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Cadernos de História da Educação

versão On-line ISSN 1982-7806

Cad. Hist. Educ. vol.19 no.2 Uberlândia maio/ago 2020  Epub 05-Jun-2020 

Dossiê: Foucault, a genealogia, a história da educação

Educationalization of the World: a Genealogical Perspective of Modernity1

A educacionalização do mundo: um olhar genealógico da modernidade

Carlos Ernesto Noguera-Ramírez1

Dora Lilia Marín-Díaz2

1Universidad Pedagógica Nacional (Colombia)

2Universidad Distrital Francisco José de Caldas (Colombia)


The history of education in genealogical perspective is a genealogy of pedagogical practices. However, a genealogy of modern pedagogical practices is, finally, a history of modernity in a genealogical key. On the basis of these two theses and retaking a set of investigations carried out by the Group of History of the Pedagogical Practice (GHPP) from Colombia, the article proposes to discuss the concept of “educationalization of the World” proposed by Tröhler (2014, 2015) to support that the event called modernity is fundamentally the educationalization of the world. The concepts of provenance and emergence are the methodological tools used to describe both the pastoral origin of modern pedagogical practices (Foucault, 2007; Hunter, 1998; Sloterdijk, 2012), as the emergence of a new set of disciplinary antropotechniques and with them of the school as the artifact on which the process of modern and contemporary education is supported.

Key words: Genealogy; Pedagogical practices; Educationalization; Modernity


Uma história da educação em chave genealógica é uma genealogia das práticas pedagógicas. Agora bem, uma genealogia das práticas pedagógicas modernas é, finalmente, uma história da modernidade em chave genealógica. Levando em conta essas duas teses e retomando um conjunto de pesquisas realizadas pelo “Grupo de Historia de la Práctica Pedagógica” (GHPP) da Colômbia, o artigo tem como propósito discutir o conceito de “educacionalização do mundo” proposto por Tröhler (2014, 2015) para sustentar que o acontecimento chamado de modernidade é, fundamentalmente, a educacionalização do mundo. Os conceitos de procedência e emergência são as ferramentas metodológicas usadas para descrever tanto a procedência pastoral das práticas pedagógicas modernas (Foucault, 2007; Hunter, 1998; Sloterdijk, 2012), quanto a emergência de um novo conjunto de antropotécnicas disciplinares e com elas da escola como artefato no qual se sustenta o processo de educacionalização moderno e contemporâneo.

Palavras-chave: Genealogia; Práticas pedagógicas; Educacionalização; Modernidade


Una historia de la educación en clave genealógica es una genealogía de las prácticas pedagógicas. Ahora bien, una genealogía de las prácticas pedagógicas modernas es, finalmente, una historia de la modernidad en clave genealógica. Sobre la base de estas dos tesis y retomando un conjunto de investigaciones realizadas por el Grupo de Historia de la Práctica Pedagógica (GHPP) de Colombia, el artículo se propone discutir el concepto de “educacionalización del mundo” propuesto Tröhler (2014, 2015) para sustentar que el acontecimiento llamado modernidad es, fundamentalmente, la educacionalización del mundo. Los conceptos de procedencia y emergencia son las herramientas metodológicas usadas para describir tanto la procedencia pastoral de las prácticas pedagógicas modernas (Foucault, 2007; Hunter, 1998; Sloterdijk, 2012), como la emergencia de un novedoso conjunto de antropotécnicas disciplinarias y con ellas de la escuela como el artefacto sobre el cual se sustenta el proceso de educacionalización moderno y contemporáneo.

Palabras clave: Genealogía; Prácticas pedagógicas; Educacionalización; Modernidad

For history researchers, it is not a needless luxury to consider from time to time the content and the significance of the basic concepts they use, certainly if they have the ambition to interpret and/or explain history in addition to purely describing it.

Smeyers y Depaepe (2008, p. 13)


Just a decade ago, several European philosophers, historians and education specialists published a volume dedicated to the analysis of a problem that, although it had to do directly with the field of educational studies, it extended to other areas of human and social sciences. It was a matter of novel study for which they had to coin a double expression: pedagogization or educationalization (Smeyers and Depaepe, 2008). According to Tröhler, one of the most prominent scholars of this matter,

The Word educationalization, a new concept in the current international debate on cultural and educational studies, refers to the cultural reflection that is at the center of phenomena that, as a whole, are often called "modernity." It is a cultural reflection that transforms certain social problems-which in themselves are not educational-into an educational problem and thereby assigns them to education. (2014, p. 9).

Two significant examples of this “educational reflex” were the reactions that caused, in the United States, the launch of the first satellite into space by the Soviet Union in 1957 and, more recently, the report A Nation at Risk (1983), delegated by President Ronald Reagan to a national commission. In both cases, the analyzes and discussions ended in the implementation of important educational reforms, as it seemed clear that both the technological failure of 1957 and the economic crisis of the 1970s had their explanation in the backwardness of the national education system (Tröhler, 2014).

