GLL – Swedish Study Circles

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: on Larsson’s Study Circles

TOPICS: local global learning, development, Transformation, Adult Education

Step 4 – Part 1: Adult education/learning in civil society organisations and social movements

Keywords: Study circles, Sweden, civil society, democracy, pluralistic citizenship

Link to blog

Link to forum Link to Forum 2

Larsson, S. (2001) Study Circles as Democratic Utopia: A Swedish Perspective, in Bron, A.&  Schemmann, M. (eds) 2001 Civil Society, Citizenship and Learning. Bochum Studies in International Adult Education, vol. 2. Transaction Publishers, USA/UK


In this article Larsson presents the case of the Study Circles as “a mass-phenomenon in contemporary Sweden.” (p. 1) Study Circles refer to both the content and the educational framework within which learning occurs.

Since the foundation of the first study circles association in 1912, Study Circles in Sweden were understood as a means to the advancement of education from the bottom up. Unlike traditional education, they were based on the following “grammar” derived from democratic principles of egalitarian participation:

“1) There are no examinations or merits to be gained; 2) Participation is voluntary; 3) One operates with the expectation of a limited number of persons in a circle, normally somewhere between 5 – 19 persons; 4) Time is often treated in a different way from ordinary schools – often study circles will meet for 3 hours once a week with a break in the middle. A study circle will often consist of 10 to fifteen of such meanings; 5) A circle will have a leader, who does not have to be an expert – it can be one of the participants. On the other hand, there are often experts acting as leaders.” (p. 2)

Study Circles have focussed on learning activities that would strengthen people’s active participation in democratic society by offering a plethora of topics that would represent diverse world views.

Historically, Study Circles underwent a transmutation.

Originally, their activities were entwined with the civil society movements that were the driving force behind the popular participation in the circles. In fact, “participation in study circles during the first half of the century was often part of a relatively strong, sometimes class based, relation to a specific movement.” (p. 3) From that perspective, study circles were “in sharp opposition to state and market.” (p.3)

In the course of the twentieth century, however, with the weakening of popular movements and the corresponding emerging of institutions of representative democracy within the state, Study Circles lost their relevance as loci of political activism.

Compared with the limiting effect that states exercise elsewhere on education, the role of the state in the Swedish Study Circles is ambivalent. In Sweden the state provides financial support to the study circles without imposing limits to their mission.

In discussing Study Circles, Larsson examines their relevance for and impact on today’s adult learning education in Sweden. He recognizes the loss of importance experienced by civil society movements over the last century, partly due to the emergence of a globalized society and what that entails. It seems that “the power and the possibilities of the civil society have been reduced, since there is less that is decided upon through democratic decision-making in the society as a whole.” (p.15)

This has led to a shift of focus in the activities of Study Circles. They went from being the educational arm of class-based social movements to being more and more involved with the pursuit of learning at the personal level. The effect on civil society and the state institutions is not to be found anymore in the action taken by the related popular movements, but in the small-scale influence that individuals may exert in their private political spheres.

The core pillar in the Swedish Study Circles still clearly rests on Oscar Olsson’s original view of “education for and through the people.” (p.12) He is considered the father of the study circles. In spite of their changing role, Study Circles are therefore still based on the promotion of equality, knowledge, active participation, democracy and diversity. These issues are by all means not clear cut and remain highly contested in the ways they may be achieved and by whom.


Today’s function of Study Circles

Larsson recognizes how the function of Study Circles in relation to the State and Civil Society class-based movements has changed since their inception.  In particular, the promotion of action does not appear to be any longer the driving force behind Study Circles. Recognizing this loss of political traction reminds me of our discussions on Youngman and Freire with regard to the actuality of their views. I believe many of us have recognized the change in today’s context and conditions. Study Circles appear to have been highly adaptive to such changes.

Consequently, they reflect the shift from a context dominated by popular movements to one that values participation as “individual and private rather than something that is supporting the influence and power of a civil society versus other societal powers.” (p.13) Maybe one could argue that Study Circles were never meant to be the tools for political actions. In fact, even in the past, political action was the domain of social movements. What has changed is the intensity of how the learning activities developed in Study Circles would transfer to political action.


