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Learning for life: ESD, ecopedagogy and the new spirit of capitalism

Rikard Hjorth Warlenius (2022)

Journal of Environmental Education, Online first

Abstract. More than a decade ago, critical ecopedagogue Richard Kahn expressed his fears and hopes regarding Education for sustainable development (ESD). He feared that ESD would be short lived and marginalized and would develop an instrumental pedagogy of one-sided transmission of knowledge, yet hoped for ESD to encompass three types of “ecoliteracies”: technical/functional, cultural and critical. After an assessment of current ESD, as reported by UNESCO, this paper concludes that his two first fears were unfounded, while his hopes regarding ESD’s pedagogical content were largely not met. To better understand the result, Luc Boltanski’s and Éve Chiapello’s analysis of “the new spirit of capitalism” is mobilized. According to it, current capitalism integrates “artistic critique” on e.g., lack of autonomy and creativity with greater ease than “social critique” with respect to e.g., poverty and inequality. This might explain what ecoliteracies that are integrated into ESD.

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