Certainly, the phenomenon is not reduced to the United States, as we would easily find examples of this reflex on every continent. Moreover, it is not an issue of the twentieth century. According to Tröhler's studies (2013, 2014), its emergence can be located around 1800 as a result of a particular cultural change whose main figure was the Swiss pedagogue J. H. Pestalozzi (1746-1827). The central characteristic of this cultural change, produced in Northern Europe, Western Europe and the United States of America between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, was that numerous social problems became interpreted as educational problems, which is why we can speak speak about a true “educational turn” (Tröhler, 2014). In summary, the phenomenon indicated by the expression educationalization of social problems is part of a “turn” that

became discursively established towards the end of the eighteenth century and then led to the foundation of the modern school in the context of the nation-states in the nineteenth century. Today, this phenomenon continues unabated and finds expression in the framework of the World Bank, the United Nations, and the OECD. It is based on the premise that the central problems of the present and planning for the future are in fact basically educational concerns. (Tröhler, 2013b, p. 3).

The problem analyzed by Tröhler is not a particular issue in the field of history of education, although its contribution in this regard, as we will see, is quite significant: beyond the history and philosophy of education, it is a key tool for understanding the process of constitution of modern “societies”, because as Jeissman (1995, cited by Tröhler, 2011) points out, the educational revolution was not always a consequence of the industrial revolution and the democratic revolution-as Parson (1971) thought-, but on the contrary, on some occasions, that preceded the last, as evidenced by the case of Prussia. In this way, the analysis of the process of “educationalization of the world” is, to a large extent, the basis for the understanding of the processes of modernization. That is, of the consolidation of capitalism and democracy as the predominant systems-economic and political-in the contemporary world.

In addition to introducing a new problem, Tröhler's book puts into operation a novel methodological approach that Thomas Popkewitz (in the preface of the book) highlights as a contribution to current studies, since the author “provides a careful reading across philosophy, history, linguistic theories of culture, and sociology” in such a way that it manages “to escape the intellectual provincialism […]where people read well within their own “circles” (in dissertations it is called “review of literature”) but ignore the interconnections with other scholarship […]” (Popkewitz, 2011, p. 9). That contribution of Tröhler finds its main realization in the formula “languages of education” that derives from his reading of Saussure, specifically, of the linguist's distinction between langue and parole. With the languages ​​of education, Tröhler wants to focus his attention on the how and not on the what, since it is not about giving account of the “singular ideas, concepts or reasonings represented by philosophers, politicians or educators”, but of “the ways or distinguishable modes of thinking, speaking or writing about education” (2013a, p. 23). Thus, it seeks to reveal the hidden religious roots, particularly Protestant, of our current way of thinking about education, and more generally, to understand the process of educationalization of the world. That is, to understand

why people share convictions identifying certain social circumstances as educational issues, or perhaps, more empirically, how and why people began to believe that certain social circumstances are to be identified as educational issues including a variety of patterns of educationalization evolved to the times up to today (Tröhler, 2011, p. 1)

In general, for Saussure the langue is like the “passive store” of the language system, while the parole is the “active force”. The langue is a system of signs, while the parole is the particular manifestation of that system in an act of speech, which means that the first precedes the second. They are two parts that maintain an interdependence and, therefore, linguistics must study them in their specificity in order to account for a linguistic system. Following this idea, Tröhler intends to identify the educational languages (langues) from the study of the paroles in such a way that you can overcome the studies that focus on the analysis of certain languages (French, English, German). In the author's words, with this approach, “little known”,

The advantage in looking at languages rather than arguments-or rather langues than paroles-is at least twofold: First, languages are principally transnational and thus transcend the still dominant national scope in educational research. Second, since there are only a very limited number of languages, the analysis of these fundamental normative attitudes offers a mapping of contemporary and historical sources: proposals, arguments, systems, concepts (Tröhler, 2011, p. 17).

The two languages identified by Tröhler are Protestantism (in its different versions) and classical republicanism: the so-called “educational reflex” would appear as a response of Protestantism to the tension generated between the rise of commercial capitalism in the eighteenth century and the opposition to it developed from the standpoint of classical republicanism. For the representatives of this perspective, the traders (and their defenders) could not contribute to the common good, since they were governed by the particular interest, by the passion of money, in such a way that they represented a danger to the republic. Facing the figure of the trader and the businessman, the Republicans advocated a patriotic ideal represented in a person who was fully moral, capable of fulfilling all his public obligations. That is, a citizen oriented to the common good, virtuous and honest, figure personified by the landlord and farmer.

