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The misuses of sustainability: adult education, citizenship and the dead hand of neoliberalism

Holford, John

Authors

JOHN HOLFORD JOHN.HOLFORD@NOTTINGHAM.AC.UK
Robert Peers Chair in Adult Education



Abstract

‘‘Sustainability’’ has a captivating but disingenuous simplicity: its meanings are complex, and have political and policy significance. Exploring the application of the term to adult education, this paper argues that a particular discourse of ‘‘sustainability’’ has become a common-sense, short-circuiting critical analysis and understanding of policy options. This ‘‘business discourse’’ of sustainability, strongly influenced by neoliberal ideas, encourages the presumption that educational programmes and movements which have died out were unsustainable, bound to fail, and even responsible – having failed to adapt – for their own demise. Potentially valuable experience is thus excluded from the educational policy canon. The author uses three cases from 20th-century adult education, namely (1) English liberal adult education; (2) ‘‘mass education’’, also known as community development, in the British colonies; and (3) UNESCO’s Fundamental Education, to challenge this presumption. He demonstrates for each case how a business discourse has implied their ‘‘unsustainability’’, but that the reality was more complex and involved external political intervention.

Citation

Holford, J. (2016). The misuses of sustainability: adult education, citizenship and the dead hand of neoliberalism. International Review of Education, 62(5), 541-561. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11159-016-9591-4

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 29, 2016
Online Publication Date Sep 9, 2016
Publication Date Oct 1, 2016
Deposit Date Sep 26, 2016
Publicly Available Date Sep 26, 2016
Journal International Review of Education
Print ISSN 0020-8566
Electronic ISSN 1573-0638
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 62
Issue 5
Pages 541-561
DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/s11159-016-9591-4
Keywords Adult education; sustainability; citizenship; 20th century; history of adult education
Public URL http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/37154
Publisher URL http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11159-016-9591-4
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

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Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0





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