In the everyday and customary repetitions/reiterations of embodied practices it would be very easy to begin this brief paper concerned with opening space for philosophical discourse in mainstream educational/ social research with expressions of what has been done by a small groups of colleagues in the UK and Australia in setting up an international network concerned with opening further debate about practice-based research 1. But, in our repetitions/reiterations of practices is it possible to make sense any such practices without the mediation of that ‘Empire of Signs’ 2 disseminated from ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’ 3 and many other ancient sources around the globe? In raising such a question philosophical discourse opens space for a style of writing and associated thinking that in some ways challenge the very grammars of much existing practice.

Customarily, for example, dominant forms of practice in research 4 have always maintained a separation between the virtues of truth and justice; truth claims to the reproduction of knowledge remain the province of institutions of thought, while justice would appear to endure as the first virtue of social institutions. But, in schematic terms, in the context of the institutions of capitalism/technology on one side of research, and political-economic apparatuses of security, including health, welfare and education, on the other, Kevin Flint has begun to open debate on the possibility of aligning such virtues in a reconceived event of research 5. In so doing and in drawing from Jacques Derrida’s and Martin Heidegger’s philosophies, Flint’s6 writings open critical reflection on the language of research giving expression to the reproduction of knowledge claims located in the present. Ironically, in accord with a canonical or a communitarian ethic of research the logic of this system currently reduces the body to a standing reserve of energy and possibilities that are available for use within the dominant global system of capitalism7. In being aligned with moves towards justice, however, through deconstruction, the event of research opens space for the possibility of understanding more about the temporal dimensions of existence – the complex interplay of the unknowable future, what has been, and the present. In a nutshell, this reconceived event of research opens space for understanding more about knowledge reproduction and its effects upon us, in our multifarious practices as human beings.

Approached in this way, the practice of research incorporating new philosophical discourse opens space 8 for rethinking its complex relationship with education 9, citizenship and democratic practice 10, and so challenging, rather than continually being in danger of reproducing, various forms of oppression within the global capitalist system 11.

At issue is not knowledge reproduction from social/educational research, but the complex inter-relationship of such research with discourses of philosophy and our everyday practices as human beings. Approached in this way, philosophical discourse in the papers that follow over the next 18 months will be employed in opening space for the reproduction and rethinking of a possible new language for human beings, rather than narrowly focused solely upon customary concerns about truth claims to knowledge in research. The approach used is predicated on the assumption that our essential home in this world is language.

The approach to the use of philosophical discourse in research also raises questions about the education cultivated in this process, and just how such education shapes our existence. As the novelist and neo-Marxist critic, Raymond Williams 12, once observed in walking into a railway station, a shopping arcade and so on, in our everyday practices we become educated in some way by the experience – he called it ‘permanent education’. At issue is not a form of education that is bounded in some way by the current ‘apparatus of education’13, but forms of education cultivated from, and variously shaping a multiplicity of institutional practices 14. Consequently, the complex inter-relationship of research, practice and education will be the subject of the next paper in this series. In the context of the dominant global capitalist system and forms of neoliberal discourse, there also remains the question of its complex inter-relationship with discourses of philosophy, research, education. This will constitute the third paper that will follow in the next few months. At issue here are philosophical questions concerned with the cultivation of democratic practices and citizenship in our ‘late modernn’15 societies. Until now, it would seem, most commentators have delimited their focus upon questions concerned with the possible organization of democratic practices, whereas this coming paper will move towards the deconstruction of such practices in the light of educational practices in societies around the globe that are variously shaping and delimiting democratic process.

What follows from these early papers are moves towards social justice from the cultivation of authentic education in philosophical readings of the powers of language in practice. Such moves already exist in much social/educational research, but their effects upon the individual/collective body are always in danger of being dissipated and lost 16.

Until this point, the foregoing discourse has been concerned only with the knowledge economy. But, recent work by Paul Mason 17, concerned with the ‘information economy’, involving many international social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and so on, also opens other vital spaces for human existence and philosophical concerns regarding moves towards social justice.

