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Education for Economic Life: The Role of Communicative Action

by Ben Endres - 2006

This article addresses the tension between the need to prepare students for functional activity in organizations on the one hand, and the need to instill dispositions and competencies that transcend these determinate roles on the other. I take for granted that schools must fulfill both tasks, and I suggest that they are failing at the latter in part because these social and moral purposes of education have not been constructively developed in relation to its economic aims. I first use Max Weber's theory of social action to explain the role of functional activity in modern schooling and society. I then argue that a qualified form of Jürgen Habermas's theory of communicative action can provide a meaningful connection between functional activity and the kinds of participatory, open interactions and relationships that progressive educators seem to prioritize. I argue that communicative action plays a crucial role in a wide range of organizational contexts, even those that involve narrow functions within strict hierarchies. Communicative action thus shows how progressive educational ideals are relevant for work life, regardless of one's place in the economic hierarchy. It also exposes the common ground beneath a range of progressive ideals. I conclude by showing how the role of communicative action in functional work may motivate reform in the practices of teaching and learning.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 10, 2006, p. 2001-2020
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12720, Date Accessed: 8/5/2021 4:21:18 PM

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About the Author
  • Ben Endres
    SUNY New Paltz
    E-mail Author
    BEN ENDRES is assistant professor in the Department of Educational Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz. His research interests are centered on the moral dimensions of communication in schooling and social life. Recent publications include, “Critical Pedagogy and Liberal Education: Reconciling Tradition, Critique and Democracy” in Philosophy of Education 2002, and “Transcending and Attending to Difference in the Multicultural Classroom” in the Journal of Philosophy of Education.
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