With regard to diversity, Larsson emphasizes how Study Circles have provided an arena for the production of new identities, concluding that “the study circle tradition provides a system that is very much adapted to support diversity. We can also note that this is not only a potential but it is in fact used in practice as a place to produce and reproduce diverse identities.” (p.11) I find this specific point very important to our course and the relevant discussion on glocal education. I believe the relational nature of Study Circles provides a fertile ground for dialogue that would consider diverse narratives and discourses. That could be the prelude to the emergence of a transformative and then enactivist perspective and possibly a new holistic cultural paradigm based on Third-Culture building practices.

Global citizenship, European model.

I find Larsson’s article refreshing in its affirmation of the concept of “pluralistic citizenship.” (cited from Johnson, 1999) It reflects current approaches to people’s participation that transcend both Freire’s and Youngman’s class-based thinking. Of course, I recognize that his views are rooted in the Scandinavian tradition, quite different from the contexts discussed by the other authors. Nevertheless, his vocabulary is suitable for a comprehensive discussion of transformative education that relates to the changed landscape of the new millennium. I am saying this not because Freire’s observation on inequality and oppressions do not have merit nowadays, but because I believe we have now gained deeper, systemic insights into the relevant issues.

In Larsson’s words, the alternative to a traditional, juxtaposed idea of democracy

“will be a view, where there is no universal truth or ‘correct’ decision, but rather that democracy is about peaceful solutions of conflicting interests and world-views, in other words, negotiations and compromises between a multitude of groups in the population who have elected representatives. Possibilities to develop a diversity of opinions and form organisations based on this diversity become a prerequisite for such democracy” that would” embrace diversity and cultural pluralism.” (p. 9)

This will also entail politics of mutual recognition.

As an example of this kind of societal transformation, I would like to bring up the case of a EUROPA as outlined at and . The language used in these web pages is consistent with Larsson’s findings and – in my view – also with the Cape Learning Region as conceptualized by Walters.


Cohen, J. L., & Arato, A. (1995). Civil society and political theory. Studies in contemporary German social thought. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.]: MIT Press.

Larsson accept the definition of civil society given by Cohen and Arato. They believe that “social movements constitute the dynamic element in processes that might realize the positive potentials of modern civil societies.” Check this for more on Cohen and Arato:




He does not mention the potential of the Internet as an opposite force to this, similar in a sense to study circles, but on a global scale.  I would argue that wikis, blogs, social networks, the diversity of web pages (self-promotional, knowledge-based, and otherwise) made available through the Internet offer similar eclectic, self-initiated, and non-hierarchical options to informal adult learning.  Because these go well beyond geographical state borders, are divorced from physical or locally situated constraints, they open up diverse knowledge building, and a kind of equality that restricts membership based on technological access alone. It remains to be seen whether this medium will reinforce collective participation in self governance or merely further fragmentation of local civil societies.

Hi Marie!

Thank you so much for your eloquent post. I found it meaningful, easy to read and well-written.

Here are some comments on the issue of changing educational venues.  On reading Larsson, I had this picture of a Swedish landscape scattered with small, self-contained communities, where people gather in cosy buildings with a very warm atmosphere to work on their social networking and personal adult education advancement. It is a comforting image, one that may reveal an aspect of Swedish society that may be hard to find in places outside Scandinavia. It is an image that may look quintessentially Swedish, and by extent is more familiar and palatable to Europeans, especially Northern Europeans, than to people in South Africa. I may be wrong, but this image may still dominate the Swedes’ approach to their adult education extension programs such as the Study Circles, because it is “culturally appropriate”, situated in the Nordic tradition. This may be a reason why immigrants are underrepresented in such context. As you point out, IT education opportunities are nowadays available. I wonder if they would satisfy the need for personal interaction sought after by the aging Swedish population. That would be the topic for another research project.

What is important here in terms of glocal education – I think – is to imagine. Let’s imagine how the learning spirit typical of study circles would work elsewhere. For example, would it be relevant to the specific context of South Africa? And let’s imagine how learning approaches from other places would benefit the Swedish adult education environment. How would that affect society? Transformation in the global age is about new ways in which we can imagine a different world.



Kathy wrote:

dear oscar and Marie

just to add to your images of fireplaces and cosy rooms – the same organisation who is using Reflect in SA has been piloting a few study circles. They are working in the rural areas of the eastern cape in one of the poverty nodes of South Africa. so the study circles will be happening in in mud huts around a fireplace. People believe that in these areas, the original home of Nelson Mandela, Ubuntu still exists.

I guess the methodology of Reflect and a study circle would complement each other as both allow people a space to explore and develop; to work without an ‘expert’ towards transforming ones own community.