According to Tröhler's analysis (2011, 2013b), the peculiarities of this dispute in Switzerland were those that led to the educational turn that, finally, initiated the process of educationalization of the world. On the one hand, says Tröhler, there was the systematic growth of the population, of the yarn and textile industry and of commerce in Zurich that allowed a considerable accumulation of wealth and its subsequent consolidation as an exporter of capital (loans), not only to commercial companies, but to the European powers. On the other hand, a strong anti-capitalist movement that advocates the restoration of the patriotic spirit of the virtuous citizen is created. This tendency, by linking with the Protestant spirit of Calvino and Zwingli, led to the idea that the alternative to the advancement of trade was the personal strengthening, that is, the strengthening of the soul: “This Protestant objective in the soul of the person became the starting point of the educationalization of the world, as the soul became the essential object of education” (Tröhler, 2014, p. 23). Due to the differences between German (Lutheran) Protestantism and Swiss Reformed Protestantism (Calvinist and Zuinglista), two different “educational ideologies” were configured: Bildung-“contemplative and politically indifferent” (Tröhler, 2014, p. 23)-and the Swiss educational program based on intellectuals such as Isaak Iselin, Johann Jacob Bodmer, J.J. Rousseau and J.H. Pestalozzi, focused on the idea of forming an active citizen.

Recognizing the relevance and potential of the concept of educationalization for the History of Education and for Pedagogy, this article aims to describe the origin and emergence of modern normative matrices that are at the core of the “educational turn” indicated by Tröhler (2011, 2013b) in the perspective of rereading such an event in light of some archeogeneological tools proposed by Michel Foucault. As the main result of this rereading proposal, we can affirm-unlike Tröhler-that the “educationalization” of the world did not begin between the 18th and 19th centuries, but rather it had its emergence between the 16th and 17th centuries within the framework of the events that Foucault called “the era of governmentality” (2006) or what Sloterdijk (2012) defined as the modern “ascetic turn”. It is a historical-philosophical initiative with which we want to show the possibilities that Foucault’s studies have to think about education and pedagogy, but, at the same time, the importance that the analysis of pedagogical practices2 can have in the study of the problems proposed by governmentality and general ascetology3. Then, to carry out such initiative, we will replace Tröhler's “languages of education” formula with foucauldian tools “governmentality” and “practice” (under the specific term of pedagogical practices).

Provenance and emergence of the techniques of modern pedagogical practices

The specifically modern concern for education was articulated around questions about the exercises, the behaviors, the routines and the habits that the subjects required to achieve a certain form, in particular, for their own individualization process. The set of techniques that were put in place for the conformation of individuals and the formation of certain aptitudes and skills were not entirely original, since they already functioned inside the medieval monasteries. Precisely, it was that fact one of the conditions of possibility for the emergence of the normative matrices of modern pedagogical practices.

The provenance and emergence4 of these matrices can be read through the series individualization-conduction-exercise, or better individual-conduction-asceticism, which enabled the development of the process we would call “educationalization” of the world. A process that, in other terms, can be understood as the constitution of “modern societies”. In the emergence of normative matrices there is an issue that is not minor and it has a history that allows us to ensure that it was not born at once, but that it did not always exist, at least not before the “population” was constituted as an object of government or conduction (Foucault, 2006). In other words, we can affirm that the expansion of disciplines and the increase of the population (in terms of population growth) are immanent and therefore inseparable matters: they refer to a process that went through the conformation of Western societies. A wide and extensive individualization process that emerged, slowly, between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries as a correlate of the incorporation of disciplinary techniques, derived from common religious life forms, for the government of large masses of population. The prelude to this process of “governmentalization” (Foucault, 2006) was the transfer, incorporation and adjustment of these techniques and a set of ascetic exercises to secular communities, with the consequent definition of “disciplinary methods concerning daily life and Pedagogy” (Foucault, 2007a, p. 60).

Hunter (1998) defines this transfer of techniques as a process of secularization of pastoral power that meant the entrance of ascetic techniques to the social world, and their subsequent expansion. We could add, “de-spiritualization”-production of new purposes for such techniques-under the form of disciplinary practices. In the words of Sloterdijk (2012), this period can be understood as a technical era par excellence, not so much for the invention and use of the printing press, nor for the transformation and discoveries derived from travels, astronomy, mathematics, among others, but, and mainly, because that is the period of development and massive implementation of different techniques of production of the human by the humans themselves. That is, by the massive implementation of “anthropotechniques”.

The wide dissemination and collectivization of disciplinary techniques and exercise practices supposed one of the most radical transformations in human life. It also made the last five centuries a period marked by the constitution of different scenarios that allowed collective and individual training. Modern state and school were configured, then, as suitable machinery for the production of a specific form of humanity reaching a large number of somatic individualities and allowing the constitution of governable subjectivities oriented by a “metanoetic command” (Sloterdijk, 2012, p. 427) with a double function: individualizer-producer of individuals (subjects)-and totalizer-producer of society-.

The production of exercisers is at the center of one of the first modern collective life forms in which the subjects worked for their own benefit and according to the State and its institutions. Such relationship strengthened the processes of individualization and institutionalization of social functions and relationships, and supposed the strengthening of disciplinary techniques and strategies aimed at the production of individuals and governable human groups (Marín-Díaz, 2015). The correlate of this process was an unprecedented demographic growth, referred not only to the significant increase of bodily singularities, but, and mainly, of individuals or individualities-subject functions in a given body-which, paradoxically, along the last century led to the questioning of the institutions that produced these forms of modern individuality and society. During this period, government practices were questioned and the impossibility of a complete regulation of individual and collective life forced important transformations in conduction strategies that continued to be linked to policies for the governance of life, leading, among other matters, to the discussion on the Social State and Human Rights (Foucault, 2007b). In other words-and according to Foucault-the “disciplinary society”, in its development and extension, resulted in the emergence of a new reason of government, the liberal government at whose core the individual-society relationship was interrogated. That made necessary the adjustment and transformation of the first modern anthropotechniques (disciplines) and the emergence of new “liberal” conducting techniques such as the production of a “means” for the control (regulation) of individuals.

