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Discourse Formation in Comparative Education


Edited By Jürgen Schriewer and Jürgen K. Schriewer

New theories and theory-based methodological approaches have found their way into Comparative Education – just as into Comparative Social Science more generally – in increasing number in the recent past. The essays of this volume express and critically discuss quite a range of these positions such as, inter alia, the theory of self-organizing social systems and the morphogenetic approach; the theory of long waves in economic development and world-systems analysis; historical sociology and the sociology of knowledge; as well as critical hermeneutics and post-modernist theorizing. With reference to such theories and approaches, the chapters – written by scholars from Europe, the USA and Australia – outline alternative research agendas for the comparative study of the social and educational fabric of the modern world. In so doing, they also expound frames of reference for re-considering the intellectual shaping, or Discourse Formation, of Comparative Education as a field of study.


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II Understanding the Dynamics of the Modern World


Discourse Formation in Comparative Education 88 reduced, understanding the state, especially as it has changed, is as im- portant to an understanding of the central questions of comparative edu- cation policy and practice as ever. My starting point is that conceiving globalization, the changing rela- tionships between states and supranational forces, as a threat to compara- tive education has the argument the wrong way round. What has to be explained is as much the traditionally assumed autonomy of the state as its alleged current loss of autonomy. States have never been as autono- mous as has been assumed and proclaimed in comparative education – and this means all states, to a greater or lesser degree. It is not just mechanisms like cultural imperialism or neo-colonialism 3 that limit states' autonomy. At least two other supranational forces have always operated to limit that autonomy for all states. One is economic. No state is autonomous of its economic base, and there have been no exclusively national economies for centuries. The ability of states to act is then al- ways limited, however remotely and apparently inconsequentially by the wider economic systems of which they are part. The other limitation on states' educational autonomy is cultural. This is most clearly demon- strated in the impressive body of work built up by the "sociological insti- tutionalists." 4 Their argument is that the nature of education systems, and particularly their similarity of form and content, cannot be explained by national level factors. Rather, education systems, curricular categories...

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