University of Oulu

Moilanen, A. and Huttunen, R. (2021), The German Logic of Emancipation and Biesta's Criticism of Emancipatory Pedagogy. Educ Theory, 71: 717-741.

The German logic of emancipation and Biesta’s criticism of emancipatory pedagogy

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Author: Moilanen, Antti1; Huttunen, Rauno2
Organizations: 1Department of Education, University of Oulu, Finland
2Department of Education, University of Turku, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2021
Publish Date: 2022-03-04


Gert Biesta has criticized Anglo-American and German models of emancipatory education. According to Biesta, emancipation is understood in these models as liberation that results from a process in which a teacher transmits objective knowledge to his or her students and cultivates student capabilities. He claims that this so-called modern logic of emancipation does not lead to freedom because it installs inequality, dependency, and mistrust in the pedagogical relationship. In this article, Antti Moilanen and Rauno Huttunen analyze whether German models of emancipatory education share the modern logic of emancipation and if they can escape Biesta’s criticisms. For this purpose, they interpret Biesta’s critique of the modern logic of emancipation and explicate central ideas related to the German models of critical education. They also compare the modern logic of emancipation to the German one, and they then assess German models of emancipatory pedagogy from the viewpoint of Biesta’s criticisms. Moilanen and Huttunen conclude that the German models of emancipatory education present at least a partial alternative to the modern logic of emancipation. Despite this, the German models are based on the idea of education as cultivation. Because Biesta criticizes the theory of education as cultivation, it is possible to conclude that he would not accept the German models of emancipatory education. However, the German models of critical pedagogy provide answers to the following question: how can students achieve independence in the pedagogical relationship? When students take part in designing educational processes, they are summoned to assess the validity of the taught knowledge, and they practice independent decision-making at school; the pedagogical relationship, based on authority, can foster student self-determination.

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Series: Educational theory
ISSN: 0013-2004
ISSN-E: 1741-5446
ISSN-L: 0013-2004
Volume: 71
Issue: 6
Pages: 717 - 741
DOI: 10.1111/edth.12506
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. Educational Theory published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Board of Trustees, University of Illinois. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.