Panel C.02 — Affirming social justice in education? Post-critical vistas

Convenors Stefano Oliverio (University of Naples Federico II, Italy); Joris Vlieghe (KU Leuven); Piotr Zamojski (Polish Naval Academy)

Keywords Post-critical pedagogy, social justice, politics and education, critical theory, love for the world.


In this panel the question of “education and/for social justice” will be addressed from a post-critical perspective.

By post-critique we refer to a constellation of (theoretical and methodological) approaches that, various as their sources may be, share misgivings on the hegemony of the critical stance in research in social sciences and humanities, in view of which a change of attitude, if not a paradigm shift, is called for. Throughout different disciplinary domains – from sociology (e.g. Latour, Boltanski) to literary criticism (e.g. Felski), philosophy (e.g. Serres, de Sutter) and political philosophy (e.g. Cooper, Croce) – there has emerged an increasing interest in devising and deploying new conceptual vocabularies that replace the hermeneutics of suspicion (at the basis of the dominant critical paradigm) with an affirmative stance, captured by Arendt’s phrase “love for the world”.

Education studies have joined this debate through the Manifesto for a post-critical pedagogy (Hodgson, Vlieghe & Zamojski, 2017) and the vast discussions it has ignited. The theme “education and/for social justice” may be a litmus test to explore the significance of this post-critical turn. Indeed, by vindicating the “autotelic” meaning of education, identifying a clear-cut distinction between the educational and the political realm and pointing to the danger of subordinating education to political agendas (inclusive and progressive as they may desirably be), the post-critical stance might seem inhospitable to an original engagement with the question of social justice. And yet, what post-critical pedagogy invokes is not a dismissal of the political dimension, but a different way to address it, by re-describing the relationships between politics and education.

In this respect, the primary aim of this panel is to investigate how we should understand the relation between education and social justice in a post-critical key and to profile the specificities of this understanding in comparison to the way in which it is usually spelled out in the critical tradition. In particular, in reference to a core principle of post-critical pedagogy – “education for education’s sake” – the panel investigates what a genuinely educational view of social justice looks like – which can reverberate also on the level of the policies – rather than ‘merely’ importing the very notion of “social justice” into education, with the danger to ultimately instrumentalize the latter (i.e. turning education into the simple vehicle through which to attain aims external to education, highly valuable as they are).

Moreover, capitalizing on the cross-disciplinary reflection on post-critique so far, the panel aspires to establish a dialogue between post-critical pedagogy and post-critical approaches in sociology (of education) in order to marshal new conceptual tools and interpretive perspectives with which to address the theme of social justice in education.

The panel welcomes both theoretical abstracts and empirical research (in any of the areas listed on the conference website) to the extent that they contribute to defining a post-critical interpretation of the education/social justice bond, even if a contrario, that is, by constructively challenging post-critique as an adequate theoretical-methodological compass when tackling the issues linked with social justice.


Guidelines and abstracts submission