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Exploring the Historical Dimensions of Bildung and its Metamorphosis in the Context of Globalization

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In this article, I endeavor to explore the historical dimensions of Bildung by first focusing on the German linguist and philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt and his theory of Bildung. The article then addresses the transformation of Humboldt’s neo-humanistic ideal into a government-run institutionalized Bildung aimed at managing and controlling the citizens. This historical transformation of Bildung in the late Enlightenment paves the way for a concept of Bildung attached to neoliberal ideals, propagating principles of the free market such as efficiency, measurability, and self-entrepreneurship. Although neoliberal principles became so integral to today’s everyday practices that thinking outside the neoliberal box is nearly unthinkable, we can observe a metamorphosed kind of Bildung that goes beyond the neoliberal parameters. This new kind of Bildung is constituted by multimodal, ironic, playful, serious, critical, local, and transgressive forms of expression that are not to be found in textbooks or educational standards but on walls of cosmopolitan cities or diverse social networks. In this article I shall make the case that the conditions in today’s age of globalization offer alternative avenues for Bildung, which is inherently collaborative, interactive, and social, as once envisioned by Humboldt.


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