On these anthropotechniques it is necessary to point out that they have “the characteristics of the technical, the mastery of a procedure that will bring the desired result through discrete, explicit and controlled steps” (Sloterdijk, 2012, p. 439). The disciplines made possible not only the production of adequate and functional human beings-working masses, students, soldiers who fed the state machinery and the institutions that became increasingly necessary to lead the populations-but also a series of educational procedures in the manufacture of these humans, through a withdrawal from the world, no longer in the style of the old ascetics, but through institutions of enclosure and isolation such as school. In this sense, it is important to point out that institutionalization is one of the main characteristics of these modern anthropotechniques and perhaps the school-with its techniques of enclosure, vigilance, teaching and punishment-is one of its most representative forms. It is one of the institutions whose operation guaranteed the production of human beings, that is, of profitable subjects or, at least not dangerous for the social order. With this disciplinary machine, the total (exhaustive) capture of the bodies, of the gestures, of the time and, in general, of the life of each somatic singularity (neither individual, nor subject) was opted for.

The school was organized around a practice that articulated techniques and strategies such as constant observation, progressive exercise and normalizing schematization. The constant observation was intended to guarantee an “optimal terminal state” that would allow to “look towards the future, towards the moment when everything works by itself and the surveillance has only a virtual character”, that is, “when the discipline becomes a habit” (Foucault, 2007a, p. 67). The progressive exercise that in a “time scale” allows to perceive the result of the “growth and perfectioning of the discipline” (p. 76) as a key piece to achieve the autonomy and independence of the subject. The normalizing schematization that codifies and creates regulated systems of subordination and classification, allows to assign a place for each thing and each individual, even for the unclassifiable, the irreducible to the norm and that, still, makes operate the system based on a “constant work of the norm in anomie “ (p. 76). These disciplinary principles found in writing a fundamental practice to codify, sketch and assess behaviors both in the school institution and in other institutions responsible for producing modern subjects: “the visibility of the body and the permanence of writing go hand in hand and produce [a…] schematic and centralized individualization” (p. 69). The school and the other disciplinary institutions used writing as a powerful practice that allowed them to operate surveillance, exercise and normalization techniques for “the exhaustive modification of the relationships between the somatic singularity, the subject and the individual” (p. 76).

It is key to clarify that the relationship somatic singularity-individual-subject function is an effect of disciplinary anthropotechniques, because they produced an adjustment between the biological form (somatic singularity) and the political form (individual), through the linking to a subject function or a disciplined individuality appropriate to the social organization: the modern subject. The individual was the disciplinary anthropotechnical effect that set a subject-function to a somatic singularity: however, it was not the only or the first form of individualization, it was the one that emerged and was privileged between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries in what we can recognize as the time of constitution of the first western modern societies. Otherwise, it can be said that the individual does not preexist the subject or the use of the normalizing techniques of the rationale of disciplinary (modern) government. It is a political effect (subjectivized) that caused the somatic singularity to become a carrier of a subject function. The legal individual is the form that this historical figure took in the axis of knowledge-of philosophical-political theory-and has its correlation, in the disciplined individual (citizen) produced in the concrete order of practical life.

Societies and individuals in their complex relationship are the product of an institutional network, but the deployment of their entire disciplinary anthropotechnical arsenal produced unexpected surpluses, including a biological overproduction of singularities (bodies), associated with the subjective overproduction of individualities (subjects). This was the scenario for the emergence, among other things, of practices (and discourses) about the defense and protection of individuality against State intervention, which acquired different emphasis and expanded the political and educational vocabulary and legislation of the last two centuries, in what meant the emergence and consolidation of a liberal governmental reason ̶ in terms of Foucault (2007b) ̶ or of “educationalization of the world” ̶ in the words of Tröhler (2013, 2014).

The analysis of the provenance and configuration of the normative matrices of the pedagogical practices offers elements to understand the productivity of a set of precepts derived from the tradition, updated in their practice and supported by different institutions that guide, limit, restrict or authorize the forms such as we conduct ourselves as subjects (Foucault, 1986). With a study like this, it is possible to recognize operating principles and techniques such as time-progress pairing, cloistering and constant direction, which guided the production of a framework of norms and defined what is acceptable in the formation and behavior of individuals (Foucault, 1986).

