Journal of the Knowledge Economy

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 45–62 | Cite as

The Right to University: the Question of Democracy in the Polis at a Time of Crisis



What is the task of the university and the role of the humanities at a time of economic and political crisis? This article attempts a response by turning to Socrates's Apology, a text that narrates the division of philosophy from politics and, by analogy, of the university from the polis. The historical context of the Apology symptomatically foreshadows the contemporary crisis in the humanities over the past two decades, the current debates about the future of the university (especially the public university in Europe) in the wake of the new educational policies implemented as a result of the Bologna Process, and the waning of democracy made worse by the current economic crisis. By drawing on the works of Hannah Arendt, Jacques Rancière, and Jacques Derrida and their respective readings of democracy and the polis, this article presents a case of how philosophy can make the university relevant to democracy and the polis which are in crisis. The article ends with the proposition that the university should promote interdisciplinarity and develop into a postnational and “trans-modern” (Mignolo) institution that resists the processes of corporatization that drain the university of one of its primary functions, to teach critical thinking and to contribute to the remaking of the democratic processes in the polis.


Apology Arendt Democracy Derrida Philosophy Polis Rancière University 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National and Kapodistrian University of AthensSchool of Philosophy, Faculty of English StudiesAthensGreece

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