Democracy and education: ‘In spite of it all’

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2 Citations (Scopus)


This article draws on psychoanalytic theory to reconsider democracy, education and their relationship. The author argues for the pervasive presence of fantasmatic thinking in relation to both democracy and education in much media and policy discussion, which fuels our subjection to ideology through cruelly optimistic promises about the future benefits which will accrue from current sacrifice – promises which are exposed as false by persistent and growing economic inequality and the substantial failure to fulfil its inflated promises that is endemic to modern education. By contrast, the article argues for a politics grounded in an acceptance of constitutive lacking status as desiring subjects, which recognises and embraces the enjoyment that comes from loss, thereby freeing us from the spell of compulsive repetition reflected in our fixation on fantasmatic programmes of redemption in both politics and education. This might open possibilities for realising, albeit indirectly and obliquely, the goals which continually escape our more overt attempts to grasp them. The author’s overall argument is that the flaws and illusions characterising our experiences of democracy and education are not reasons to abandon them, but instead suggest a need to rework our relationship to them in less fantasmatic ways, ‘in spite of it all’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-124
Number of pages13
JournalPower and Education
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding: The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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