In this essay, we will discuss some urgent challenges for democracy and education in the Deweyan sense in connection with current developments of technologies and questions of sustainability. After a short introduction, we will proceed in four major parts. In doing so, we follow the systematic distinction of four mutually interrelated levels of technologies in culture found in the late work of Michel Foucault. In part 1 of our essay, we focus on the technologies of production. We connect Foucault’s perspective with more recent research on questions of social inequality and the production and distribution of wealth, e.g., the great divide between rich and poor that Joseph Stiglitz has examined in much of his recent work. We discuss implications for questions of sustainability in the world of today and draw conclusions as to urgent democratic and educational challenges in our time.
In part 2, we address the level of technologies of sign systems. Proceeding in a similar way as in the first part, we connect Foucault’s perspective with a more recent critical approach, namely the theory of surveillance capitalism launched by Shoshana Zuboff. We consider implications for sustainability and draw conclusions for democracy and education.
In part 3, we turn to the level of technologies of power and domination. We use Colin Crouch’s critical approach to post-democracy in order to examine some crucial dangers for democracy involved in prevailing economic and political relations, practices and structures that tend to undermine the effectiveness of democratic institutions and procedures. Again, we consider implications for sustainability and draw conclusions for democracy and education.
In part 4, we look at the level of technologies of the self. We consider connections with contemporary constructivist as well as Deweyan perspectives in education that emphasize the role of relationships and processes of social self-creation. Once more, we elaborate on some crucial implications for sustainability and draw conclusions for democracy and education. The essay closes with a summary of the most important conclusions of our discussion.