The Big Other: An Offer You Can’t Refuse – or Accept, in Some Cases. Education as Onto-Theological Principle (Empire): An Anti-Manifesto


  • Nick Peim University of Birmingham


unthought, ontotheology, redemption, governmentality, sovereignty, education, philosophy of education


Being increasingly puzzled by the persistence of discourses of redemption concerning education, this paper considers anew the ontological dimension. Education here is rethought in terms of governmentality, as a pervasive and invasive social technology. Far from being an essential good in need of redemption from its fallen proper “self,” in our time, I argue, education has become a means to ensure that the populations of contemporary nation states are not only closely governed but carefully formed. The history of education in modernity, the classic sociology of education and various recent educational programmes and projects are cited to show that discourses of educational salvation are, at best, mistaken about the fundamental nature of what they are addressing. The philosophy of education, since its inception, has mistakenly seen itself as an adjunct to educational policy and practice – and in the process has defaulted on its avowed mission, i.e. to be philosophical. I suggest here that thinking otherwise might be more germane, that the unexamined life might be well worth living, but that the unexamined deification of education is untenable.


Author Biography

Nick Peim, University of Birmingham

Dr Nick Peim is senior lecturer in Education at the University of Birmingham. His research interests are:

  • The governance of education and education as governance: schooling as governmentality. The history of the school as a social technology.
  • Contemporary philosophies and education and education research: including poststructuralism – Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, Lyotard – and its antecedents in Marx, Nietzsche, Freud and Heidegger.
  • Theories of the global in the work of Said, Spivak, Appadurai, Castells, Bauman and others.
  • Language, identity and education: theories of language, culture and social class. Curriculum politics: subject identities, literacy issues and the social dimension of knowledge.




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