Thinking about the nature and role of authority in democratic education with Rousseau's Emile

Educational Theory 62 (3):287-304 (2012)
Abstract
Educational authority is an issue in contemporary democracies. Surprisingly, little attention has been given to the problem of authority in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Emile and his work has not been addressed in the contemporary debate on the issue of authority in democratic education. Olivier Michaud's goals are, first, to address both of these oversights by offering an original reading of the problem of authority in Emile and then to rehabilitate the notion of “educational authority” for democratic educators today. Contrary to progressive readings of Emile, he argues, Rousseau's position on this issue is not reducible to “education against authority.” What appears at first glance to be an education against authority is, in a deeper sense, an education toward and even within authority. Michaud contends that we have to embrace these complexities and contradictions that inform Rousseau's work in order to gain insights into the place and role of authority in democratic education. Michaud sheds light on Rousseau's stance on authority through a close study of specific topics addressed in Emile, including negative education, opinion, one's relation to God, friendship and loving relationships, and, finally, the relation Rousseau established with his reader
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