CIVIL SOCIETY, CULTURAL HEGEMONY AND CITIZENSHIP:
IMPLICATIONS FOR ADULT EDUCATORS
Pat Durish, Rachel Gorman, Shahrzad Mojab,
Amish Morrell, Daniel Schugurensky, Deborah Sword
Les textes dans cette conférence explorent les aspects variés des
concepts de citoyenneté, du société civile et les dynamiques
culturels du change sociale. Les auteurs retirent des exemples du
Moyen Est, et du Latin et de l'Amérique du Nord et engagent des
paradigmes critiques incluant le Marxisme, des études culturels et
des discours contemporaines a propos la société civile.
The papers in this symposium explore various aspects of the
concepts of citizenship, civil society and the cultural dynamics of
social change. Authors draw from examples from the Middle East,
and from Latin and North America and engage critical paradigms
including Marxism, cultural studies, and contemporary discourse on
In the last decade, we have witnessed the return of the nineteenth century concept of civil society.
However, there is no consensus its meaning, even amongst those who find it an indispensable
heuristic device. The concept is of particular interest to educators, who have been debating for a
long time the relationship between education and society, education and the state, the role of
education in the reproduction of citizenry, and the dialectics of hegemony and resistance. In sharp
contrast to many liberal and neo-conservative theorists, who equate democracy with private
enterprise, radical theorists often see in the rise of the market the weakening of civil society. They
look at 'social movements' as a force capable of democratizing education and society by
challenging the hegemony of both the state and the market.
The contributors to this panel draw from different examples to explore some of the challenges
faced by adult educators as we enter the 21st century. They consider how different forms of
citizenship are constituted, offer alternative models for civic participation and political protest,
and explore how our access to civil society is affected by a myriad of social, political, economic
and cultural forces.
Civil Society as Slogan, Magic, and Shining Emblem:
The Politics of Adult Education in the Middle East
Shahrzad Mojab, Assistant Professor, OISE/UT
The growing body of research on civil society in the Middle East emphasizes the absence or weakness of "civil society." The "modem" nation-states of the region, formed in the wake of World War 1, continue to be, like their predecessors, absolutist political systems. Most
observers agree that the state stifles "civil society" throughout the region. The relationship
between the two formations -- the state and civil society -- is often antagonistic. This conflictual
relationship is prominently expressed in the ongoing revolutions, coups d'etat, and civil wars of
the latter part of the twentieth century. In this paper, I intend to visit the state of adult education
in the Middle East, especially its Arab region, and examine adult education as a site of struggle for
power involving numerous and highly unequal actors.
Middle Eastern societies are experiencing rapid transformation due to both internal developments
and the globalization of economy and culture. The process of change is, however, riddled with
contradictions; we see abject poverty in the midst of wealth, despotism in a growing civil society,
tribal-nomadic relations in a region devastated by rising megacities, and massive labour
movements in the context of disintegrating economies. Formal education is usually a state
monopoly, and adult education has, in most countries, been reduced to literacy campaigns. In
spite of considerable investment in formal and informal education, the majority of the adult
population remains illiterate. Patriarchy, poverty, militarization, insufficient investment, and the
absence of individual and political freedom are some of the main constraints on the provision of
lifelong education. This paper argues that the promotion of adult education based on democratic
ideals (such as the Hamburg Declaration on Adult Education) would presuppose a radical
transformation of the political order of the Middle East.
The Shift from Education to Training and the Shrinking Space for
Rachel Gorman, MA Student, OISE/UT
Within the debate about the existence and role of civil society little attention has been paid to the ways in which adult educators are confined by state and market structures. Can adult educators retain their ability to engage in critical education in a world where the space for democracy and participation is shrinking? If we look at current barriers in developmental services and disability rights movements, we get an indication of the constraints to adult education, both in state funded programming, and in community-based advocacy.
Barriers to citizenship for disabled people exist on many levels, including legal, political, educational (through segregation and streaming), community participation, and employment. Government funding for support services is channelled through agencies or family members, who have most of the power in deciding how it will be spent, and how individual's lives will be organized.
