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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Social Sciences Conference Papers and Proceedings
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Author(s): Biesta, G J J
Zhao, Kang
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Title: Lifelong learning, identity and the moral dimension: The 'reflexive project of the self' revisited
Editor(s): Crowther, Jim
Edwards, Vivien
Galloway, Vernon
Shaw, Mae
Tett, Lyn
Citation: Biesta GJJ & Zhao K (2008) Lifelong learning, identity and the moral dimension: The 'reflexive project of the self' revisited. In: Crowther J, Edwards V, Galloway V, Shaw M & Tett L (eds.) SCUTREA 2008 38th Annual Conference: Whither adult education in the learning paradigm?. 38th Annual Conference of Scutrea (Standing Conference on University Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults), Whither Adult Education in the Learning Paradigm?, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK, 02.07.2008-04.07.2008. Edinburgh: Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh in co-operation with The Standing Conference of University Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults (SCUTREA), pp. 558-565.
Issue Date: 2008
Date Deposited: 16-Mar-2009
Conference Name: 38th Annual Conference of Scutrea (Standing Conference on University Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults), Whither Adult Education in the Learning Paradigm?
Conference Dates: 2008-07-02 - 2008-07-04
Conference Location: University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
Abstract: From Introduction: In his book Modernity and Self-Identity Anthony Giddens has famously claimed that in the context of the post-traditional order of late-modern societies ‘the self becomes a reflexive project’ (Giddens, 1991, pp.32, emph. in original). According to Giddens this is not simply an option, i.e., something that individuals can decide to engage with or not. He takes the stronger view that in late-modern societies the self ‘has to be reflexively made’ (ibid, pp.3, emph. added). Self-identity is thus no longer seen as something that is given but appears as something ‘that has to be routinely created and sustained in the reflexive activities of the individual’ (ibid, pp.52). Although questions have been raised about the empirical adequacy of Giddens’s diagnosis, his views have contributed to the idea that late-modern societies require a new kind of lifelong learning that is concerned with the ongoing reflexive construction of the self in response to ongoing uncertainty and risk (e.g., Hake, 1998; 1999). Such learning is highly individualistic and individualised as it is focused on ‘selfactualisation’ and ‘self-realisation’ (Giddens, 1991, pp.214). Despite Giddens’s use of the phrase ‘life politics,’ the individualistic nature of such learning processes suggests that his depiction of the reflexive project of the self is rather a-political. Thus the work of Giddens and other sociologists (with the exception of Bauman) has contributed to an understanding of a dimension of lifelong learning in late-modern societies that seems to be at odds with the social purpose tradition of adult education in which learning about the self has always been conceived as a collective and hence a thoroughly political process. The work of Giddens can therefore be seen as one of the factors that has contributed to the rise of the ‘learning paradigm’ (Martin, 2006) and the ‘new language of learning’ (Biesta, 2006) in the field of adult education. In this paper we want to raise some questions about Giddens’s ideas about selfidentity and the reflective construction of the self and present the outlines of a different way to understand self and identity, one which emphasises continuity and permanence over change and adaptation and one which highlights the moral and relational dimensions of the self. We also indicate what this might mean for lifelong learning.
Status: AM - Accepted Manuscript
Rights: Authors of papers retain copyright

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