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Education as a potential for creating mutual trust: schools as sites for deliberation
Örebro University, Department of Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9735-3440
2008 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [sv]

In recent decades, the concept of social capital as basic for the sustainability of democracy and economic growth has had an enormous impact on the social scientific debate, primarily through the works of Robert Putnam (1993, 2000). Despite its vagueness and the difficulties involved in operationalizing it, the concept expresses a distinction that is of significance for the maintenance and depth of democracy in different societies. At the same time, I am not (as many others) convinced by the overarching thesis which Putnam puts forward concerning the fundamental role of associations and social networks in the creation of social capital.

In my article I will apply and develop further the views and the critique of Putnam put forward by Bo Rothstein (2005), relating to the role of what are termed universal institutions, and primarily of one such institution, the general school system, in creating social capital. In an analysis of under what conditions mutual trust is created, Rothstein (2005) argues that it develops through extensive interaction with others, and mainly with others who are not of the same category as oneself. Multicultural societies have to create arenas for social encounters where this interaction can come about. A general, non-segregated educational system, from pre-school to university level, offers such an arena when not segregating on the basis of ethnicity and social class (cf. Yamagishi 2001). An educational system of that kind can, referring to Hardin (2002), be seen as an example of an (at least) thin universal institution. However, universal institutions are not just difficult to establish, they also tend to be weak and are thus, as we all know, often at risk of being dissolved. There are always different particular interests that tend to challenge universal institutions on the ground that their own group or category is being singled out for special treatment or put at a disadvantage by existing institutions of this kind. Schools within an educational system based on particularism – like the one that has developed in Sweden during the last twenty years as a challenge to a more universal system one, a particularly based school system which is established in many countries since a long time ago – tends to reify given group or cultural identities and implies a failure to interrogate the meaning of cultural identity. At the same time I see this potential of interrogation as central for the sustainability and development of democracy and crossing borders in multicultural societies of today.

With Seyla Benhabib (2002) I will distinguish between democratic and multicultural theorizing “without disputing that most multiculturalists fully support democratic practices and institutions. The emphasis as well as the ordering of our principles are different. Most democratic theorists welcome and support struggles for recognition and identity/difference movements to the degree to which they are movements for democratic inclusion, greater social and political justice, and cultural fluidity. But movements for maintaining the purity or distinctiveness of cultures seem to me irreconciliable with both democratic and more basic epistemological considerations” (Benhabib 2002 p. ix).

In my contribution I will take a closer look on both the potential and the vulnerability of universal institutions and more specifically of the general education system as a universal institution when it comes to an interplay with the multicultural situation. Questions needed to be asked are if and in what way the educational system can be compared with other societal institutions important for the sustainability of democracy. Can the educational system by being an arena for social and cultural encounters contribute to create trust, and in the long run social capital, among the members of society?

The second area I will try to analyse and comment is the current state of the political philosophical and / or educational debate about how the general education system (as a universal institution or otherwise) could operate today and in the future within multiculturalist societies, and what preconditions the different views on this subject imply in terms of creating social trust, social intelligence and social capital.

References:

Benhabib, Seyla (2002): The Claims of Culture. Equality and Diversity in The Global Era. Princeton: Princeton University press.

Hardin, Russell (2002): Trust and Trustworthiness. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.

Putnam, R. (1993). Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton:

Princeton University Press.

Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling Alone. The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Rothstein, Bo (2005): Social Traps and the Problem of Trust. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Yamagishi, Toshio (2001): Trust as a form of social intelligence. In Karen Cook (ed.): Trust in Society, pp. 121–147. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008.
Keyword [en]
potential of education, universal institution, mutual trust, social capital, Benhabib
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-3370OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-3370DiVA, id: diva2:137667
Conference
Building walls / Crossing borders: Education,global conflicts, human rights and cosmopolitan values', Stockholm, Sweden, May 21-23
Available from: 2008-12-02 Created: 2008-12-02 Last updated: 2017-10-18Bibliographically approved

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Englund, Tomas

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