Before reviewing these principles and techniques it is important to point out that the operation of normative matrices, as a tense set of norms that guide human behavior, can be traced through explicit codes and provisions-of educational, judicial institutions, etc.-as well as the set of rules, principles and precepts of sharing, almost never manifest, that make visible techniques and procedures of conducting subjects, beyond the institutional dispositions (Foucault, 2009). In other words, it is about recognizing at least two forms of the norm: one of a legal nature and another of a regulatory nature. The first refers to nominal forms, those formulated and institutionalized in terms of law and jurisprudence and that question the individual as a subject of law; the second, derived from a monacal practical way of life that involves making the rule its own way of life: “A norm that does not refer to singular acts and events, but to the entire existence of the individual, to his way of living” (Agamben , 2013, p. 44); a rule that is life and a life that is a rule, a life “that is so closely linked to its form that it becomes inseparable from it” (p. 7).

At this point a hypothesis is outlined: the monastic origin of the disciplinary (anthropo)techniques left a regular mark on them (a technical effect hardly describable) that continues operating in educational practices. Thus, it is possible to find in the pedagogical discourses concepts-habit, custom, interest, conduct, etc.-that go through reflections on education, formation and teaching, pointing out a concern for the production of the human, a matter that goes further beyond the problem of law and whose core is the “idea of the complete malleability of human nature”. That issue served as a “basis for asserting the omnipotence of education to shape human society and [of] ground for proclaiming the infinite perfectibility of humanity” (Dewey, 1922, p. 106).

Returning to the discussion about the origin and configuration of the normative matrices of pedagogical practices and with them of the educationalization of the world, the example used by Foucault (2007a) on the process of disciplining student youth practiced by the community of Brethren of the Common Life, allows to recognize three technical principles that produced in medieval ascetic practices, were transferred and adjusted in secular communities, being collectivized through pedagogical practices whose exercise was not only linked to the school, but to the wide network of institutions that they contributed to configure and that are at the center of the ways of life that we recognize as modern.

The first principle is the time-progress pairing. It is an ascetic technique that characterizes the collective practice of an individual exercise whose purpose is salvation as the effect of the transformation itself. The division by age and by level, as well as the progressive exercise programs, are organizing principles of the schools founded by the Brethren of the Life in Common-Deventer, Liege and Strasbourg-that we see operating in pedagogical practices to ensure proper exercising and the recognition of learning that could only occur when going through mandatory and necessary stages, in certain times and spaces. This organizing principle, which is evident in the school, also operates in non-school practices. In Some Thoughts Concerning Education Locke ([1690] 2012), for example, the idea of appropriate ages to create habits, as well as that of a sequentiality of actions are verified in statements that state that “nature can get used to many things that seem impossible, as long as you try to habituate it from the beginning” (p. 37). That “beginning” not only refers to a specific moment in the process, a first moment of education that requires external rules and regulations, but also to the first years as the moment for the formation of habits.

This organizing principle of a disciplinary nature, remains present in educational practices until today. It was no stranger to the Progressive Education speeches of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, those who set out to update school practices accused of “traditional.” Claparède ([1932] 2007), for example, points out the importance that for the functional method has to “perceive the processes in function of the behavior to be determined” (p. 69), because in practice, the value of a process is determined by the aim that one wants to achieve, and that aim is attainable as far as education is guaranteed. That is “a progressive adaptation of mental processes to certain actions determined by certain desires” (p. 201).

This idea of gradualness and progression that characterize the exercising (education), as forms of shaping life, through repeated and regulated activities, implies a certain repetition and regularity in which are evidenced, on the one hand, plasticity as a fundamental human characteristic and, on the other, retroactivity as a determining effect of any exercise practiced by the individual (Sloterdijk, 2012). These characteristics appear in different pedagogical reflections linked to a set of notions that contributed to the production of the conceptual horizon of pedagogy: habit, behavior, plasticity, exercise, vigilance, discipline, process, etc. In Locke ([1690] 2012), for example, there are statements that indicate that “as the years increase, it is necessary to leave them more freedom and abandon them in many ways to their own behavior, since they cannot always be subject to surveillance except what we have put into its exercise through the good principles and established habits” (p. 44); and further reaffirms that “The main thing that should be addressed in the education of children is the habits they have to contract at first” (p. 53), “the great fault that I have observed in the way generations educate their children is that […] it is not possible to form their spirit in the discipline, to habituate them to submit to the reasoning, in the age in which they are more tender, more flexible” (p. 66).

In the reflections of Claparède and Dewey the principle of plasticity linked to the idea of gradualness and progression was fundamental. In the first case, in a famous text about Rousseau and the functional conception of childhood, this pedagogue argues that Fiske, in 1874, had already pointed out the important role that childhood plays in human evolution mainly because it was a period of plasticity “eminently favorable for the development of physical and mental faculties” ([1932] 2007, p. 102). In another sense, but also highlighting this characteristic associated with the issue of habit formation, Dewey argues that the “most precious part of plasticity consist in its ability to form habits of independent judgment and of inventive initiation, […] it demands a more complete and intense docility to form flexible easily re-adjusted habits, than it does to acquire those which rigidly copy the ways of others” (1922, p. 97).

