Original Research - Special Collection: New Landscapes in Identity

Rethinking Bildung in the Anthropocene: The Case of Wolfgang Klafki

Ole A. Kvamme
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 3 | a6807 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i3.6807 | © 2021 Ole A. Kvamme | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 May 2021 | Published: 27 August 2021

About the author(s)

Ole A. Kvamme, Department of Teacher Education and School Research, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway


In this article, I discuss education in a time in the history when the human impact on Earth is massive and pervasive, with devastating consequences on the conditions for life. Within various academic fields, this era is increasingly distinguished as the Anthropocene. The term highlights the new, dominant position of the human species in Earth’s history, but is contentious, hiding as much as it reveals. Humanity is surely not one, but many, participating in a complex web of relations constituted by other species and the material world. Moreover, the Anthropocene is also a time of global corporate capitalism, when the magnitude and the consequences of human activities are unequally distributed among humans and more-than humans alike. The ethical and political dimensions involved in this determine the reflections in this article. Specifically, I examine Wolfgang Klafki’s educational theory as an expression of and a response to the Anthropocene. Klafki is a salient contributor to the rethinking of North European general didactics in the 20th century, in which Bildung, formations of the self, plays a key role. In Klafki’s later works, epochal key problems are integrated in his concept of Bildung, addressing environmental crisis, social inequity, and threats to peace on Earth, in a global outlook that transcends Bildung’s traditionally national scope. At the same time, Klafki’s educational response expresses an anthropocentric outlook, which calls for rethinking. In such a rethinking I suggest to see the mediating element of the common, crucial in Klafki’s Bildung theory, not as limited to human interests but as including concerns for life on Earth, and to conceive of historical situatedness as an aspect of the commonality of Bildung.


Bildung; the Anthropocene; globalisation; educational theory; general didactics; Klafki; environmental problems; critical theory; ideology critique


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Crossref Citations

1. Monitoring SDG 4.7: Assessing Education for Sustainable Development in policies, curricula, training of educators and student assessment (input‐indicator)
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doi: 10.1002/sd.2865