Dear Kathy and Marie,

The image of people gathering in mud huts to learn is very empowering. My stereotyped image of Sweden was actually more representative of the past. I am aware that things have changed a bit (-: . My point was that, for the Swedes, that image still holds power over the way democracy may be understood as belonging to the people. It’d be interesting to hear about this point from some of our cohorters in Scandinavia.

Kathy wrote: “to work without an ‘expert’ towards transforming ones own community.”

That reminds me of how David Bohm envisioned dialogue. On this, I’d like to share the following excerpt from Klenemas (2008), which I believe reinforces the philosophical approach of the Study Circles.

(emphasis added) “David Bohm sees equality of/among the participants as an important feature of dialogue. He says that this equality can be reached through a fair hearing of all parties involved. This demands of course also a certain degree of openness among the dialogue partners and that everyone has the chance to participate.

Bohm claims that hierarchical power structures would be counterproductive to the interaction. In his eyes, a discussion – in contrast to a dialogue – aims at a win-lose situation, where the parties “play” against (i.e. not with) each other. In a dialogue, on the other hand, people aim to reach a win-win situation.

To say it differently, dialogue is not about convincing or persuading the other. (This would mean that I know everything about my opinion, but nothing or little about the others’.) It is through listening carefully to each other without judging the others’ opinions that everyone can create the “same” stock of knowledge. Bohm is not saying that you should suppress your opinions and feelings. On the contrary, talking openly about facts and feelings is also important to reach what he calls “coherence of thought”. He stresses that if there is a coherence of meaning (or thought) the process and outcome will be much stronger and more effective. Let me sum up these three features of dialogue with David Bohm’s words:

‘How can you share if you are sure you have truth and the other fellow is sure he has truth, and the truths don’t agree? How can you share? Therefore, you have to watch out for the notion of truth. Dialogue may not be concerned with truth – it may arrive at truth, but it is concerned with meaning. If the meaning is incoherent you will never arrive at truth.’ (Bohm 1996: 15f)”

This approach brings Freire’s ideas on conscientization into focus by making it the individual’s responsibility to find coherence among a diversity of thoughts and meanings. For me, as I pointed out in another post (Link to forum ), this would be a supporting pillar for a new thinking paradigm.



Kleinemas Hanne (February 2008) Excuse me, is this the way to intercultural competence, in Coyote #13, Intercultural Dialogue, Council of Europe & European Commission Youth Partnership, Strasbourg, France. Accessed on September 2, 2009 at

Bohm, D.(1996): On Dialogue. Reprint 2006. London/New York: Routledge Classics.

>>>>>>> cultural essentialist view<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Thank you Annika for your comments as an insider. They play well into the etic vs. emic debate. (The “emic and etic” perspective is used in anthropology and cross-cultural counseling.)

Interestingly, you confirm the lower participation of immigrants in the Swedish Study Circles, which in turn may highlight the Nordic nature of such particular approach to adult education and the difficulty in transcending its original cultural imprint. This is a good example how complex issues of glocal education are, highlighting the difficulty of applying ideas across cultural differences. With regard to Study Circles, hat many view as a well-organized approach may feel and look to others – e.g. immigrants, broadly generalizing – as constrictive and at odds with their own ideas of learning. At the beginning, in Sweden it was assumed that Study Circles would work well to address local adult education needs. It was a system that was culturally appropriate and responding to Swedish minds. Extending the system to “outsiders” may be tricky, as it may reveal that not everyone agrees on the original assumption.

On this particular point, I would like to write some considerations. Larsson says that, “Even though there was a strong tendency to celebrate scientific knowledge at the time, study circles gave in fact space for diverse world-views. In that sense pluralism was in fact supported in worldviews by the organisational structure of independent study associations with different ideological connections.” (p. 2) He continues with several examples of what this diversity of world views is about. His thinking betrays a basic essentialist view of diversity, one that is necessarily limited – at least at the beginning – to diversity as perceived within Swedish society, and therefore mostly relevant to aspects of Swedish civil society. Even when he mentions issues of globalization, he considers them from a Nordic perspective.

It would be interesting to know if non-autochthonous variations of diversity now exist along Larsson’s examples of diversity as cited in his paper, and how these levels interact.