In recent years, government policy has made a sharp turn toward eliminating social programmes, and privatizing services. Increased cuts in funding to agencies have translated into fewer support staff and less advocacy. Agencies no longer pay support workers to fight for jobs in the community, and instead hang on to piecework contracts from for-profit companies. The market looms behind these changes in government policy. Some of the largest funders of the Conservative Party's election campaign were for-profit health care agencies, who are poised to begin staffing and running sheltered workshops and group homes for a profit.
The Ministry of Training and Human Resources and the Ministry of Community and Social
Services are putting much effort into convincing adult educators in all sectors to prepare their
students/clients for the "inevitable" global political economy. Adult educators and trainers are
being deployed by government and corporations to train the workforce and the reserve workforce
to suit the rapidly changing needs of the global market. More importantly, we are asked to
convince our students/clients that chronic underemployment and constant retraining are
unavoidable aspects of our technologically advanced world. Reclaiming our educational spaces
will require a coordinated struggle to reverse government policy changes, to strengthen the
educational mandates of our agencies, and to resist and undermine the corporate takeover of
Immigration and Nationalism in Canada: Issues for Citizenship Education
Pat Durish, PhD Student, OISE/UT
The Canadian federal government has just announced that they are preparing to admit 5,000 refugees from Kosovo. The conflict in Kosovo is only the most recent in a swell of violent conflicts that have been rocking the globe in the past decade. The destabilizing effects of
globalization and corporatization -- and the conflicts that these processes engender -- have
resulted in rapidly increasing rates of migration. At the same time, Western countries, the primary
authors of this plan of global restructuring, are tightening immigration policies and xenophobia is
on the rise. This seems like a particularly opportune moment for us, as Canadians, to engage with
issues of citizenship and citizenship education within the context of Canadian nationalism.
When we think about citizenship education, formal instruction in a classroom setting most often comes to mind. However, adult educators have more recently begun to recognize the importance of informal learning in terms of knowledge production and acquisition and in terms of
subjectivity, identification and identity formation. In the case of immigration, this would lead us
to consider sites outside of the classroom where individuals come to understand the meaning and
content of Canadian nationalism, the place that they are expected to occupy within the narrative
of Canadian nationhood and the accompanying processes of racialisation and ethnicisation.
It is apparent that it is not just the distinction between formal and informal learning sites in
concrete terms that is important, but the convergences and contradictions between the way that
the discourse of the nation and citizenship, as well as identities, are represented in each location.
These are contradictions between the discourse of citizenship, the performance of citizenship
and the way in which individuals identify with or take up the categories of citizenship.
Conventional discourses of nation and citizenship suggest stable unitary selves differentiated
along only one axis -- race, gender, or class. The challenge is to introduce to the discussion a
notion of a selfhood which resists this form of consolidation as well as identifying the various
sites where this learning takes place. In addition to identifying the various sites and processes
through which learning for citizenship takes place, we also need to be concerned with how the
categories of race, class and gender come together to inform a particular individual's experience
of becoming a Canadian citizen. An adherence to theories of interlocking oppression necessitates
that we cease dealing with social differences as separate categories, and begin to think them
The questions that this approach raises with regards to a program of citizenship education are
myriad. The challenge is to confront the means by which the category of citizen is raced, classed
and gendered, how this bears on the process by which individuals come to know themselves as
citizens and to allow this knowledge to guide the development and provision of services in this
Class and Cultural Hegemony in Back-to-the-Land Communities
Amish Morrell, MA Student, OISE/UT
In North America, many people who came of age within the 1960's counterculture went "back-
to-the-land" to escape the alienation of urban industrial society and to seek simple, self-
sufficient lifestyles close to nature. Many of the back-to-the-landers sought social change by
creating their own alternative social and economic institutions. While members of this
community allied themselves with struggles for justice and equality and attempted to affect
social change through their everyday life practices, it was almost universally white and middle
Back-to-the-landers sought an experience of authenticity. Their class privilege afforded them a
particular notion of the real, manifest in idealized images of nature, rural communities, and other
cultures. While there are obvious limits to the inclusivity of this particular subculture, it
illustrates the processes, and politics, of meaning making through cultural representations and
practices. By looking at how social movements and countercultures constitute themselves, both
materially and ideologically -- how they give their ideals and practices felt meaning -- we can
better understand how we can more actively participate in and transform society. Cloaked as
'common sense' ideology permeates all representation, implicitly and unconsciously and
constructing and organizing meaningful experiences.
