Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Fejes, A. & Dahlstedt, M. (2014) The confessing society: Foucault, confession and practices of lifelong learning. London: Routledge. Paperback version. Originally published in 2012

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“I highly appreciate the quality of Fejes’ and Dahlstedt’s research and writing. They manage to present in a comprehensible way some essential concepts of Foucault that help us to understand better what practices of lifelong learning, in a broad sense, are emerging nowadays in advanced liberal societies. In doing so, they contribute to the renewal of critical thinking in education. They convince me that such renewal is important and necessary… and I think both theoreticians and practitioners of lifelong learning will equally recognize and value this analysis, particularly also, because they present a good mix of theory and practice.” -Professor Danny Wildemeersch

Today, people are constantly encouraged to verbalise and disclose their “true” inner self to others, whether on TV shows, in newspapers, in family life or together with friends. Such encouragement to disclose the self has proliferated through discourses on lifelong learning through which each citizen is encouraged to become a constant learner. The Confessing Society takes a critical stance towards the modern relentless will to disclose the self and argues that society has become a confessing society. Drawing on Foucault’s later work on confession and governmentality, this bookcarefully analyses how confession operates within practices of lifelong learning as a way to shape activated and responsible citizens and provides examples of how it might be possible to traverse the confessional truth of the present time. Chapters include:

  • Reflection and Reflective Practices
  • Deliberation and Therapeutic Intervention
  • Lifelong Guidance
  • Medialised Parenting

This controversial book is international in its scope and pursues current debates regarding trans-national policy and to research discussions on education, lifelong learning and governance, and it will provoke lively debate amongst educational practitioners, academics, postgraduate and research students in education and lifelong learning in Europe, North America and Australasia.

Stephen Brookfield, Review of: The Confessing Society: Foucault, Confession and Practices of Lifelong Learning, Studies in the education of adults, 2013, 45(1), 105-107

In the terms in which it sets for itself – explicating a technology of confessional practices embedded in lifelong learning – the book is undoubtedly successful. Fejes and Dahlstedt deal with provocative and complex ideas and render them accessible, often by providing apposite examples. This is no mean feat. Foucault is opaque at times, maddeningly contradictory at others, and, as I know from asking students to read him, he can be intimidating. The Confessing Society is an excellent introduction to one major strand of Foucault’s thinking, and its practicality and clarity will be appreciated…Adult education students, and practitioners in the field, would benefit enormously from reading such a clear exposition of Foucault’s ideas, and I shall certainly be using it in my own postgraduate seminars.

Danny Wildemeersch, ‘Review’ International journal of lifelong education, 2014, forthcoming
The readers of this book review probably have by now noticed that I highly appreciate the quality of Fejes’ and Dahlstedt’s research and writing. They manage to present in a comprehensible way some essential concepts of Foucault that help us to understand better what practices of lifelong learning, in a broad sense, are emerging nowadays in advanced liberal societies. In doing so, they contribute to the renewal of critical thinking in education. They convince me that such renewal is important and necessary, since the older forms of critical thinking in the tradition of the Frankfurt school do no longer address well enough the transformations that have taken place in neo-liberal societies in the past decades….I think both theoreticians and practitioners of lifelong learning will equally recognize and value this analysis, particularly also, because they present a good mix of theory and practice.

Liselott Aarsand, ‘Review’ European Journal for Research on the Education and learning of Adults, Pre-published

I really enjoyed the book. It is definitely a timely contribution to the field of adult learning and education. First, the analysis of various lifelong learning practices through the lens of confession is compelling. Second, the use of different empirical material promoting multiple rather than uniform readings is inspiring. Third, the emerging picture of how learning has become a vital part of the various examined sites is valuable. Fourth, the finding of how several practices, spread from formal to informal, in fact seem to consolidate what appears to be a hegemonic, unquestionable truth is important…Indeed, the critical ambition is also addressed and hopefully encourages educators, counsellors and other professional groups to pursue further discussions on how to stage lifelong learning…I recommend it – not just for readers concerned with lifelong learning, but also anyone interested in critical analysis of adult everyday practices.

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