GLL – on Transformation

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Freire

TOPICS: local global learning, development, Transformation, Adult Education

Step 3 – Part 1: Critical Consciousness

Keywords: Critical Consciousness, Freire, Laszlo, Macroshift,  Merirow, Youngman, enactivist orientation, transformational orientation,

Link to webpage

Link to blog

Link to forum Link to Forum 2

Why is critical consciousness a necessary dimension of transformative adult education

Hi there!

Although our thoughts across the many forums may at times sound  redundant (mine included). I would like to add some “old” ideas that i had previously posted on Our Samarbeta discussion on Youngman , which already dealt with issues of transformation.  I am a bit hesitant to re-introduce these thoughts but I am doing that as I believe it is relevant to this particular forum, also considering that the audience has changed.

Here is a summary of what I believe TRANSFORMATION in Adult Education may be.

I suggest two levels of transformation: 1) personal/local, and 2) local/global. Not everyone and not every context may necessarily become part of either transformation process.


Constructivist progressive orientation

I believe that in this perspective the “educator helps link disparate experiences into a coherent whole.” (Dewey cited in Fenwick, p.3)   Learners are made aware of the level of responsibility required for their educational path. They engage in problem-solving activities to become successful in their chosen fields. The teacher acts as a guide and promoter of critical change geared at reforming and redressing system imbalances through a process of understanding civil responsibility and issues of active citizenship.


This level is more relevant for our discussion. It incorporates the personal growth of the previous step and takes it to a higher level.

At this stage an educator may engage in the following practices:

  • Promoting the discussion of complex and “delicate” intercultural issues
  • Promoting awareness and recognition of issues of – among others – governmentability, self-subjugation, oppression, and discrimination.
  • Promoting awareness, recognition and critique of socially-relevant dimensions, including cultural assumptions. (Intercultural dimension)

I believe that this level, which has a strong political accent, may be approached in different ways, or even a combination of ways. Contextualizing and framing conditions of oppression and inequality is a prerequisite to adopting the most effective approach to global transformation. The role of the state, civil society, stakeholders, and other actors is a defining factor at this complex level of transformation. I have the feeling that most of the actions premised on transformation combine one or more of the following approaches.

Constructivist radical orientation

Here the teacher acts as a promoter of conscience and an external force that can empower students and facilitate social transformation. Freire’s pedagogy of conscientization seems to move in this direction, beyond the stiffness and the oppressing dictates of banking education. However, his ideas – as many of us have realized – are based on a set of dichotomous axioms that may not agree with changed conditions and discourses on transformative education of our time.

I also believe it’s important, for example in the case of South Africa, to consider the intercultural dimension. I believe that a radical approach would be very suitable to examine, discuss, and challenge cultural discourses, assumptions, issues of cultural representations and otherization, and personal narratives. Ultimately, a radical orientation could be more effective at uncovering and possibly overcoming issues of oppression, cultural relativism and essentialism, and eventually at addressing the imbalances that are still part of our social and educational models.

However, this approach may entail possibilities for culture clashes and it may be of difficult application within the dominant world view, given the level of psychological and cultural embeddedness of current educational paradigms and relevant social frameworks and discourses. That’s when dialogue comes in, as a means and context for critical consciousness (awareness would be another word that comes to mind) building.

Constructivist transformational orientation

Here the teacher acts as a promoter of transformation processes. According to Merizow (1991), this approach leads “to a dramatic shift or transformation in the learner’s way of viewing the world.” by “bringing of one’s assumptions, premises, criteria, and schemata into consciousness and vigorously critiquing them.” (Fenwick, 2001, p. 13)

This orientation is suitable to challenge and discuss cultural assumptions through cognitive reflection, as suggested by Freire. However, one has to recognize that not everyone is interested in shifting perspective, or capable of reflecting cognitively, in which cases this approach may feel to some like a piloted operation.

From a practical point of view, I believe intercultural dialogic communication as envisioned by intercultural thinkers such as David Bohm, Martin Buber, Fred Casmir, Muneo Yoshikawa and many others belongs within this perspective. It aims at the development of a high level of dialogue competence that can benefit intercultural understanding. (Matoba, 2002, p. 143)

Enactivist orientation

This perspective promotes a new paradigm of learning derived from whole systems thinking. It transcends the confinements of the established world view and its embedded traditional education practices. The educator is viewed as a communicator, story-maker, and interpreter. (Fenwick, 2001, p. 49)

This entails an investigative, open-ended approach to learning that is not separate from teaching. The language used in this perspective is conducive to understanding relations between systems, including the interplay between actors and issues in the education universe. This presides over the co-emergence of an interrelated pattern, in which “each participant’s understandings are entwined with those of other participants, and individual knowledge co-emerges with collective knowledge.” (Fenwick, 2001, p. 49)

Since this approach is linked to the broader, global perspective of whole systems thinking, it allows one to relate her/his professional practice to the emergence of a new thinking paradigm, which I consider central to the role of an educator.

Enactivist educators “can provide feedback loops to a system as it experiments with different patterns leading out from disequilibrium.” (Fenwick, 2001, p.50) This resonates with views of a paradigmal change such as those presented by Dr. Ervin Laszlo, founder of The Club of Budapest, in his work on macroshifts. (Laszlo, 2001)

This perspective, however, may be of difficult application under today’s established educational circumstances, as it requires reframing current paradigms, discourses, and world views. But this is exactly the challenge of transformative education, which is experimental, forward and critical thinking. Freire certainly caught the essence of the imbalances that affect our societies (then, and today). The question for us, I believe, is to incorporate his ideas into the changing context of the third millennium.


Fenwick, T. (2001) “Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives” Information Series No 385, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education now located at the Centre for Education & Training for Employment at Ohio State University, accessed on June 2, 2009 at

Laszlo, E. (2001). Macroshift: Navigating the transformation to a sustainable world. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler

Matoba, K. (2002) “Dialogue Process as Communication Training for Multicultural Organizations” in Bohnet-Joschko, S. (2002). Socially responsible management:

Mezirow, J. (1991) Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

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Zelda Writes:

Dear All

I have read Oscar’s additonal posting.  Thanks so much.  I have asked this question previously, and am asking it again.  What do Mezirow and Youngman propose to change, through transformative adult education (Youngman) and transformative learning (Mezirow)?  is it the same?


Hi Zelda,

Sorry for not answering those questions earlier. Here are my thoughts in that regard.

Youngman: his idea of transformative adult education stems from a political analysis of issues of oppression, ultimately from a perspective derived from political economy. He views transformation through adult education as a collective process through which people (the “masses” as Freire would have said) are able to conquer issues of social inequality, disenfranchment, marginalization, discrimination, etc. To a lesser degree than Freire’s theory of conscientization, Youngmans displays a dichotomous perspective that is still heavily influenced by the juxtaposition of capitalist and Marxist class views of a political economy, even though he has come to include many aspects of social issues that cannot be examined from a traditional class perspective. (Feminism, environmentalism, etc) His thinking is the product of 19th and 20th centuries political economy discourses.

Merirow: The core of his transformative learning is the individual learners’ ability to construe, validate, and reformulate the meaning of their experience. The emphasis is on “perspective transformation” as a means to promote personal growth and, eventually influence the emergence of a new society. Rather than a society based on Youngman’s dichotomous views, Merirow envisions a society that would display the traits of a Third-Culture, where the new is not just a better version of the old, but is instead a transformed thinking paradigm. Merirow’s transformative learning is dialectic, suitable to challenge and discuss cultural assumptions through cognitive reflection (it leads “to a dramatic shift or transformation in the learner’s way of viewing the world” by “bringing of one’s assumptions, premises, criteria, and schemata into consciousness and vigorously critiquing them”); (p. 13)

“Others’ views can act as mirrors for our own views, opening dialectic, helping us “unfreeze” our “meaning perspectives” (Mezirow 1991) and assumptions.  This is very different from Youngman’s exclusion of juxtaposed views. In Merirow’s case we confront and challenge the taken-for-granted norms— what’s wrong with how I am seeing what happened and how it happened?—leading to a dramatic shift or transformation in the learner’s way of viewing the world.

To summarize, I believe that Youngman’s views on transformation are driven by political discourses and focus on social issues from a political economy perspective. Merirow instead views transformation as an individual process of growth derived from self-reflection and a dialectical approach with the other that will eventually transcend individual differences and give raise to something new akin to a Third-Culture. In this regard, Merirow’s theory is undoubtedly systems-based.





GLORIA wrote:     link to forum

While oppression remains, so Freire’s ideas remain relevant and more sophisticated, complex or modern concepts serve only to cover up the basics – poverty, inequality, exploitation etc.

Hi Gloria,

Thank you for adding some additional thoughts. Your posts are always interesting.

I’d like to comment on the above, as I am not sure I can agree with you on that hundred per cent. You are absolutely right that the issues remain the same, taking us all back to the overarching role of power in our societies.

