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Theorising Civic Learning: Socialisation, Subjectification and the Ignorant Citizen

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Learning Democracy in School and Society
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Abstract

In the previous chapters I have made a case for shifting the focus from the teaching of citizenship to the multifarious ways in which democracy is learned in schools, colleges and universities, and in society at large. I have argued that the processes and practices that make up the everyday lives of children, young people and adults – as they are lived both within and outside of a range of different institutions – convey important and often influential ‘lessons’ in democratic citizenship. Some of these lessons are positive, but quite often the messages are mixed or even negative, both with regard to the value of democratic processes and practices and with regard to the ways in which individuals are positioned at citizens and are able (or not) to enact their citizenship. What children, young people and adults learn from these experiences is therefore strongly influenced by what I have referred to as their actual condition of citizenship. This immediately shows that if policy makers and politicians wish to improve the attitudes and behaviours of citizens, they would be well advised to invest in the actual conditions of people’s citizenship. This encompasses both the basic material conditions of people’s lives and the wider material, social and symbolic resources needed for democratic participation and action. In this respect I agree wholeheartedly with Marquand’s observation that any retreat from citizenship or any wider ‘crisis’ in democracy should not be seen as the cause of the hollowing out of citizenship, but rather as a response to this hollowing out, a response, that is, to the reduction of opportunities for democratic engagement, contestation, deliberation and participation and opportunities for translating private troubles into collective issues.

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© 2011 Sense Publishers

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Biesta, G.J.J. (2011). Theorising Civic Learning: Socialisation, Subjectification and the Ignorant Citizen. In: Learning Democracy in School and Society. SensePublishers. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-6091-512-3_7

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