In these circumstances ‘the self’ is located in a complex and uncertain world; its very existence on this planet depends upon opening space for an entrepreneurial practice that is no longer confined to outmoded market place economies or, indeed, contemporaneous information economies. At issue remains the contribution of the philosophical discourse on this matter. Forms of writing, literature, narration, poesy and so on, also open more space for moves towards education for social justice in research. But, in the context of the complexity of practice in its structuring the final papers in this series will be concerned with philosophical and deconstructive readings of the process of writing and of ‘complexity’ in social practice 18.


  1. The ‘International Association for Practice Doctorates’, IAPD [] was first set up following a conference in London in 2009.
  2. Barthes, R. [2005] Empire of Signs, Waterlooville, UK: Anchor Books.
  3. Derrida, J. [1981] Dissemination, trans. Johnson, B. London: Athlone Press
  4. Flint, K.J. [2015a] Rethinking Practice, Research and Education: A philosophical inquiry, London and New York: Bloomsbury: 123-204
  5. Flint, K.J. [2015b] ‘Where’s the justice in research’ [2015 c] The ‘Social Justice Turn’ in Qualitative Research: Capitalism, technology and the sublime powers of the ‘is’. [2015d, i]: ‘Education for Social Justice in the knowledge economy: Towards a visualization of the myriad understandings of moves towards social justice in the event of research’, paper in preparation. [2015d, ii]: ‘Education for Social Justice in the Information Economy: Towards a visualization of the myriad understandings of moves towards social justice in the event of information’, paper in preparation.
  6. Flint, K.J. [2015a: 123-268]
  7. Flint, K. J. and Peim, N. [2012] Rethinking the Education Improvement Agenda, London and New York: Continuum.
  8. For Henri Lefebvre space is not an empty vessel, we variously produce it and in turn it shapes our existence in various ways.
  9. Flint, K.J. [in preparation, paper iv] Education for Social Justice: An exploration of moves towards social justice cultivated in the complex inter-relationship of the economies of capitalism, technology and research.
  10. Flint, K.J. [in preparation, paper v]: Opening horizons for social justice: a brief and critical examination of the forces cultivating democracy in the complex inter-relationship of capitalism with technology and research; Giroux, H.A. (2015) Dangerous Thinking in the age of the new authoritarianism, Boulder, CA and London: Paradigm Publishers. (2014a) Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education, Chicago, Illinois: Haymarket Books. (2014b) The Violence of Organized Forgetting: Thinking Beyond America’s Disimagination Machine, San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books. (2014c) Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education, Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books. (2008) Against the Terror of Neoliberalism: Politics Beyond the Age of Greed, Boulder, CA and London: Paradigm Publishers.
  11. Wallerstein, I. [2001] Unthinking Social Science: The Limits of Nineteenth Century Paradigms, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
  12. Klein, N. (2000, 2010), London: Fourth Estate. (2007) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, London: Penguin. (2014) This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate, London: Penguin Mason, P. (2015) Postcapitalism: A guide to the future, UK, USA: Penguin Random House UK
  13. Williams, R. [1966] Communications, [Revised Edition] London: Chatto & Windus.
  14. Foucault, M. [1977] Discipline and Punish: The Birth of a Prison, trans. Sheridan, A., London: Penguin Books; Agamben, G. [2009]
  15. Flint, K. J. and Peim, N. [2012]; Flint, K.J. [2015a]
  16. Term borrowed from Anthony Giddens [1991]: Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Cambridge: Polity
  17. Flint, K.J. [2015a, b, c]
  18. Mason, P. [2015]
  19. Osberg, D. [2015] ‘Learning, Complexity and Emergent [Irreversible] Change’ in, Scott, D. and Hargreaves, [eds.] The Sage Handbook of Learning, London and Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage Publications: 23-40


Dr Kevin J Flint

Reader in Education

Nottingham Trent University

Mobile: 07531 754709


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