During the past century we witnessed a ping pong game between Marxism and Capitalism. They were just two sides of the same coin: they shared the same basic world view. When I consider other options is mainly because such dichotomous game didn’t really change much for marginalized people. It even created additional marginalization and oppression that are more difficult to be detected, as they are so much based on the victims’ “willing” co-operation. (Consumerism, to support the socialist or the capitalist economies, is all about “free” participation.)

I certainly agree that mere philosophical speculations on alternative solutions are not going to feed the starving masses, nor are they going to “solve” anything per se’. I believe, however, that we need to move beyond the Cartesian discourses that have dominated the scene since the age of the Enlightenment. If we don’t do that, we remain stuck.


GLL – on Barriers to education in South Africa

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, South Africa, development

Step 2 – Part 1: on Barriers to education

Link to blog

Link to forum

Land, S. (2006). Barriers to education faced by educationally deprived adults in Muthukrishna, N. (ed.) Mapping Barriers to Basic Education in the Context of HIV and AIDS: A Report on Research conducted in the Richmond District, KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg: School of Education and Development, University of Kwazulu Natal.

What are the main barriers to basic education identified by adult learners in this study?

According to the this study, the following are the main barriers mentioned by interviewees:

Poverty and unemployment

  • Having to work as “slaves” for the family,
  • Finding money for transport;
  • Lack of transport (especially, lack of affordable transportation);
  • Fear of crime, i.e. fear of being attacked on their way to school;
  • Gender issues, i.e. discrimination against women accessing education;
  • Status quo in the family, i.e. “education should not change power relations between husband and wife.” (p.89)

Social breakdow

(few people agreed on):

  • Social breakdown in families impact on education;
  • The use of drugs and alcohol impacts school attendance;

Health issues

  • Poor health, disability, and illnesses;
  • Suspected learning disabilities; (suggested by the researches)
  • Loss of parents to HIV/AIDS (which forces some children to drop out of school);
  • HIV/AIDS would cause lack of income, (p. 93), and fear (p. 95);

What are the main factors identified by adult learners in this study that support their efforts to learn?

These factors are:

  • Motivation to learn;
  • “Implicit perception of whites as potential employers, “ which would support the learners’ contact with white teachers;
  • Some hoped for increased chances of employment;
  • Interest in overcoming sense of inadequacy;
  • Support from family (which even strengthens their parental roles);
  • Employer support;

Discuss this comment in her Conclusion, Land (2006) comments that “It is tempting to salute the resilience of adults who survive and retain the will to learn in situations as severe and discouraging as those described above. However, doing so would, in a sense, sanction the conditions under which they live in, by intimating that they are bearable”.

Yes, this comment has merit and relates to what Gloria wrote in the forum (“The costs of global influences, cultural transformations, are borne more heavily by marginalized groups which has led to social separation”.) and also to Marie’s post (“Risk that global/local learning will evolve within a society in a way that culturally disempowers local community, contributing to continued economic injustices and environmental degradation.”)

This relates also to the traps of governmentability, defined by Foucault as “A form of power that is exercised through an ensemble of institutions, procedures, analyses, and reflections, which results in the formation of a specific governmental apparatus (Foucault, M. “Governmentality.” In The Foucault Effect, edited by G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Mills, pp. 87-104. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991). (Fenwick, p. 42

As seen earlier in the program, similar issues are also brought up by Chappell et al. in “Selfwork”.

They suggest that, despite all the good intentions, we may still remain trapped in the cultural framework from which we have emerged, and in which we operate. Such view remains for the most part unchallenged and is self-perpetuating. In this regard, Chappell et al. mention that in some cases “the self participates in its own subjugation and domination whether it is through ‘false consciousness’ produced by membership of a particular social group, or the internalisation of social ‘oppression’ through individual ‘repression’ ”. (Chappelll, C., Rhodes, C., Solomon, N., Tennant, M. and Yates, L. (2003) “Selfwork” in Reconstructing the Lifelong Learner: Pedagogy and identity in individual, organisational and social change (2003) by C. Chappelll, C. Rhodes, N. Solomon, M. Tennant & L. Yates Routledge Falmer, London, p. 6)

Foucault (1980) wrote how, when subjected to the  perpetual surveillance of normalizing practices that classify, measure, and judge them, people begin monitoring and regulating their own behavior to conform with pre-established standards. Eventually, they become self-policing, their “selves” becoming objects of their own critical gaze of measurement and control.” (p. 42) In this way, individuals retain their independence from the institutional context, but also grow into it.

