Levinas and the Mission of Education

Educational Theory 62 (6):659-675 (2012)


The current educational discourse on Emmanuel Levinas's concept of subjectivity has focused on the pure openness and subjection of the self to the other. Based on such an understanding, some educational theorists hold that Levinas's work has given us new hope for the mission of education, while others deny its relevance. I suggest that this interpretation of Levinas has missed the complete structure of his account of subjectivity, and, as a result, a full appreciation of its potential for education is yet to be realized. Offering a different account of Levinas's subjectivity, I join Gert Biesta and Sharon Todd in seeing Levinas as essentially important in providing new inspiration, a new way out of both the humanist trap of a fixed essence, where education inevitably becomes socialization, and the posthumanist impasse, where education loses its ground and its orientation. Levinas's subjectivity has made it possible for us to forge a pedagogy that is different from socialization and interruption — a pedagogy of becoming — and allows a genuine educational mission of subjectification, albeit toward a new, much different subjectivity

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