Towards an Inclusive Democratic Educational Theory and Practice in South Africa: Mediating Individualism and Collectivism, Difference and Commonality
This thesis is concerned with the definition of an inclusive democratic educational theory and practice which mediates the assumed tension between individualism and collectivism, difference and equality, and liberty and equality. In Part 1, I set out the elements of an inclusive theory of democracy and then proceed in Part 2 to examine various aspects of educational practice in the light of this. My main claim is that these assumed tensions can be mediated through the conceptualising of our composite identity in terms of the notion of dual social ontology. This refers to our two-fold identities as universal, common human beings and our multiple subjective positions as particular, different individuating beings. Together, these two aspects of our identity constitute the basis for conceptualising our simultaneous commonality and difference and for an inclusive notion of democracy. I argue further that the key to understanding the intersection of commonality and difference in social relations and institutional practices is the concept of the spheres of social relations and their constitutive meanings. The latter provide the criterion by which we can judge the appropriateness of difference or equality in that sphere or in practices which relate to it. In the light of these concepts, I trace the ideological contestation at the heart of democratic theory between liberalism and socialism. My claim is that the mutual limitations of these theories preclude constructing an inclusive theory of democracy which incorporates collective equality and individual liberty in a non-polarised way. I argue that the tension between individualism and collectivism can be mediated by analysing these cluster concepts into non-polarised simpler elements. My main contention is that only self-interested individualism, which assumes individuals as atomistic self-seekers, is necessarily in conceptual conflict with collectivism. The other two elements of individualism which I identify, namely, individuality, our universal common identity as bearers of rights, and individuation, the process of self-development through the expression of the unique difference, are shown to be compatible with collective concerns and the social view of human identity. Together, I suggest, individuality and individuation constitute our dual social ontology and the foundation for moral regard and an inclusive theory of democracy which accommodates difference and commonality. During the discussion, I draw from several theorists who provide inclusive frameworks in terms of the social, dialogical view of human nature and identity formation and who combine contemporary concerns for pluralism and critical social transformation. I examine the conceptual link between education and democracy through the educative notion of democracy and education for democracy. Critical educational theory is explored as an exemplar of an inclusive democratic educational practice incorporating individual and collective dimensions. The dynamics of commonality and difference are traced in key aspects of the educational process, namely, moral development, learning and the relationship between authority and freedom, and with regard to the democratisation of schooling, the appropriate boundary between the spheres of education and of politics, distributive justice in education and the curriculum. I argue throughout that the discursive tool of dual social ontology, along with the concept of the spheres of social relations and their constitutive meanings, provides the conceptual framework by which these tensions can be mediated and incorporated in an inclusive democratic educational theory and practice.