Ted Fleming


As higher education faces challenges to adapt to changing social, political, and labour-force contexts this is an opportune time to examine these influences. Demands come from the economy, mediated by the neo-liberal state, to reform, attend to the interests of the job market, become less dependent on the state and have more inclusive access policies. The language and values of the economy insert themselves into the discourse, management and pedagogic practices of the university. The ideas of Jürgen Habermas are useful for understanding this dynamic and for plotting a way forward. His ideas on the relationship between the state, economy and civil society are utilised, as are his ideas on colonisation of the lifeworld, the demise of the public sphere and his ‘Theory of Communicative Action’. This paper moves towards rethinking the aims of higher education as a community of rational and democratic discourses within which democracy is learned and practised. It redefines democracy (and higher education) as a learning society.