Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 21, Issue 4–5, pp 343–351 | Cite as

Bildung and Modernity: The Future of Bildung in a World of Difference

  • Gert Biesta


This paper asks whether there is afuture for the age-old educational ideal ofBildung. It is argued that the modernconception of Bildung in terms of``rational autonomy'' should be understood as theeducational answer that was given to thepolitical question about citizenship in anemerging (modern) civil society. Raising thequestion about the future of Bildungtherefore means to ask what educationalresponse would be appropriate in our time. Itis argued that our time is one in which theidea of a universal or total perspective hasbecome problematic. We now live in a world ofdifference in which the rational autonomouslife is only one of the possible ways to live.Beyond totalisation and isolation, a possiblefuture of Bildung might be found in theexperience that we can only live our life withothers. In a ``world of difference'' Bildung might follow from a questioning of``one's right to exist'' (Levinas). In thisrespect Bildung can happen anywhere andnot necessarily in those parts of the ``Bildungssystem'' that educators are mostfamiliar and comfortable with (i.e., theschool). Bildung becomes a lifelongchallenge and a lifelong opportunity.

autonomy Bildung democracy learning society liberal education multiculturalism rationality 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gert Biesta
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Education and Lifelong LearningUniversity of ExeterExeterEngland

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