challenging tasks, as the world changes over time, while educators aim to prepare young people for a dynamic, undetermined future. Although models and practices of civic education vary around the world, they typically have one thing in common. They tend to employ what can be described as the concentric circles model of human relations. In the concentric circles model, people live in spheres of local, national, and global. In academic work, the concentric circles model is associated with Nussbaum, whose political theories have inspired ongoing debates about one challenge of thinking through living in concentric circles. The major question she and many others have focused on is how to prioritise rights and responsibilities, and develop a sense of self, amidst the competing contexts of the circles—as part of local, national, and global life. I argue instead that the fundamental challenge of living together well in concentric circles relates to understanding what is in each of the circles—the way to know about, and thus be part of, the local, the national, the global. Rarely explored in work on civic education is that the local, the national, and the global are contested. The nature of those groups, their defining cultures and practices, and their implications for living together are under debate, neither simple nor given. It is often assumed that the concentric circles are known and given. But they are not a priori known, and they ought to be subjected to studied scrutiny. The challenge of identifying the nature of these social entities, and thus the meaning of membership within one’s locale, one’s nation-state, and global society, should be a focus of civic education. I elaborate this argument by exploring educating for citizenship at the global, national, and local levels.


Civic education Citizenship Localism Globalisation Nationalism 



This paper contains some excerpts and ideas, used with permission from the publisher, from my book: Liz Jackson, Questioning Allegiance: Resituating Civic Education, from Routledge, Taylor & Francis (2019). An earlier version of this paper was presented at Special Session at the 19th International Conference on Education Research held in the Seoul National University on 17–19 October 2018.


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Copyright information

© Education Research Institute, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Hong KongHong KongHong Kong

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