Social difference is deployed through defining who has access to particular forms of cultural
meaning. How back-to-the-landers read rural landscapes was largely informed by a romantic
vision of nature and rural communities to which they had privileged access as members of
middle-class urban society. Alternative cultures, such as that of the back-to-the-landers have a
necessary role in proposing cultural alternatives to social problems such as environmental
destruction, human rights abuses, and capitalist alienation. However, we need to recognize that
they occur within, and are not autonomous from larger processes of cultural hegemony. Since
the codes by which we interpret our surroundings are informed by our social location we need to
explicate how social difference is culturally constituted. Only then might we be able to
conceptualize critical cultural interventions that can move us towards greater social equity.
Civil Society-Market-State Triad: Redefining the Boundaries of
Governance and Community
Deborah Sword, PhD Student, OISE/UT
Theories of public protest and citizenship engagement are not an abstraction. They have on-the- ground practical consequences that affect private lives and private spaces. When upheavals enter a neighborhood, neighbors galvanize. The acts of protesting and the undertakings which they protest against have made ordinary people overnight experts on their communities. They did that themselves and quickly, out of necessity. Regardless of their previous educational status or position, they gathered in kitchens after work, after the children were in bed and learned what they needed to know to achieve their goals, often phrased as "saving their communities".
What is striking is how their self-generated knowledge and their use of it to preserve their
interests gained legitimacy. The process of protesting is now so well documented and
established that it has spawned a profession to manage it (public participation practitioners) and
set of syndromes: Not In My Backyard (NIMBY); Locally Unwanted Land Uses (LULU); and
Not On Planet Earth (NOPE). The activists at one time were deemed trouble-makers, nay-sayers, Luddites, and special interest groups. Now, they are being courted as citizen
representatives, participants with important knowledge and local advisory committees (LAC's)
or public advisory committees (PAC's).
The success of government and industry at securing public interest has shifted some of the power balance and affected how governance and business happens. The method of distinguishing sectors as 'state, market, civil society' triad no longer reflects what is happening in practice. Governments are convening round table dialogues of all the parties and accepting input before shaping public policy. Corporations are contributing resources to this process and are also listening to public input. The barriers that used to keep the sectors separate are shifting.
Although certain forms of civic engagement had been considered subversive and illegitimate for
years before gaining mainstream credibility, it is now in danger of becoming codified and part of
the system to which it was supposed to be an alternative. Its mainstream acceptance might
signify that it, like the power structure it protested, can no longer be changed.
Building Citizenship through Civil Society-State Alliances: Adult
Learning and the Politics of Participatory Democracy
Daniel Schugurensky, Assistant Professor, OISE/UT
This presentation will explore the linkages between citizenship-building, public policy and adult education in the transition to the 21st century. Initially, special attention will be paid to two influential traditions of citizenship education (the liberal and the radical), pointing out the strengths and limitations of each one. The later part of this paper will attempt to link the debate on citizenship education models with the debates on democratic theory and practice, particularly on the limits and possibilities of representative and participatory democracy in late capitalism, and will describe some current experiences of participatory democracy.
The author argues that what is often missing in citizenship education programmes is an institutional and social structure that effectively links civic learning with meaningful transformative actions. It also argues that these structures can be built, because the ascendance of transnational forces in influencing societal affairs, powerful as they are, does not necessarily
mean the end of local politics. Local politics still constitute important sites of negotiation among
different groups and, particularly in the context of favorable democratic environments and
progressive public policies, they can eventually become appropriate sites for informal and
nonformal learning through deliberation and collective decision-making processes. In the
conclusions, the paper addresses the challenges and opportunities that the transition to the 21st
century poses for an emancipatory citizenship education and for building a more just and