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Action in a Shared World


by Geoffrey Hinchliffe — 2010

Background/Context: The background of the article is the continued interest in the ideas of Hannah Arendt. In her book The Human Condition, Arendt draws on sources of ideas drawn from Ancient Greece to deliver a critique of modernity. The main burden of her criticism is that the imperatives of work and labor have virtually supplanted the ideal of action. By action, Arendt terms activity that was creative and risky, set in a public domain. Because the scope of the public has been severely decreased, the scope of action is attenuated also. In particular, Arendt closely identifies action with political action.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The research does not question the general thrust of Arendt’s critique, but has three aims: (1) to supplement the concept of action that in certain respects is undertheorized by Arendt, (2) to argue that the domain of the public needs to be extended to the “shared world” that includes, for example, action in professional life and not only politics, and (3) to argue that education, as part of the shared world, should look to extending the capability for action.

Research Design: The research takes the form of philosophical and historical analysis. In addition to the works of Arendt, the ideas of Michael Oakeshott and H. P. Grice are analyzed to develop further the concept of action. The method of deploying action in a pedagogical setting is then explored through an examination of Sen and Nussbaum’s concept of capability.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The article argues that teachers have a responsibility to develop the capability for action in their children and students. This goes beyond instruction to the creation of conditions in which students can start to take risks and responsibilities for themselves.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 2, 2010, p. 446-463
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15739, Date Accessed: 10/17/2017 11:30:54 PM

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About the Author
  • Geoffrey Hinchliffe
    University of East Anglia
    GEOFF HINCHLIFFE works in the field of academic practice as a staff development officer at the University of East Anglia in England. He also undertakes undergraduate teaching in the School of Education at UEA. His research interests include teaching and learning in higher education and the relationship between higher education and graduate employability. In addition, he has recently jointly edited a special edition of the journal Studies in Philosophy and Education that explores the capability approach to education.
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