The second technical principle that operates in normative matrices is cloistering. This implies recognizing that all ascetic practice, as well as a good number of pedagogical practices “must be fulfilled in a closed space, a closed environment on itself and with a minimum of relations with the external world” (Foucault, 2007a, p. 88). The demand for a privileged place in the process of disciplining student youth meant the constitution of schools and the rupture of ties that during the Middle Ages universities maintained with the surroundings and popular classes. The technique of cloistering, of enclosure or if you want the “cellular” technique (Foucault, 2006) is characteristic of the main disciplinary anthropotechniques and, perhaps, its main expression is in the school-form as we saw before, but it was not the only one. In this regard, it should be noted that although Comenius (1592-1670) can recognize the practical principles that surrounded the appearance of the typographeum vivum that was and is today the school: “‘a living typographic workshop’ [...] a wholesale modern learning machine” (Sloterdijk, 2012, p. 401), his pampædeia is not based only on this principle of confinement. The extension of the school-form beyond its borders led, on the one hand, to confinement in wider spaces (the city as an educational space, for example) and on the other hand, to confinement within itself (identity and self over which sustain contemporary ways of life).

The constant direction is the third and last technical principle that can be pointed out as characteristic of the normative matrices that emerged in modernity. In this case it is about recognizing that, just as ascetic practices require the guidance of another so that the individual carries out the exercises that allow him to operate a transformation of himself, the pedagogical practices cannot occur without the conduction of the other: a guide, a preceptor or a teacher who assumes the responsibility for such conduction. The constant guide was also one of the novelties that the Brethren of the Life in Common introduced in the schools they founded and that transformed the ways in which teaching was practiced in the medieval University. The incorporation of the teacher who follows and guides the process of the individual in the passage from one stage to another, or in the school career of another is also the incorporation of a witness of the fulfillment of all levels and with it of the progress achieved by that exerciser who is the pupil.

The figure of the teacher, professor or tutor (of the adult, in general terms) refers to different subject positions in pedagogical practice. Each of them refers not only to some functions but also to specific modes of relationship with both the institution and the student. It implies recognizing that it is not a personal or individual practice, but a practice derived from a busy position and that, although it fits under specific institutional conditions and forms, it is not independent of the normative matrices and ways of knowing of a particular moment and society. Thus, the ways of being an adult subject (teacher, educator, preceptor or tutor) of a practice, although they are updated with the presence and some specific ways of acting of individuals, are still governed and defined by the conditions that enable it and that they are transformed with the participation of the individuals who subject themselves to it, independent of their will to transform.

In general terms, and as a conclusion, three issues that result from this historical look at pedagogical practices can be pointed out, through the lens offered by the individualization-conduction-exercising series. First, the emergence of the normative matrices that defined modern pedagogical practices and accompanied the educational turn are perceptible in at least two dimensions: on the one hand, the institution that refers to school norms, their clearly established times and spaces. On the other hand, the practical life as a place of provenance and emergence of a good number of incorporated rules, habits, principles and precepts of behavior that define both the acceptable or not for the individual and the social group as what is properly considered human. Second, that the normative matrix from which modern pedagogical practices emerged is historical and that its modification occurs as part of the update of the device to which it is linked (disciplinary, liberal, etc.). Finally, and third, that the modern forms of conduction, articulated to the normative matrices that emerged between the 16th and 17th centuries, are characterized by normalization forms through which individualities and social formations that define the ways in which we are modern subject are constituted, as well as the ways in which we conduct ourselves and conducted others almost four centuries ago.

The process of educationalization of the world: government or education of each and every one

We have made an approximation to the provenance and emergence of the techniques that are at the center of modern pedagogical practices. Now we will reread that process, not from the perspective of the techniques involved, but from the general strategy that, following Foucault, we would call “governmentalization” of the State and the society. For this, it is necessary to take into account the government crisis of the 16th century. On this event Foucault (2006) points out that, simultaneously, about many different issues and with different emphasis, they appear during the 16th century in Europe, crises that go from the order of the government of itself, of the government of souls and from behaviors, to the government of children. A great pedagogical problem emerges there, as it appears and develops in the 16th century with the Reformation and, subsequently, with the Counter-Reformation.

This government crisis marks the beginning of a process of governmentalization of the State and the emergence of a new type of power, the government, whose origin is in the pastoral power. During the Middle Ages the sovereign reigned, but did not govern, since the government, that is, the leadership or direction of others, was a matter of the pastor (of the Church and its ministers). But from the sixteenth century, with the so-called government crisis, begins a process of secularization of pastoral power that will lead to the emergence of government as a new form of power and with it, a concern for the conduct of the others (and of itself). Issues that are perceived in the movements of Protestant reform, in the constitution of the Reason of the State, in the “police” practices (disciplinary) implemented for the control of the populations and in the educational actions aimed at workers, indigenous groups, poor and noble in Europe and its territories of influence (Foucault, 2006; Marín-Díaz, 2015).