Taking into account the issues identified in your discussion of both readings, discuss the view that South Africa offers a microcosm of global inequalities where a small population has a very high standard of living and a majority of people live in impoverished contexts? Indicate whether and why you agree or disagree.

In Land’s article, the researchers admit that there had been a slight misunderstanding in the level of expectation participants had with regard to their participation. Some thought that by cooperating with the researchers, something might have been done to alleviate the level of their personal despair. This brings be to the following comment:

In a polarized context like South Africa’s, where there is indeed a microcosm of inequalities. our discussion has pinpointed various aspects of such inequalities. Above all, access to education still eludes the vast majority mainly due to lack of available financial resources and appropriate investments. This maintains the status quo, with a rich minority living alongside a very large, poor minority.

I believe that we need to return to the etymological meaning of the word hope, otherwise the risk is high for people to become disillusioned. The UNDP report, like many others like it, may serve the purpose of stirring the lethargic attitude found in the universe of development agencies, but does little to change the balance of power in praxis. This should not come as a surprise, if one looks at who is actually controlling international organizations (certainly not disenfranchised, undereducated, destitute people).

GLL – Group summary on global/local learning

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning

Step 1 – Part 2: Group summary on global/local learning

Link to blog

Link to forum

Characterising Global/Local Learning

Samarbeta Group

27th August 2009

Local and global learning are interconnected

Global influences can support local contexts to ‘transcend limitations’ to adapt to changing conditions.

  • Global standards also need to be adapted to local contexts to make them effective
  • Personal learning lies at the root of any meaningful process of learning.

Power relations affect how the global affects the local and the local affects the global.

  • Crossing borders requires personal critique of positive/negative consequences of our influence
  • Structural inequalities and oppressive global systems limit learning possibilities and access locally even while emphasizing the importance of (unattainable) global opportunities.
  • There is a risk that global/local learning will evolve within a society in a way that culturally disempowers local community, contributing to continued economic injustices and environmental degradation.
  • The costs of global influences, cultural transformations, are borne more heavily by marginalized groups which has led to social separation.
  • Individuals are increasingly responsible for managing their own personal development and education in order to prepare for a complex, changing, and often unknown future.

The spatial dimension of local/global learning is altered by information technology.

The interplay of local and global learning defines the space for learning for individuals; i.e. personal learning.

  • Web technologies, co-creation, and on-line learning have empowered more people in knowledge creation, sharing, access and dissemination.
  • Localized networking and collaboration helps people access global possibilities.
  • Global/local learning influences and affects where, what, how and why we learn.
  • Learning and dialogue may help to create a paradigm shift that emerges from and later supports critical reflection with the functionality of a system feedback loop.

Local/global learning has revived learning in civil society

Learning and sharing in local communities and across borders can be effective in building social movements and partnerships working for social change.

  • ICTs have the power to “enlarge the space of what is possible” in social movements.
  • Global/local learning lies at the root of true development, understood as a process of personal and societal growth.

GLL: on local global learning, citizenship, democracy, social movements

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, citizenship, democracy, social movements

Step 1 – Part 2: on global/local learning

Link to blog

Link to forum

Comments on the Commentary.

The commentary is very useful in introducing a common language for this course. It suggests terms that I feel comfortable working with, as they allow me to pursue the systems thinking approach that I have used in previous courses. The “global/local” intersecting variations of learning can only be understood as the results of their contextual, cultural, geographic, economic, human, sociological components, only to cite some of the aspects that concur to finalizing the learning experience at the start of the third millennium.  Some of these terms are: world without borders, border pedagogy, citizenship, democracy, and social movements.

Though the assertion that we live in an interconnected world is not new, it introduces a discourse based on systemic patterns. Because of that, it is unlikely that “globalization creates cultural convergence or growing sameness – otherwise referred to as homogenization,” as the processes inherent in globalization are way to complex to allow for such narrow scenario.

I’d like to comment on the three scenarios presented on pages 1-2 concerning the conception of globalization as westernization (to which, of course, there is some truth).

This scenario happens in the face of increasingly desensitized populations and individuals who have become uncritical of and possibly overwhelmed with processes of cultural colonization. We do have a chance and the choice to remain involved in the governance of globalization processes, which would lessen the danger of the establishment of a world-wide America-style society.

