Issue n° 35

Opening, Myriam Revault d’Allones (École pratique des hautes études)

Moral chronicle : Entre les murs: what does it tell us about young people?, Annie Lechenet (IUFM of Lyon)

The film Entre les murs purports to reflect the ordinary life of a class in a lower secondary school in the suburbs of Paris. The authors’ intentions are not without a certain ambiguity and mix fictional narrative with techniques of documentary. The article analyses the contradictions of the effect of the portrayal of real file in the film and its consequences for the response to the movie, the debates that it has given rise to and underlines the fashionable impasse: when verbal sparring is represented as ‘dialogue’, is a true pedagogy possible?

Notion : Charisma: between magic and communication, Agnès Rivolier (Saint-Étienne University)

Charisma is represented by Weber as a form of political domination founded on the sacred, exemplary or magical character of obedience or submission to a leader and it assumes a system of beliefs in the legitimacy of his or her authority. Before Weber, G. Le Bon analysed the characteristics of leaders in the phenomenon of crowds, their power of suggestion, indeed of fascination. According to Bourdieu charisma developed within institutional voids; in a circular fashion it is accepted by a community that itself has prompted its recognition or mandate by proxy. Thus in its modern form, rhetorical force, the power of the image or mastery of techniques of communication would become its essential springs.

Report: Education and Authority

Presentation, Philippe Foray and Roland Reichenbach

Authority and pedagogy, Friedhelm Brüggen (Münster University)

Pedagogic tradition has never seriously called authority into question. But since the birth of pedagogy as an independent theory and as a science in the eighteenth century, it has always evolved a limited concept of authority, a concept that has sought to link a progressive lessening of authority and an increase in participation and collaboration. It is clear subsequently that pedagogic authority is not a private phenomenon but reflects public space and public life. And it is precisely this perception that also shows that authority certainly excludes domination and force, but at the same time, it cannot be conceived without power. Neither a sociological nor a political interpretation of power can satisfactorily illuminate this relationship. Consideration of the contemporary situation shows that the abstract idea of authority is rejected but that in concrete circumstances it cannot be denied.

Authority in education, Anne-Marie Drouin-Hans (University of Bourgogne)

The issue of authority poses crucial questions on the meaning of education. It finds expression as an action on the person being educated and is made up a dissymmetry. It works toward its own disappearance, allowing for a possibility of resistance and therefore it does not stifle freedom. This gives the original meaning of authority as that which authorises and makes possible. The problem of an acceptable hierarchy remains and this can be conceived in different styles, for example, either in the manner of Hannah Arendt or of Louis Dumont. Authoritarianism appears to be the greatest enemy of authority. It also seems that the dissymmetry is most fruitful when it is reversible or when the teacher becomes superfluous to the learner.

What philosophy of authority is appropriate for today?, Roger Monjo (Montpellier III University)

French philosophy has got to grips with the question of authority and has adopted radical positions in its regard, affirming either the ‘end of authority’ or else its reconstruction. Phenomenological or hermeneutic investigations highlight various aspects of situations, in particular educative ones, where authority is relevant. By contrast philosophical thought discloses a certain unilateral quality. In respect of the confusing and contradictory consequences reached by the philosophical attempts outlined in this article, it clearly appears that any future philosophical project must neither abandon nor affirm authority but rather take up anew the presuppositions of a conception of authority.

Three forms of authority in education, Philippe Foray (Saint-Étienne University)

This contribution distinguishes three concepts of authority relevant in the educational context: i) teaching authority as a means of conducting a class; ii) legal authority conferred on a teacher by the community, and iii) authority linked to a role in cultural transmission. This study does not neglect the questioning of authority in the second half of the twentieth century. On the contrary, it makes uses of this opportunity to emphasise the possible contingent dimension of teaching authority. Above all, it draws on the questioning of authority in the light of modern individualism to ask in what sense authority should be a continuing feature of educational practice.

Disguised domination – gentle submission: remarks on subtle forms of authority within education, Roland Reichenbach (Basel University)

Relationships of authority are relationships of recognition and in most cases recognised authorities can dispense with an authoritarian attitude since they can claim ‘obedience’ in matters of conduct and ‘belief’ in matters of knowledge. But the relevant acts of recognition are fragile, in particular in the domain of teaching; in an environment influenced by a ‘democratic ethos’, subtle tactics of adaptation can be employed by the participants. These acts are ‘subtle’ because the distinction between positions structurally higher and positions structurally lower do not necessarily coincide with the differentiation between positions of power and those without power. (The reflects the asymmetry to be found in teaching.) The person who holds power over others does not need in principle to have recourse to force or violence; but in conditions of moral symmetry (reciprocal recognition), he or she must succeed in hiding strategies of domination behind forms of communication and language acts in such a way that they make acceptable the more or less visible acts of submission of those who have to conform to authority.

Authority within education and the crisis for learning in schools, Denis Kambouchner (Paris I University)

This article studies the relationship between the ‘critical’ situation in which the notion of authority finds itself in the educational context and the collective expressions of knowledge, cultural norms as well as the ‘prize’ for assimilating them and the value that is attached to them. The clearest signs of the crisis of authority in education is to be found at second level where teacher have to confront on a daily basis indifference, lack of respect and aggressive attitudes on the part of pupils. This article asks the central question of how and under what conditions in our societies, generally accepted intellectual and cultural norms, without which the process of educating cannot be maintained, can be reinforced and held as legitimate within educational institutions especially at second level.

Authority: a return to sources, Marc Derycke (Saint-Étienne University) and François Dutrait (Toulouse Le Mirail University)

What should be understood by the term authority? To deal with this question we shall return to the sources that are common to our culture in a broad sense. It is necessary to explore the concept in its origin in Indo-European etymology and we shall examine in the light of E. Benvéniste’s analysis of the cluster of terms that are associated with authority. This will be followed by an examination of the notion of authority coming from Latin after its emergence in Roman society under Augustus as is claimed by G. Agamben. Then we shall investigate the anthropologies of Freud and Lacan in their identification of the seat of authority in ideals of the person. Finally we shall return to sources with the tragedy of Sophocles by way of a short reference to A. Kojève and to H. Arendt in order to show that the root of this conception was well established in what existed in Rome. This return to sources will allow us to distinguish features of the term today often wrongly associated, even incorporated into, the concept of authority, notably that of power.