The beginning of the process of governmentalization can be understood, in turn, as the process of creating a disciplinary society or as the correlation of the emergency and installation of disciplinary matrices. This taking into account the central role that the “disciplines” played in the control and management of populations since the 16th century. However, the key instrument for the expansion of disciplines (and of the government as a new form of power) among the population were pedagogical practices (including schooling). Due to their purposes and characteristics, pedagogical practices are practices of government. That is behavior conduction practices (of others and of oneself) and it is possible to recognize their appearance between the 16th and 17th centuries regarding two new concepts: institutio and eruditio (Noguera, 2011, 2012). It is worth saying, the idea about the need to “institute” (educate) the children of Montaigne and Erasmus, and the idea about the need to “teach” (instruct in) everything to everyone of Comenius. These are two novel ideas for the time that, however, have their origin in ancient practices (Greek and Christian paideia): from the first of them comes the modern concept of education, from the second, that of teaching.

Following this path of analysis, the process of governmentalization or the creation of a disciplinary society would mark the beginning of the “educational turn” (modernity) that can be read at the same time, as the process of educationalization of the world. Unlike Tröhler, it is not about languages but about discourses (in the sense of Foucault): the educational turn is understood as the appearance of a pedagogical discourse that is expressed, initially, in two concepts (institutio and eruditio) (Noguera, 2011, 2012) that, although formulated in Latin, are independent of the language and nationality of their “authors.” Later, towards the seventeenth century, the ideas of Montaigne and Erasmus about the “institution” of noble children will be systematized by Locke in the concept of education that develops in his book Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) and in the mid-eighteenth century, Rousseau, in his Émile ou de l'éducation (1762), will redefine it under the orbit of a new form of government (liberal) where the agency's capacity of the subject and the control of the surroundings (and no longer the discipline) occupy the main place.

In all these authors there is the idea that, given its nature, the human being must achieve virtue and for this requires education (institution). Montaigne, perhaps the first to use the expression “education” in a vernacular language, opposes it to “pedantry” or false “erudition” promoted by the school teachers of his time. The institution (education) must be oriented towards virtue and wisdom against erudition, so that a well-educate head is preferable to a full one. Erasmus believes that the “institution” is more effective than nature, that is, since nature did not provide men with the right tools to live, they need the education through which they can learn “all disciplines”: “The less suitable each animal is for the disciplines, the better equipped it is with congenital dexterity” (Erasmus, 1956, p. 923); or, in other words, “Eficaz res est natura, sed hanc uincit efficacic or institutio [nature is effective, but institution education effectively exceeds it]” (Erasmus, 1529, p. 8). In the following century, Locke (1986, p. 131), in his thoughts on education, considers that the preceptor's job is “to mold behavior and educate the spirit, establish in his disciple good habits, the principles of virtue and wisdom” rather than making of the young gentleman a perfect scholar. For that reason, he left the subject of “instruction” in the last place of his book: “Instruction is necessary but should only be placed secondly, as a means of acquiring higher qualities” (p. 208). Several decades later, Rousseau, starting with Locke's work, moves in a new direction on the basis of the liberal principle of government: govern less to govern, a principle that translated into education is explained as follows: “In the most careful educations , the teacher commands and believes to lead: in reality it is the child who directs [...] Take an opposite path with your student; may he always believe he is the teacher, and may you always be. There is no submission as perfect as the one that preserves the appearance of freedom; in this way the will itself is captivated […] Undoubtedly it should not do more than it wants, but it must only want what you want it to do” (Rousseau, 1990, p. 181-182).

For its part, erudition is placed at the center of Comenius's concerns to the extent that man, in order to achieve his status as a creature made in the image and divine likeness, must become a rational being, which means using reason to know the things of the world that the creator has arranged for his enjoyment. Although a religious connotation is evident in this idea, it is also evident that it is an “anthropological” argument. It means that the need for “erudition” (that is, the need to know all the things in the world) and with it the need for teaching, is part of human nature: “We see then that all who are born to man's estate have need of instruction, since it is necessary that, being men, they should not be wild beasts, savage brutes, or inert logs” (Comenius, [1657] 1907, p. 56). Unlike Montaigne, Erasmus and Locke-concerned with the education of the nobles- the need for scholarship and teaching is for everyone, without exclusion, but not for a democratic issue, but, as we have seen, for an anthropological reason. At the beginning of the 19th century, F. Herbart, with his idea of Allgemeine Pädagogik (General Pedagogy), tried to link education and teaching in his formula “educational teaching” which means that, to be such, education must educate (not just instruct) and that there could not be true education without instruction.

Is it the end of “educationalization”?

Thus, the educationalization of the world began in the 16th century, but it had its greatest impulse with Comenius and its campaign of a universal “education”-pampaedeia-, an unprecedented project in the history of humanity that constituted the true “educational turn”, a “turn towards something bigger”5: the emendatio mundi, the improvement of the world that means “improvement of humanity en masse” (Sloterdijk, 2012, p. 42). If until then the metanoetic imperative (of conversion, of transformation from an exercising life) was a matter of aristocratic and monastic elites, the Comenius project consisted of the extension of asceticism, of exercising, through discipline and the study, to all mankind, without exception. Such a project is described by Sloterdijk as “the most powerful idea, due to its effects, of the last five hundred years” (2012, p. 441). In his Via Lucis, Comenius considered the world as the “disciplinary house”, “The world is composed, in its entirety, by a group of teachers, students and disciplines. For everything in the world or teaches or learns or does, alternatively, both things” (cited by Sloterdijk, 2012, p. 446). Is not this the idea of “educationalization of the world”?

Using Foucault and Sloterdijk, we have read the emergence of modern education (in its conceptual and practical dimension) as the beginning of a process of educationalization of the world that has led, not only to the school being today a globally accepted and valued institution, but that the education of all has been constituted, during the twentieth century, as a fundamental issue in the world political and economic order. From this perspective it is evident that the so-called modernity corresponds to that process of educationalization (or governmentalization), which means that it is necessary to reinterpret the place of school in the historiographic and sociological discourses that have considered it as an effect of modernization. It should be said, rather, that it has been the educationalization of the world that has meant its “modernization.” But beyond this necessary revision, what is at stake is the analysis of the meaning of an educationalized world, or said in Foucauldian terms, the analysis of the current forms of government of each and every one, since such educationalization implied the establishment (over four centuries) of disciplinary, liberal and neoliberal forms of government of individuals and populations.

Phenomena such as contemporary “narcissism”, described by Lipovetsky in the L'ère du vide (2000), or the liquefaction of modernity, pointed out by Bauman (2004), or the risk society, studied by Beck (2002) cannot be understood without taking into account the long process of educationalization of the world initiated with the humanists of the Renaissance and expanded with the nation-states since the nineteenth century. Evidently, it is a phenomenon of long duration that begins to be explored today with studies such as those we have analyzed in this text. However, we could have exceeded the peak of educationalization; this may not be the moment of its greatest boom; perhaps we are on the edge of a new turn, not the “educational turn” but, perhaps, the “turn of learning.” If we attend to what some colleagues have been announcing in the last decade with expressions such as the contemporary “learning device” (Simons; Masschelein, 2013), the “disappearance of the teaching and the teacher” (Biesta, 2016), “a ‘world without adults’” (Narodowski, 2016), or in terms of a Nobel Prize in economics, the birth of “the learning society” (Stiglitz; Greenwald, 2014) or a sociologist “the character corrosion” (Sennett, 2010). Perhaps, given these new evidences that these authors show and analyze, we have to accept that we are abandoning the educationalized world and we are entering the world of learning that would be the world of “post-education”, since from the previous studies, it is clear that education is not the same as learning.

The educationalized world was a world with adults (parents, teachers, authority) and a place of exercising guided towards the development of certain ways of being and doing based on traditions. On the contrary, the world of learning, the learning society, the “learnificated” world (Biesta, 2016), “the burnout society (Han, 2016) is a world of entrepreneurial individuals, entrepreneurs of themselves, but also, of distressed and depressed (Sennett, 2010), self-exploited and hyperactive (Han, 2016); individuals who are neither infants nor adults (Postman, 1999; Narodowski, 1999, 2016) and where “nobody educates anyone” (Rocha, 2017), but we must all learn permanently, throughout life.


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1English version by Andrés Felipe Micán Castiblanco. E-mail: This article is part of the research progress “On contemporary education: pedagogy, philosophy and anthropology”, financed by the Centro de investigaciones - CIUP from Universidad Pedagógica Nacional (DSI-463-18), Bogotá, Colombia. Extratis of this text were present as oral presentations in the XIII Congreso Iberoamericano de Historia de la Educación Latinoamericana, Montevideo, 2018.

2On the concept of pedagogical practice that serves as a support for this analysis, see Marín-Díaz and Noguera-Ramírez (2017a, 2017b).

3This theme has been developed in previous academic papers, mainly the following: Noguera (2015, 2017); Noguera y Parra (2015); Marín-Díaz (2017); Noguera-Ramírez and Marín-Díaz (2015).

4The provenance and emergency concepts that support this analysis and that guide the investigations from which it arises are used following the archaeological and genealogical perspective of M. Foucault. Analyzing the provenance of a determined practical set implies “finding under the unique aspect of a character, or a concept, the proliferation of events through which (thanks to which, against which) they have been formed. [...] is to perceive accidents, minor deviations—or, on the contrary, complete returns—, errors, appreciation failures, bad calculations that have produced what exists and is valid for us; it is to discover that at the root of what we know and what we are, there is absolutely no truth or being, but the exteriority of the accident (Foucault, 1992, p. 13). For its part, the emergency refers to the “staging of the forces; it is their irruption, the blow movement by which they jump from the backstage to the theater, each with the vigor and youth that is their own. […] The emergency designates a place of confrontation; [...] a non-place, a pure distance [...]. Nobody is therefore responsible for an emergency, no one can boast; this always occurs in the interstitium” (p. 16).

5In his text, Prodromus pansophiae Comenius states that “the time has really come both to wait and to try something bigger” which is precisely the improvement of humanity through “universal education.” (Cited by Sloterdijk, 2012, p. 401).

Received: September 10, 2019; Accepted: November 20, 2019

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