“Other commentators link the interaction with processes of globalization and their impact on local contexts to growing fragmentation and cultural diversity. They argue that global influences, be they global media or global markets or global theory, are always adapted to fit local contexts according to local conditions and cultural patterns. Through the dynamic interplay of the global and the local, global social movements, for example, may take different forms, engage in different practices and make different impacts depending on local particularities.”

As suggested in my last comment above, this would only be possible if people retained their critical thinking attitude towards globalization processes and the changes they represent. It is an approach that I find highly desirable.

“Another perspective which has relevance for global/local learning, is the view that the new transportation and communication systems have intensified intercultural relations leading to what commentators refer to as the ‘hybridization’ of cultures. This is often associated with people who, because of work, education or for political reasons, move to other areas and come into contact with other societies and cultures for varying lengths of time.”

This is the case of “transient people,” who freely move between cultures and countries. It is a phenomenon of global proportions – with which I can personally identify – that have been the topic of Intercultural Communication research for several decades. Within the discourse of “cultural transformation” and “third-culture building,” I believe that these processes can provide a platform for global/local learning opportunities. It is well known how a host culture can affect outsiders. It is also clear that single individuals can have an impact on another culture (development workers, teachers, missionaries, etc.). It would be interesting to find out more on the interplay between the two players (host culture and transient person), and how the relevant original cultures may interact within this constellation.

Within the complexity of a web of cultures, robotic sameness remains an impossible scenario. In fact, I agree that “People are forced to find their way through seemingly chaotic series of social ands cultural possibilities.”

Suggested links on people-centered development:

In the literature for this course there are many references to people-centered development. I would like to suggest the following resources that I have found very helpful in learning more about the issue.

Korten, D. C., & Klauss, R. (1984). People-centered development: Contributions toward theory and planning frameworks. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press.

Summary available at:

David Korten is president and founder of the People-Centered Development Forum. He is an associate of the International Forum on Globalization and a member of the Club of Rome. He is the editor of Yes! Magazine

GLL: On New Zealand

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning

Step 1 – Part 1: on global/local learning

Link to blog

Link to forum

GLL: post: Reply to Gloria’s post

Hi Gloria,

Thank you for posting a comparative analysis of my scenario that inserted NZ into our interesting discussion.

I see how geographic isolation may influence contacts between NZ and other areas, which in turn may represent a wonderful opportunity for ICT to establish transnational connections. (For instance, I am a subscriber of , a good example of the NZ “reaching out” approach) Whereas in my home region people are still “caught up” in a web of entrenched and embedded ways and traditions, which requires huge mediation efforts to reach out to other cultures, in NZ and in similar “new” realities, such process of opening up has become part of the nation’s cultural DNA, with fewer concerns about retaining the old, and more freedom to integrate the new.

As for your comments on “introspection and self-reflection,” I certainly agree on the fact that those belonging to the dominant group have less of a need for critical thinking. However, that does not come to their advantage, as,  by avoiding a dialectical confrontation with the other, they miss out on opportunities for personal growth, and will eventually be left behind by evolving historical processes.

The costs of cultural transformation that, as you pointed out, have been borne by some and skipped by others, may be eventually considered within a different framework for social, economic, environmental, educational development. I believe that learning and dialogue may be key tools in such paradigm shift. For now, we are still dealing with a world premised on the industrialization era where people in general are reluctant to move into uncharted land, and instead prefer to linger on whatever we have, in spite of its obvious failures.

The concept of people-centred development relates well to the idea of learning as a way to change what has stopped working. I look fwd to exploring this topic more in depth.

GLL: on co-participation

COURSE: Global / Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, co-participation

Step 1 – Part 2: on global/local learning

Link to forum

Link to blog

I am typing this at the library, in a minute village in the heart of the Alps, a valley that has been a crossroad of  languages and cultures for over 2000 years, which makes the setting suitable for some comments on our course.

Zifaan raised the topic of co-partecipation and co-authoring in our academic work. I can only agree with his take. In fact, in this forum I have shared a shared definition of global learning that had emerged from previous works among a sub-group in our cohort. I posted it not with the intention of enforcing it, but with the hope that it could provide for food for thoughts and for a platform for our discussion.

This course presents us with the very good opportunity of finding common themes in our individual ideas, thus making a co-partecipatory approach more visible and praxis-oriented.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts guys! (-:

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