The most difficult chapter of this dissertation is the one that attempts to make a persuasive argument for a larger

, more critical, more responsible role for the civil society in the education of the child. The first part of the problem is defining “civil society.” By “civil society” I mean only institutions that are voluntary groups are not affiliated either with the government or market where those two powers are meant to mean something like compulsion/coercion/policing on the one hand and the profit motive on the other. In one sense, this chapter is central in the dissertation because it is the keystone of a voluntaristic theory. This theory rearranges the roles of all parties in the education process. Among all the players in education, “civil society” is by far the most nebulous: more amorphous than the parents-vs.-government paradigm that many market advocates foresee; more complex than the apolitical children-and-teachers in the classroom story that anchors much of the educational literature emanating from education schools. It’s even more complicated than a story which focuses on the dichotomy between bureaucrats, professional organizations, and their representatives for collective bargaining on wages and working conditions and public opinion, parents’ groups, and taxpayer organizations on the other hand. One of the main purposes of this dissertation is reorient and refocus the political theory of education away from the current stakeholders, overly complex systems, and ideologically-fraught baggage and reassign responsibilities towards real needs of children. Part of the reason that it’s difficult is an inherent difficult of social science/social theory: the lack of controlled experiments. Without controlled experiments, which are mostly off-limits due to ethical and epistemological concerns, there is bound to be a surfeit of irresponsible theorizing. The overabundance of unmoored theorizing stems from everything from unexamined assumptions, ideological agenda, and overgenerous self-judgment about what qualifies as “common senses.” On the other hand, any attempt to avoid producing inadequately defended theories and rely instead on evidence is open to the allegations that the evidence is being misinterpreted. For instance, if someone is proposing a new type of state program based on a smaller but more successful version of

a private program, a skeptic could easily cast doubt on the new idea by claiming (1) it wouldn’t scale up; (2) it works as a private program but side constraints make it impermissible to perform the same duties by government or (3) the program is okay for one group that uses it but would not work for a larger group of people. What is Civil Society? What are its particular advantages and disadvantages? What role should it play in the production of education in a free society? Perhaps due to its amorphous nature, civil society is a term that receives universal approbation even if different parties hew to different understandings of the conception. In the context of contemporary discourse, civil society can be understood through certain conceptions which have the advantage of existing in real life even if they are theoretically muddy. (This is preferable to the reverse.) In the contemporary context the most atheoretical way to understand the concept is to make it equivalent to the idea of the NGO (non-governmental organization). This is sometimes referred to as the third sector — between the state and the market. Partisans of both the state and the market claim the third sector or civil society as a web of existing institutions which confirm their worldview and challenge its opposition. Thinkers who are “neo-liberal” or on “the New Right” or simply “capitalist” claim that non-profit sectors rely on the vast accumulated profit produced over time in the marketplace to liberate themselves from the profit imperative and pursue decentralized means to make public provisions by means other than government. By contrast, defenders of the strong state say that a realistic view recognizes that civil society is a creature of the state and that, objectively speaking, its value is greatly inferior to that of the state.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful