Changing the world, one word at a time: The struggles of higher education and communicative action in a capitalist world

  • Sergio Calderón Harker
Keywords: Wittgenstein, Habermas, communicative action, Holloway, anti-capitalism, language-games


Debates within critical educational theory and its relation to capitalism have often been heavily influenced by the tradition of critical social theory. For instance, Jurgen Habermas’ communicative action approach has proven to be a valuable theory that combines both analytical considerations regarding the conflict between the ‘lifeworld’ and ‘system’, and a decisively normative theory for deliberative and democratic discourse. However, Habermas’ communicative action does not go without problems, as a critical linguistic approach may prove. As such, in this paper I attempt to analyse the issues of communicative action in the context of anti-capitalist discourse and debate within and about higher education. To do this, I first outline Habermas’ and Fleming’s theories on the colonization of higher education, followed by a critique by means of Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language. As such, I attempt to argue that, in order to decolonize higher education from the ‘logic of capital’, we must reflect upon the language-games used when speaking about education.