Education between States, Markets, and Civil Society: Comparative Perspectives

By Heinz-Dieter Meyer; William L. Boyd | Go to book overview

Chapter One
Civil Society, Pluralism, and Education—Introduction and Overview
HEINZ-DIETER MEYER
WILLIAM LOWE BOYD

The goal of this book is to explore comparatively and, where useful, historically, how the idea of the civil society (or any of its synonyms, such as civic associations or third sector), which has generated so much intellectual and political excitement during the post1989 period (see, e.g., Berger & Neuhaus, 1996; Dahrendorf, 1990; Diamond, 1994; Dionne, 1998; Ehrenberg, 1999; Glendon, 1991; Hall, 1995; Keane, 1999; Walzer, 1995), can be used to reframe and reconceptualize some vexing problems of education governance and policy. As anyone familiar with education policy knows, the reform debate typically pits pro-government government advocates against pro-market advocates. For added complexity, another intellectual controversy is sometimes superimposed, that between communitarians and libertarians. The editors were curious whether the idea of the civil society could provide a conceptual and policy framework that would help to overcome these often sterile juxtapositions.

That the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of communist collectivism in 1989 should have re-energized the civil society discussion, is, in retrospect, not surprising. For Eastern European dissidents, who had lived their adult lives under a regime that routinely and zealously squashed all social action independent of the state, the collapse of communism in one fell swoop shrank the totalitarian Leviathan and, for the first time, left the public square free for individual citizens to associate

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