By Julian Culp

Lyotard defines being postmodern as an ‘incredulity toward metanarratives’. Such incredulity includes, in particular, skepticism vis-à-vis Enlightenment ideals like autonomy. Motivated by such skepticism, several educational scholars put into question education for autonomy as it is practiced in the formal settings of national school systems. More specifically, they criticize that practices of autonomy education can have certain normalizing and ideological effects that undermine the aim of creating autonomous subjects. This article examines these critiques of education for autonomy and argues that they are best understood as calls for reforming educational practices, and not as outright rejections of education for autonomy. Thus, since the allegedly ‘postmodern’ critiques of autonomy education cannot be plausibly understood as radical ruptures with Enlightenment ideals, the article concludes that these critiques represent (merely) constructive self-critical reflections on what Habermas dubbed the ‘unfinished project of modernity’.



Online available: