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Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal with Right-Wing Populism, Racism and Institutional Cruelization



How is education still possible at all after the insight into the Holocaust? Theodor W. Adorno asked himself this question in his essay “Education after Auschwitz.” The chapter raises this question against inhumane political attitudes toward recent refugee movements. Have decades of political education and peace education failed when racism and coldness towards people in need are again blatantly evident in European societies? Admitting the felt powerlessness of pedagogical technique, the article develops considerations on how " Education after Aleppo" can be thought of and conceived in a meaningful way.
Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal
with Right-Wing Populism, Racism
and Institutional Cruelization
“Germany is responding to Turkey’s threats to open borders for refugees with a tough
deportation plan. […] Austria –currently number 1 in the E. U.for deportations anyway
–is following suit.” (Oe24 2016)
“And when do they shovel out more than 1.5 million, when 2 thousand deport each
year and more than 300 thousand come in? I’ll crack those riddles right away. Never!”
(Ibid, blog comment)
“I also dare to say that all conspicuous people are Muslims, that must be allowed,
explains the State Police Director Andreas Pilsl.” (Kurier 2017a)
At the beginning of this chapter, there is a feeling of pedagogical powerlessness.
What can we do in the face of the stubbornness with which racism and violence
against vulnerable people assert themselves and spread despite so many pedagog-
ical concepts and efforts in the last decades? So this text could cue the violent
and deadly mistreatment of African-American citizens by the police in the USA
in early summer 2020 as the low bright light in the dark continuum of racism.
From a European perspective, it would be (too?) easy to point the finger at the
brutalization elsewhere. Thus, the focus of this chapter targets much less spectac-
ular incidents and attitudes in supposedly civilized Europe, the so-called cradle
of culture, democracy, social solidarity.
This image has become increasingly cracked, at least since 2015. We are
familiar with these events, even if they have become more ephemeral again:
the increasing number of migratory movements towards Europe, the images of
the 4000 children cut off in Aleppo at Christmas 2016 and exposed to the
risk of death, the drowning people in the Mediterranean and the rejection of
lifeboats in Italian ports, the cynical strategy of most European states to abandon
the refugee issue to the exposed southern countries and even to pay repressive
© The Author(s) 2023
H. K. Peterlini, Learning Diversity,
140 Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal with Right-Wing Populism
regimes for barracking refugees in humiliating conditions. Ultimately, the mul-
titude of harrowing news and comments lacks understanding and co-experience.
Even refugees from Afghanistan after the dramatic war development in 2021
found a cold refusal at Austria’s boundary.
The hostile stance of European refugee policy relies on a vulgarized public
discourse that conversely is nurtured and legitimized by a policy of harshness. In
the increasingly digital media world, consternation can be expressed with Likes
and Dislikes but remains lonely because it is only shared virtually. After all,
consternation is challenging to convey from afar, in which everyone can post
hate messages without feeling the hurt on the other side.
There is a dividing line between supposed facts and evaporated emotions, a
gap between concrete experience and communicative reproduction. It also sepa-
rates pedagogical thinking from concrete options for action. Educational science
faces pressing expectations to provide strategies, tools, methods, bags of tricks,
curricula about education for and mediation of peace and against the social dis-
location. Despite comprehending these demands, it is necessary and valuable to
clarify the objectives and possibilities for pedagogical action beforehand. What
requirements do xenophobia and racism take for the art of education in the per-
spective of peace research and peacebuilding? What can this science do, how
much does it promise, and how little does it keep? What should pedagogy and
even education for peace do in the first place if its efforts are counteracted by the
sheer cold-bloodedness from politics and media, legitimizing institutional racism
at a high level? What does it mean for the approach of learning based on the
model popular in peace education (cf. Jäger 2016, p. 25) when the model from
which people should learn is a politic of coldness? In Austria, i.e., a minister
prides himself on the refugee crisis that Austria is a “European Champion in
Deportation” (Kurier 2017b), and he will reduce the upper limit for asylum seek-
ers again by half, so to speak, to have set a new record of refusing to help? (ibid)
What kind of de-solidarization and brutalization of a society is based on the
“model” of a political leadership class if another minister “acts on deterrence” by
“rigorously intercepting refugees in the Mediterranean, then immediately sending
them back or interning them on islands like Lesbos” (APA 2016). The news that
an “apocalypse” is threatening Aleppo (Krone 2016), which already removes real
pain through the metaphor, promptly followed the subtitle with the cynical and
panic-raising question of whether “another million refugees” would come with
it. In the blog, the first entry read: “… no problem, but please no longer to Aus-
tria!!” (ibid) Against all resignations that may go hand in hand, the question is
asked: What can pedagogy do despite this if it sheds the illusion and removes
the allures of the feasibility of education and learning, and admits its weakness,
its impotence, to turn this into its actual strength?
The Everlasting Auschwitz as Challenge for Education 141
The Everlasting Auschwitz as Challenge for Education
This chapter tries to dialogue with Adorno’s essay “Education after Auschwitz”
(cf. Peterlini H.K. 2017a). Adorno wrote this fundamental article in 1966, about
25 years after the establishment of the Auschwitz concentration camp, nearly
20 years after the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust, seeking to
answer the question of how education can prevent this in the future (Adorno
1966/2010). As a tribute to Adorno’s epochal text, this chapter does not want
to compare current wars, extermination strategies, and racism with historical
Auschwitz. Still, it does refer to the everlasting Auschwitz that Adorno also had
in mind when he wrote:
“One speaks of the threat of a relapse into barbarism. But it is not a threat Auschwitz
was this relapse, and barbarism continues as long as the fundamental conditions
that favored that relapse continue largely unchanged. That is the whole horror. The
societal pressure still bears down, although the danger remains invisible nowadays. It
drives people toward the unspeakable, which culminated on a world-historical scale
in Auschwitz.” (Ibid, p. 2).
The level at which pedagogical science, then and now, is overwhelmingly chal-
lenged lies in the split between information and consciousness. It is the crucial
point for historical Auschwitz and shapes the current way of dealing with destruc-
tion and contempt for human beings, dehumanization, and cynicism. In “Dialectic
of Modernity” (Beilharz 2000), Zygmunt Bauman tried to explain the Holo-
caust, based on Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s “Dialectic of the Enlightenment”
(1944/2002), as a consequence of the enlightenment. The rationalizing and disci-
plining structures of order, work, and economization contributed to the division
between reality and consciousness in modern societies. In interaction with the
complex causes of the Holocaust, this division of consciousness represents the
enabling of the horror. How else should we explain the detailed planning, precise
organization, and consistent execution of mass murder by principally emotion-
ally capable humans? What made the genocide possible can make it viable again
at any time. It is not enough to know the bestiality of war elsewhere, not even
the cruelty to the neighbor next door if this is split off from conscious tracking
and experiencing. Knowledge, information, and instruction are essential but not
enough. The experience is needed that makes sensing possible and sustainable.
Here pedagogy faces the limit that makes one perplexed and yet represents its
fundamental task: How can people be moved, challenged, accompanied to feel
themselves so that the suffering of their fellow human beings does not bounce
off of them so indifferently? Is this even possible? Why is empathy moving
so many people and, in turn, so little or not so pronounced many others? What
142 Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal with Right-Wing Populism
allows the last one to entrench behind stereotypes in front of manifest misery and
perceive others only as stereotypes? What attitude can education adopt towards
those who unconsciously work in barbarism in the words of Adorno? They would
be the primary target group for education and training, but at the same time, they
seem unreachable because they imply pedagogical failure and are a source of
impotence. Beyond this level of the individuals, pedagogy has also to consider
the implications of social and political orders. Why do superordinate systems like
states, which ultimately emerge from human practice, act in warlike, exploitive,
and destructive ways?
The culminating increase or even new social admissibility of xenophobia in
everyday media and political discourses fundamentally challenges peace science
in all its disciplines, orientations, and ramifications. Working for peace requires
transdisciplinary approaches as a transgression of epistemic dividing lines and
decolonizing scientific dominance discourses. However, this does not free indi-
vidual sciences, including pedagogy, from responsibility in their field and within
their paradigms. From the perspective of cross-discipline peace and conflict
research, a complex analysis of social, political, socioeconomic, cultural condi-
tions, structures, and dynamics is required. For pedagogy, like any other science,
to get involved, it has to clarify its tasks and roles, its limits, and possibilities.
Everyday Racism on Train: Have We Learned Something?
In this chapter, answering this question attempts to determine how people and
social groups can learn sustainably, deal better, more peacefully, and more fairly
with one another. To do this, they have to learn to clear or even overcome enemy
images, put down patterns of defense and rejection, and structures of subjugation
and exploitation, to open up to convivial living together. Following the Balkan
wars after 1990, Alexander Langer adopted these thoughts in a policy aimed at
regional and national reconciliation interpretation of the conviviality concept by
Ivan Illich (1973) (cf. Langer 2015, Peterlini H.K. 2015).
A dilemma becomes apparent: There are well-proven models for the inter-and
transgenerational transmission of images of hostility, patterns of hatred, dynamics
of subordination, classification, and superiority through myths, traditions, rites
(cf. Assmann J. 2011), which in their adherence to closures plausibly explain
their durability. In contrast, the sustainability of learning that opens up or at
least stretches such patterns for relearning and further learning seems to be based
on a theoretically and praxeologically fragile basis. Such historical moments and
developments of transcending are evident in the historical review and present-day
Everyday Racism on Train: Have We Learned Something? 143
findings. Passing them as proven and preserving behaviors of the good life and
peaceful coexistence is exposed to permanent setbacks or relapses, as Adorno
would call them. According to Aleida Assmann (2015), making more fluid the
sedimented firmness of cultural memory may help to deconstruct traditional pat-
terns and roles but ultimately leaves open how they are then newly constructed,
designed more flexibly, or hardened again.
Conversation on a train en route from Austrian East Tyrol to the Italian South Tyrol:
an elderly couple from East Tyrol and an older woman from South Tyrol talk casually
of train conversations between strangers, brought together by the vacant seat. The
woman from South Tyrol says that the young people no longer want children in her
circle of acquaintances or, at most, one. Recently one of these young women said that
she would rather have a dog, “I told her, aha, then the dog will probably pay you the
pension she was quiet there, she didn’t say anything more.” Then, almost without
transition, she says that in her village, the locals are being sued out of the apartments
because they can no longer pay the rent on time. “And then they put the foreigners in
because the provincial government pays for them, so the money comes on time this is
how it works here in South Tyrol.” The man from East Tyrol interrupts her, “well, that’s
not only the case in South Tyrol, but it’s also exactly the same with us. The foreigners
get everything”. “Really, the woman from South Tyrol marvels, “my God, then we
will soon only have such people here, well, well.” The conversation falls silent, then
there is talk about illnesses and that the doctors only look at the computer when they
treat you. (Note, December 12, 2016).
On the Kufstein-Brenner route, from Austrian North Tyrol to Italian South Tyrol,
two young couples, one from Germany and one from Italy, came side-by-side. The two
women sit in the middle, and the men talk to each other across from them. The young
Italian man talks about the mafia in the area where he comes from, the German, who
speaks Italian somewhat, interrupts him: “La Mafia anche da noi, si chiama Merkel”
the Mafia is here with us, she is called Merkel, her foreign policy is a crime against
Germany, “sempre più nuove persone che non fanno bene” (more and more new people
who are not suitable for us). The two young men get into a more heated conversation.
The women were no longer safe, and the foreigners earned by drug trafficking. “The
mafia has something good there, says the young Italian, “it has the best method. If
the negretti [little negroes] trade drugs, then bang, and they come in the cement for
the shell. Yes, why use cement when you have the negretti.” The German laughs, the
Italian agrees. (Note, November 10, 2016).
Two generations, one growing up with the tragedies caused by National Social-
ism, the other beneficiary of post-war European peace, in which war is only
known by media. The racism of the elderly sounds vague. Just as you talk about
neighbors and youth nowadays who prefer to have a dog over a child, you also
speak about foreigners who get everything, while the “own people” go away
empty-handed. The racism of the younger generation is more pronounced, it
complains about the crimes of the mafia and places the German Chancellor at the
144 Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal with Right-Wing Populism
level of organized crime because of her refugee policy, and it praises the mafia
murders for executing unwanted henchmen in its own core business of drug traf-
ficking. Both generations speak openly on the train what years ago would have
been whispered ashamedly or only at a group gathering’s table, at a late hour, and
with a tongue loosened from alcohol. How far is it from such a speech, which
is omnipresent in social media, to the appropriate action? And what is the differ-
ence between “negretti” and the working term “Nafri” used by the German police
for North African young men? The splitting patterns between the good “We” and
the evil “Others” are evident. There is the general suspicion of foreigners that
they come to publicly sponsored apartments at the expense of the locals, while in
the same country, namely Italy, cheating the state by tax evasion is more than in
use. And there is the mobilization against sexual harassment by a single group,
the Nafris, while sexual assault and sexist behavior is taboo topic when it takes
place in local groups and families. Has there ever been a lesson learned in rec-
ognizing and overcoming racism? Or have we fallen back into that cruelly real
fiction of everyday fascism? The cabaret artist Qualtinger had condensed it in his
fictional figure of Herr Karl, which tells in a chatty tone that it was only meant
as fun when Jews had to clean the cobblestones with their toothbrushes. (Merz
and Qualtinger 1996).
Pedagogy Cannot Replace Politics, Yes, but then What Can?
For Adorno, the “premier demand upon all education is that Auschwitz should not
happen again” (Adorno 1966/2010, p. 2). As a key text of critical-emancipatory
educational science, his essay expresses the often overwhelming hope for aca-
demic strategies and educational measures, as well as the fear of their failure.
Education has to know its limits if it does not want to be fooled by the—con-
stantly flashing—successes or the—always threatening—losses. Niklas Luhmann
and Karl Eberhard Schorr (1982) described this in the language of systems theory
as a “technology deficit.” Phenomenology expresses it in a more friendly but no
less sobering way for every pedagogical feasibility belief: “When teaching, we
put the success of our actions in a foreign hand.” (Waldenfels 2009, p. 32) For
this insight that the linear implementation of pedagogical measures is ultimately
an illusion, Siegfried Bernfeld (1925/1973) had long before named three limits of
education in his “Sisyphus”: first and foremost, that social or societal limit that
deprives educational interventions of any monocausal certainty of results.
In his considerations of how education can prevent Auschwitz in the future,
Adorno also refers to this limit when he admits “that the recurrence or non-
recurrence of fascism in its decisive aspect is not a question of psychology, but
Pedagogy Cannot Replace Politics, Yes, but then What Can? 145
of society” (Adorno 1966/2010, p. 3). He speaks of the psychological, with which
Adorno meant the conversion of destructive unconsciousness into reflected con-
sciousness in the psychoanalytic sense “only because the other, more essential
aspects lie so far out of reach of the influence of education, if not the intervention
of individuals altogether” (ibid). In this way, pedagogy cannot replace politics,
as Franz Hamburger (2010) postulated concerning inequalities in the migrant
society. However, conversely, pedagogy must also become aware of its political
dimension and re-politicize by recognizing social, economic, patriarchal, struc-
tural patterns of violence in society and considering the pedagogical approach.
The fact that pedagogy cannot replace politics does not mean that pedagogical
action can leave politics in charge alone.
How then can we have an educational effect without waiting for the utopia
of social change or focusing exclusively on the field of political debate? Com-
pared to political debates and practices, the voice of pedagogy is usually weak
or manipulatively used in the service of more powerful discourses. In this sense,
Adorno’s reasoning has remained topical: Those who cannot change the social
structures that require individuals to suppress their desires—“a life of human dig-
nity” (Adorno 1966/2010, p. 7)—and mutilate their consciousness (ibid, p. 4),
have to start where Bernfeld has identified a further boundary of education:
namely with the child itself, more openly formulated with the object-subject of
education, which however is resistant to technical interventions that believe in
causality due to its different history, constitution, and plasticity.
Here we are in front of a pedagogical dilemma. On the one hand, the subject
itself is socialized and subdued to the social order (which would have to be
changed). On the other hand, it is “yes always the individual” in educational
thinking (Parin 1999, p. 170) with whom the dispute should occur. According to
such a claim, children, adolescents, and adults would have to be repaired to adapt
to social and political requirements.
Pedagogical action stands here in a field of tension between subject and world,
in which the educators themselves (in the broadest sense) are involved. The peda-
gogical impetus thus also comes up against that third limit, according to Bernfeld
(1925/1973). It represents the educators themselves because of their own previ-
ous experience (the child they were themselves) and socialization conditions.
No action is possible without self-referential intent if they do not exceed previ-
ous individual and socialization experiences in a reflected manner. Consequently,
educators’ encouragement to self-reflection and self-awareness would be the first
step for educational actions if they should have any pedagogically meaningful
146 Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal with Right-Wing Populism
The Problem of Wanting to Educate for the Good
But what does it mean to be pedagogically meaningful? Who decides what is
meaningful? Education to renounce violence seems like a logical answer. How-
ever, it’s not so easy. As a normative approach, it hides the conditions in which
violence arises, in which violence can be an outbreak of impotence, a response to
manifest or implicit violence (see, among others, Heitmeyer 1994) or, as in many
cases, military interventions as a prerequisite for peacebuilding (see Lakitsch and
Steiner 2015). From a skeptical pedagogical perspective, Heinrich Kupffer, as
explained in the chapters before, denies that education can be carried out for a
particular political model at all. Though education for peace is an even more
general value than education for democracy, and therefore a normative setting
can be plausibly represented, it could hide the pedagogically problematic design
of the new human, onto whom objects or subjects of education are trained. For
example, Montessori’s reform pedagogy, often cited as early approaches to peace
education (cf. Reitmair-Juárez 2016, p. 184; Pistolato 2016: 164), drafts unmis-
takably racial-biological and eugenic traits (cf. Hofer 2010). These are rarely or
only shamefully discussed in peace education and educational science in gen-
eral. The question of how pedagogy can contribute to promoting peace can be
answered more conclusively with John Dewey (1916/2009) and with transforma-
tive approaches according to Paulo Freire (cf. 2007). However, both approaches,
as different as they are, attribute learning to experience, which—with Dewey
through non-simulated, but rather a concrete action and real problem solving,
with Freire through dealing with one’s own life situation—is challenged, stim-
ulated, provoked, but cannot be controlled. Experiences happen; they can’t be
ordered pedagogically. And even if we initiate or incite experiences in performa-
tive settings, we have no control over how people live the provoked experience
and what they learn from it.
Education science with the normative claim to educate for the good is facing
the double fundamental problem of a discipline, which on the one hand should
contain manipulative access to the subject and on the other hand may initiate,
reflect and observe processes, but has no certainty of results. No matter how
good, every educational intention has to struggle with the dilemma “between
results orientation and the openness of results” (Frieters-Reermann 2016, p. 63).
Peace education can provide impulses, impart knowledge, circumscribe curricula,
try out interventions, practice attitudes and explore learning methods. However,
as in any educational or teaching process, the actors must be aware that they
cannot steer the result. This insight means to say goodbye to the idea of didactic
feasibility since all learning as experience (Meyer-Drawe 2003) may or may not
School can’t do it Alone, but it can’t be Left Alone Either 147
take place in its unique way only in the subject’s confrontation with the world and
people, their limiting conditions, and empowering potentials. Concerning studies
on environmental education (Kuckartz 1998), Fritz Reheis also notes that there is
hardly any direct influence on behavior from imparting environmental knowledge
for peace education (Reheis 2016, p. 34).
The openness of educational results is not due to the techniques of teaching. Del-
egating integration, peace education, peacebuilding, and learning peace to school
didactics and curricula alone is, on the one hand, equivalent to overwhelming
schools and, on the other hand, deflects responsibility for society as a whole.
Ivan Illich’s provocation that society needs de-schooling, as schools reinforce the
inequality structures at the expense of the already disadvantaged (Illich 2002),
has not lost its stimulating sting. Of course, there are ambivalences to take into
account. The school is a critical institution for integration and social inclusion
since it also selects but has a place for everyone anyway up to a certain age and,
despite selection mechanisms, still visibly represents heterogeneity. Through the
presence of others, schools contribute a little to their normalization (in the above-
discussed meaning). But there are limits: Trusting that curricula enable learning
about peace is naive as long as the school itself reflects social division and deval-
uation patterns and is incorporated into social, political, and state structures of
division and disadvantage. No lesson can make up for the inequality, discrimina-
tion, social ostracism, and degradation, forms of overt and subtle violence that
are overpowering outside of school, have an effect on school and at the same
time are produced and reproduced there (Peterlini H.K. 2016a, p. 52).
Accordingly, Adorno’s proposals for the upbringing and educational mea-
sures against the return of fascism go beyond school and nevertheless assign
responsibility. The suggestions are not without eager helplessness:
“I can envision a series of possibilities. One would be I am improvising that tele-
vision programs be planned with consideration of the nerve centers of this particular
state of consciousness. Then I could imagine that something like mobile educational
groups and convoys of volunteers could be formed, who would drive into the country-
side and in discussions, courses, and supplementary instruction attempt to fill the most
menacing gaps. I am not ignoring the fact that such people would make themselves
liked only with great difficulty. But then a small circle of followers would form around
them, and from there the educational program could perhaps spread further.” (Adorno
1966/2010, p. 4).
148 Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal with Right-Wing Populism
And finally: “All political instruction finally should be centered upon the idea that
Auschwitz should never happen again.” (Ibid, p. 8) Looking back on decades of
historical education about National Socialism, democracy, and peace-promoting
initiatives on many levels, in schools and the media, society, and associations,
the—at the time—subdued hope should now result in resignation. On the one
hand, while the individual is banned from aggression, everything that was also
a sign of return for Adorno continues to exist: the militarization and unbroken
threat to the world through armaments and nuclear weapons (ibid, p. 2), the new,
weaponized language of politics, which seems to have forgotten Auschwitz and
which prepares the destruction mentally and verbally. Under formulas such as
Frontex and border management, the governments’ reactions to the refugee move-
ments also serve as models for interpersonal boundaries and the social coldness
mentioned by Adorno (ibid, p. 1 f.). On the other hand, everything that has been
a breeding ground for barbarism for Adorno flourishes, partly in a new design
and spiced up in a performative way:
“One must fight against the type of folkways [Volkssitten], initiation rites of all shapes,
that inflict physical pain—often unbearable pain upon a person as the price that must
be paid in order to consider oneself a member, one of the collective. The evil of customs
such as the Rauhnächte and the Haberfeldtreiben1and whatever else such long-rooted
practices might be called is a direct anticipation of National Socialist acts of violence.It
is no coincidence that the Nazis glorified and cultivated such monstrosities in the name
of ‘customs.’Science here has one of its most relevant tasks. It could vigorously redirect
the tendencies of folk-studies [Volkskunde] that were enthusiastically appropriated
by the Nazis in order to prevent the survival, at once brutal and ghostly, of these
folk-pleasures.” (Ibid, p. 5).
Expelling Aggression not as a Solution, but as a Problem
Adornos criticism against rough traditions should be discussed further: In cus-
toms, psychoanalytical understanding shows the processing of instinctual needs,
which are probably only perverted due to repressive, socially enforced instinct
1Rauhnächte and Haberfeldtreiben are customs beyond the German-speaking countries. The
Rauhnächte usually extends over the whole Christmas Eve period. There are hauntings by
ghosts, diseases, and wild demons, depending on the local arrangement. In many cases, how-
ever, the custom lives on in the donation of incense in all living rooms, cellars, and even
stables to ask for blessings. The Haberfeldtreiben was often directed against people accused
of bad manners and degenerated lightly into a kind of tribunal without rights of defense for
the accused.
Expelling Aggression Not as a Solution, but as a Problem 149
suppression and acted out as violent behavior. The election success of parties
that brutally claim frowned upon social behavior and are thus successful despite
(or perhaps because of) indignation at an established discourselevel at least point
to such a connection. The election of Donald Trump as US President in 2016 and
his unholding popularity even after the lost election in 2019 showed that the vot-
ers did not punish him for sexist, racist, vulgar, crude gestures, but probably even
rewarded by certain strata of the electorate. The rude manner appealed to their
instincts and social frustration at being despised and oppressed by the so-called
educated class (Bildungsbürger). Right-wing populism attacks precisely those val-
ues that required arduous intellectual debate—women’s equality and rights, the
racist taboo, the inclusion of the disabled, homosexual rights, and the liberal
arts. The same can be seen in Italy in the right-wing populist Matteo Salvini
and his Lega. They scored points in the 2018 election campaign and after his
(short) entry into the Italian government with racist and inhuman statements and
behavior. Despite embarrassing political missteps that catapulted him out of the
government in 2019, he lost very little of his popularity.
Since the enlightenment has forced individual and social processes to rational-
ize, pedagogy has to question its relationship to instinct, aggression, emotionality,
and even irrationality. Discipline and socialization in the sense of politically cor-
rect and socially acceptable behavior occur at the price of suppressing primal
needs, which react gratefully to valves as soon as they are available. Likewise,
the high level of violence in the everyday entertainment program is an indication
that violence in the modern age may have been taboo and largely monopolized in
state organs, but instead suppressed and split off than integrated and sublimated.
This is only possible if people find design options in their lives and the living
environment that values their vitality and creativity and does not suppress them.
The Latin origin of the word aggression—agredere—bears traces of con-
sequential meanings, namely self-asserting, phallic, covetous participation. A
society that collectively defies aggression but exclusively reserves it—in the
above sense— for privileged groups (men more than women, economically
favored people more than the disadvantaged, influential people more than poor)
should not be surprised if the repressed comes back grim-like.
As also discussed by Adorno elsewhere (1966/2010, p. 5, 8), Pedagogy is
thrown back on the usually quickly repressed question of how to handle libidi-
nal, emotional, and physical needs. They should not be cast aside and suppressed
but instead, be recognized for an actively shaped life in participation and empow-
erment. Physical education and movement pedagogy are mostly only alibi-offers
by educational institutions that focus on the head and either ignore or discipline
the body.
150 Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal with Right-Wing Populism
The assumption that xenophobia and racism can be fought with rational argu-
ments alone fails daily. No doubt, it is necessary to try this too to counter the fears
(cf. Bauman 2016) and prejudices about migration with facts. However, people
persist in xenophobic positions who are resistant to facts and cling to conspiracy
theories that are not accessible to rationality. Educational efforts beyond cognitive
enlightenment are needed.
The same applies to the “anger against civilization” (ibid, p. 95) in a soci-
ety administered close to claustrophobia without being a fair society. Adapting
through self-discipline, rationalization, and repression of instincts is a duty for the
economized subject. The reward for this effort is reserved for the privileged. Then
as now, anger is not directed towards those responsible for social coldness, social
tightness, and economic inequality, but is acted out on the weaker, with “violent
and irrational” rebellion (ibid). “Post-truth” as the word of the year 2016 (Oxford
Dictionaries 2016) has become almost a seemingly new phenomenon in current
media and some scientific discourses, but the underlying human argumentation
and behavioral structure is anything but new (cf. Setsche 2016). There is also a
risk of it becoming a misleading phrase because “post-truth” indirectly asserts
an essentialist claim to validity in the knowledge of reality. The blinded would
only have to be convinced again by facts so that everything comes back into
balance. Such assurance of truth is difficult to maintain, knowing the limitations
of knowledge. The task and possibility of science, according to Habermas, is not
to uncover the knowledge that is free of interest and unconditional but to see
through the interests and conditions that represent the justification of knowledge
(Habermas 1971).
The Disintegration of Discourse in the Digital
Network—or the Inactivation of Speaking
The conditions under which individual learning and social negotiation processes
are currently taking place have become more complex. Adorno’s desperate idea
that extensive education and information campaigns must penetrate the population
would dissolve as an illusion in the digital world due to the often non-reflective,
emotionally moved, and factually impossible to capture the spread of anger and
fear. What Adorno attests to technology for his time and also prophetically diag-
nosed ahead of time for digital technology that he did not know is truer: “On the
other hand, there is something exaggerated, irrational, pathogenic in the present-
day relationship to technology” (Adorno 1966/2010, p. 7), which exaggerates the
means of fetish and deprives it of its useful purpose. Here Illich could call for the
The Disintegration of Discourse in the Digital Network 151
utopia to reverse the enslavement character of the tools on a depth level: “The
crisis can be solved only if we learn to invert the present deep structure of tools.”
(Illich 1973, p. 10) It is puzzling how this transformation of the relationship
between man and “machine” can succeed.
One possibility is that people can relate to the machines, which, according
to Illich, are not only technology but also our social institutions and structures.
Where people establish relationships to things, devices, facilities, and institutions,
they can transform the one-sided dependencies into exchange processes. Antonio
Gramsci postulated this with the statement that “all men are intellectual, but not
all men have in society the function of intellectuals” (Gramsci 1928–1937/1971,
p. 9). To give people back their intellectual role, workers should not only stand
at the assembly line but also have the opportunity to understand the background,
social and economic conditions, and the cultural values of their work.
Only in this way could the tools be taken into the service of a good life. The
Convivialist Manifesto, edited in 2014, claims for such a development in “the
quality of our social relationships and of our relationship to nature” (Adloff 2014,
p. 6). ood coexistence also requires the conditions that enable people to perceive
each other as human beings, exchange ideas, and feel their fears, hardships, pains,
expectations, hopes, and gifts. It’s like a substrate of technology criticism both
from Adorno and Illich. With Adorno, consciousness is covered by a “veil of
technology” (Adorno 1966/2010, p. 7) that cuts people off from the feeling that—
if they could deliberately deal with—would otherwise have to stir and get excited.
A picture of the social networks: The cold of the first weeks of January 2017,
which was life-threatening and fatal for many refugees and homeless people, was
countered by the coldness and malice of comments on the (alleged) failure of
the welcoming culture and goodwill. Just a few quotes from a Facebook debate
on a journalistic report titled “Refugees: Without protection against cold and
indifference.” (Die Zeit 2017):
“Go home where it is warm or to Saudi Arabia etc., but you have to work there. You
get no financial help from the rich Saudis. You will be driven back even by force; here
you have to eat pork or starve to death.” (With name).
“We are not the catch-all for all misery and free-rider drivers in the world
Everyone is already working for 30 refugees a person.” (With name).
“I only see young men. They should stay and fight in their country and not rape
the women here. Can’t hear all of this anymore Yes, then I’m a Nazi, I don’t give a
shit !!!!” (With name).
“If you don’t want to get on the ship, it’s up to you whether you freeze, I think.”
(With name).
152 Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal with Right-Wing Populism
The rampage of racism and xenophobia in digital social media is no accident.
Here the debate is removed from all social control. While the web-redaction of
Die Zeit deleted a large number of comments on the quoted post (ibid), these
continued to be uncensored on Facebook. Disinhibition cannot be reduced to dig-
ital, everyday fascism—as could be documented daily—it also expresses itself in
unusual rawness among the general public. With the Internet, however, a rein-
forcing medium is available that has radically democratized and delimited public
speaking in a kind of private–public: not only the educated and privileged, to
whom the academic language, newspaper columns, microphone, and camera are
available, but almost everyone (with internet access) can directly, without control,
without censorship, without responsibility and thus primarily safely and shame-
lessly express their opinion to a not so small public, which nevertheless conveys
the feeling of communication “among friends.” At the same time, this speaking
takes place in a room without bodily resonance, without emotional repercussions
for those who speak, and thus beyond empathetic relationship and democratic
discourse. A new dimension of public space has emerged on the net, which—as
Byung-Chul Han argues in dialogue with Habermas’s communication theory—
defies the rules of public discourse (cf. Han 2013, p. 16). Speaking to Habermas:
“For the present, there are no functional equivalents, in this virtual space, for the
structures of publicity which reassemble the decentralized messages, sift them,
and synthesize them in an edited form.” (Habermas 2009, p. 158).
The Internet escapes pedagogical or educational controls. It obeys the logic
of swarm intelligence (cf. Surowiecki 2004), for which it cannot be said with
certainty how it plays out; whether it leads to swarm democracy (Han 2013,
p. 11) or to the “decay of public space” and thus democracy (ibid). It isn’t easy to
decide whether the de-hierarchization of communication only reveals what would
otherwise be stealthily thought until it violently paves the way at some point.
Or whether the medium—discussed by McLuhan (1962) on book printing—is
itself the message that creates the reality it represents. Han (2013, p. 41) cannot
decide a priori whether this reality will be “a utopia or a dystopia, a dream or a
Undoubtedly, the ideal of hardness criticized by Adorno (Adorno 1966/2010,
p. 5 f.) finds vast space in digital communication. Distance and virtuality desen-
sitize the exponentially increased exchange, impacting public discourses outside
the web. Although the network is beyond control, the speech outside does not
escape from the disinhibitions safely tested. This probably changes the discourse
per se and deprives it of critical quality of exchange, namely that of comprehen-
sibility in the sense of empathy, so that we can comprehend and feel what the
spoken or written word causes in the recipient.
The Appreciation of Fear in Response to its Postponement 153
In the digital public, the effect of one’s word is not noticeable, so that anger
and fears can be discharged but ultimately lead to nothing. The disposal gets stuck
halfway. There is no discursive exchange, just an exchange of blows. Analyzing
blogs, we can understand how the tone usually intensifies because the response is
never comprehensible, and neither bodily nor sensually can’t be. However, some
are insulted and disparaged. Their dismay, blushing face, tears, anger are invisible
to those who attack and write back. Something similar concerns, of course, the
traditional media, in which political discourses are almost as enclosed as under
glass. Statements concerning humanity questions are often spoken in microphones
and cameras without sensitivity to what these words do to those who hear them
and whose faces.
The Appreciation of Fear in Response to its Postponement
The disembodiment of political and media speech contributes to the harden-
ing of the discourses and the thereby justified actions. The coming together of
masochism as discussed by Adorno (having to put up with the hardness of oth-
ers, the hardness of life, the need to adapt to economic constraints and structural
subordination) with sadistic acting out could also be a description of the present:
“Being hard, the vaunted quality education should inculcate, means absolute indiffer-
ence toward pain as such. In this, the distinction between one’s own pain and that of
another is not so stringently maintained. Whoever is hard with himself earns the right
to be hard with others as well and avenges himself for the pain whose manifestations
he was not allowed to show and had to repress.” (Adorno 1966/2010, p. 5).
What prompted Adorno to plead against an upbringing attitude that “sets a pre-
mium on pain and on the ability to endure pain” can also be related to more subtle
constraints. We find these in educational structures that demand and promote
adaptation to (social, economic, cultural, patriarchal, hierarchical) conditions.
They punish at the same time feelings of reluctance, disobedience, stubbornness,
frustration against the associated offenses with a degrading measurement of the
subject, be it through grades in school or through social gradation and exclusion
in social and economic reality. The processes by which the subject finally inter-
nalizes external devaluation as self-devaluation have been extensively researched
and described, from Freudian psychoanalysis to Foucault’s techniques of the self
and Bourdieu’s theory of habitus.
154 Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal with Right-Wing Populism
Adornos conclusion for parenting and educational understandings was and are
“Education must take seriously an idea in no wise unfamiliar to philosophy: that
anxiety must not be repressed. When anxiety is not repressed, when one permits oneself
to have, in fact, all the anxiety that this reality warrants, then precisely by doing that,
much of the destructive effect of unconscious and displaced anxiety will probably
disappear.” (Ibid).
The most apologetic indication of right-wing populism on fear of strangers is
debatable and not very profound. At the same time, a pedagogical perspective
should consider that worries do not need an objective ground to be excruciating
and tempting to act out. Fears often are shifted from quite concrete causes to
phantasmagorical delusions. Then they hit those who may not be responsible for
them but serve as projection screens or projection figures for disposal of fear.
The dynamics of repression do not allow everyone to relate their fear to con-
crete life conditions, like social decline, uncertain economic future, professional
defeats, economic destabilization in a competitive society, physical frailty, and
death due to the constitutive vulnerability of human existence. These fears are
dumped on those who represent all this and at the same time allow a distance—
the even weaker, the disadvantaged, the impoverished, the ragged, the failed, as
well as the refugees in their otherness.
Ultimately, these are “messengers of the repressed” (Berghold 2005, p. 111)
who have been punished for awakening the memory of the repressed fears. In
an interview, Zygmunt Bauman (2014/2017) defined the strategy of Facebook
founder Mark Zuckerberg as a business based on the fear of loneliness, which
expresses the existential concerns of being exposed to humans. This enables “a lot
of communication, but no dialogue” (ibid), the fear finds valves, but no processing
of reality that can be experienced and no interpersonal comfort.
If Adorno, as a condensed statement on upbringing after Auschwitz, believes
that “the only education that has any sense at all is an education toward critical
self-reflection” (Adorno 1966/2010, p. 1), an intermediate step would have to
be inserted. To enable critical self-reflection and promote it through pedagogical
and educational strategies, people must learn to feel themselves and connect with
their fear, pain, and insult. Only then can the play with fear, with the removal
of fear through disinhibition in the projection of others, maybe not be thwarted,
but be avoided here and there in favor of examining what hinders people from
a good life in their real condition. In line with Gianni Vattimo’s (2013), weak
thinking requires “weak pedagogy” discussed above. Such an attitude does not
Deconstruction of Dichotomy as a Key Educational Task 155
trust secure worldviews but knows about the precariousness of human existence,
a pedagogy that is not based on a priori principles but tries to understand (not
justify) human narratives in their captivity and limitations. A “weak pedagogy”
knows about its ethical standards because it has reflected on them but takes them
back in pedagogical action. In this sense, it is not weak. Still, it makes itself
soft, not from a strategic calculation to pretend communication, but to flatten
the asymmetrical gradient in the pedagogical relationship. From the perspective
of education’s subject, the proclaimed values often come from a hierarchical
stance. This moral posture is a strong temptation but is pedagogically sterile
when dealing with undesirable phenomena, such as racism and nationalized or
religiously fanatical identity.
In schools, it can often be observed how teachers flinch when students stand up
and take up racist positions. The logical contradiction weakens the teacher to the
point of helplessness and strengthens the defiant rebellion and adherence to the
irrational (Peterlini H.K. 2011, p. 169 f.). If you want to talk to a child (and not
down on them), you must sit on the floor. If you want to work with adolescents
and adults who are right-wing populist or religiously fundamentalist, you can
withdraw to a good-evil division of the world and turn away in disgust. Or you
may deal with it, listening, asking, and not being shy of your answers. This
discussion cannot take place virtually, which would not be possible due to the
distance, but requires a concrete encounter, if possible, in protected and designed
rooms. Because the public debate is also unsuitable for this, it takes place at the
level of systems and strategic communication, which has the gain and victory
over the other person in mind, not the understanding of the Other (Peterlini H.K.
2012). At the political level, the debate has to be faced. It consists of a civil
society challenge to dominant discourses at the systemic level. In a pedagogical
setting, however, the dispute does not downscale from above that wrong thinking
manifests itself there even if it is won. It might help overcome impotence, but it
would be equivalent to withdrawing from the field where pedagogy is genuinely
required. In this field, educators have to face everything they do not want, what
runs counter to them, what they try to prevent, and what shakes and challenges
them in their basic understanding.
Deconstruction of Dichotomy as a Key Educational Task
Ultimately, such a pedagogical approach is about making dichotomous divisions
in the perception of self and reality of life on an experience level accessible, per-
ceptible, open to reflection and narrative, thereby weakening their rigidity. When
156 Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal with Right-Wing Populism
divisions become perceivable, commonalities and differences can be thought of
as a never definite plural and experienced as formable. Helpful on a theoretical
level are the approaches of transculturality (Welsch 1999) and trans-difference
(Allolio-Näcke et al. 2005). Wherever divisions pervade reality perception, it is
seductive discharge fears, worries, anger onto the other half of reality that is dif-
ferent. There they remain locked up, inaccessible, and develop their threatening
The senselessness that inhibits people from “striking outwards without reflect-
ing on themselves” (Adorno 1966/2020, p. 2) requires, according to Adorno, not
only an education for critical self-reflection (with the head) but also a more care-
ful sense of the body (ibid, p. 5). To restore the mutilated consciousness, Adorno
accepts a split at this point, which is itself the fundamental problem. The inde-
pendent thinking and keeping apart of mind and body as a matrix of a dichotomy,
which is on many other levels between “self” and “foreign” reproduced and
always upgrades or downgrades one pole compared to its opposite pole. Consid-
ering that skin color and appearance impact who is how often controlled by the
police, does this mean that physical details are viewed in isolation and separated
from the subject. The other person is perceived as a “foreign body” (Nancy 2008,
p. 5) and not in its entirety as an animate body, according to Waldenfels (2000,
p. 14; cf. Waldenfels 2004b). The concrete person cannot split up according to
distinctive features and is never fully grasped by nationally, culturally, sexually,
socially constructed categories.
Accepting the other without negating the difference is an unconditional con-
sequence of the insight into what can happen otherwise. The holocaust resulted
from a conception of the others as entirely different, robbing them of any human-
ity and creating an enemy image, which could be exterminated without remorse
(cf. Peterlini HK 2011, p. 49). According to Adorno, a “potential for enlight-
enment” would already lie in the effort that the subject recognizes its so-being
in its historical and biographical development and does not mistakenly consider
it as “nature,” as something “unalterable given” (Adorno 1966/2020, p. 6). The
naturalization of diversity inevitably biologizes and racializes the other to an
immutable and irreconcilable Other.
The thinking away of the Other, the “expulsion of the Other” (Han 2017),
is the mental step of the desire for its actual removal as it was practiced in the
most extreme form as destruction in Auschwitz. It is also ultimately expressed
indirectly in the criticism of bailouts in the Mediterranean, according to which it
is better to let refugees die than to save them. In this way, Adornos’s pedagogical
postulate could be expanded from education to critical self-reflection to a percep-
tible and reflective exploration of one’s way of being different from others. Only
Deconstruction of Dichotomy as a Key Educational Task 157
those who learn to perceive and endure their strangeness (towards themselves,
towards the world, their supposedly own culture, towards their socio-economic
structure) can accept strangeness and closeness by others. This asks for learning
to think of belonging and difference no longer in absolute terms but in a broken
and overlapping manner
On the one hand, it is about the understanding of the difference in its infinite
diversity, as Arens and Mecheril (2010, p. 11) probably best expressed with the
above-quoted axiom that “everyone is different different” (anders anders). Pre-
cisely because of its charm, we should reflect on this formula again. In principle,
it questions constructs of equality. It does not perceive being different in isolated
and special groups or specified deviation criteria in isolation (such as physically
impaired, strong learners, weak learners, foreigners). The difference is potentiated
and infinite. Thus indefiniteness is driven, which removes the categorization and
discrimination foil from it. But there is a double-edged point of the hypothesis.
Such a radically set difference could implicate the impossibility of community
and group formation of peers who have to fight for recognition of their difference
and rights.
It is crucial to ensure that neither difference nor equality is set absolutely but
that the transitions and intermediate areas are appreciated. Just as “everyone is
different” in a different way, we are also “different alike”and“similarly dif-
ferent.” The absolute Other can be potentially destroyed because the subject is
isolated and detached if all equality is left out. Absolutely set equality promises
belonging but would seduce into suffocating symbiosis because it means that the
delimitation that is indispensable for one’s existence is lost. The concept of equal
different equal, and similar divers move in a life-threatening and, at the same time,
life-saving ambivalence. Difference and equality remain in limbo and have to be
renegotiated again and again. This ambivalence neither creates complete divi-
sion and loneliness, which exposes the supposedly autonomous subject to severe
uncertainty, nor does it create unbroken belonging, which seems to convey the
security, but would itself be suffocating in a symbiotic manner. Accepting this
requires familiarizing yourself with your ambivalence of “differently different,”
“differently the same,” and similarly different.” Gianni Vattimo’s reinterpretation
of Nietzsche’s superman tells from people who are not superhumans but beyond
humans (oltreuome). They accept weakened worldviews and learn to exist cre-
atively, meaningfully, and responsibly in their existential insecurity (cf. Vattimo
158 Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal with Right-Wing Populism
The Lifeworld as a Space for Experience and Testing
Becoming oltreuomo requires learning by individuals and collectives. With the
above-discussed dual-concept of system and lifeworld, Habermas (1984, 1987)
juxtaposes two social dimensions in which, on the one hand, the individual can
learn socially and act in a solution-oriented manner, and on the other hand, is
subject to controls from dominant systems such as politics and economics. In the
lifeworld, especially when it comes to everyday practical aspects (which Haber-
mas always has to keep pervading), people are capable of communicative action,
but at the same time are also impaired by the “colonization” of the lifeworld by
the systems (economy, politics) (Habermas 1984, p. 46, 1987, pp. 196, 325, 356).
The model offers several starting points for reflecting pedagogy and education
from a peace science perspective: Accordingly, the lifeworld can negotiate inter-
ests. This is not necessarily idyllic, it can also be conflict-ridden, but the interests
of the individual must be socially dealt with in their interactions in a commu-
nicative manner (and not striving for strategic overreaction and, ultimately, the
destruction of the Other). To perceive these processes of negotiating opens up a
promising pedagogical field. How can education promote communicative action
and make them pedagogically fruitful? In any case, the concept contrasts the idea
of an anthropologically rooted tendency to destructive attitudes of humans, which
makes hostility and war inevitable. People show that they can negotiate and solve
problems together in the lifeworld.
At the same time, the effects of the systems compromise the conflict-solving
competence of the lifeworld. Unlike the lifeworld, systems obey the laws of strate-
gic communication with a dominant control medium. In the system of economics,
this can be money, profit. In the system of politics, it is power. The dilemma of
strategic communication is that it obeys either-or principles—either I make the
profit or my competition, get the majority of the votes, or my opponent. This rule
makes the communicative exchange more difficult and promotes supremacy. Only
when the competitor is defeated, and the political opposition is beaten can one’s
survival be considered secure. In the final analysis, that is the logic of predatory
capitalism in the economic system, which has discarded all social responsibility.
It is the logic of a political majority that has no scruples about the use of force to
achieve its own goals in the system of politics. The dilemma is that the systems
affect the lifeworld and subject it to its steering media, colonizing it (Habermas
1987, p. 267). The model leed in a dichotomous pattern: On the one side, the
solution-oriented living world, on the other the destruction-oriented system world.
Habermas suggests a way out of the dichotomy with his concept of discourse
developed in discussion with Hannah Arendt (cf. Høibraaten 2001), which makes
Communication and Participation as Perspectives of Narrative 159
hope for counter-civil society courses possible in the first place. In this way,
discourses can emerge from communicative practice and, in turn, affect and be
taken up by the system level (cf. ibid, p. 160). Communicative power differs from
domination or strategic communication by negotiating social rules and norms.
“The agreement of those who deliberate together to act communally […] signifies
power insofar as it rests on conviction and hence on that peculiarly coercion-free
force with which insights prevail.” (Habermas 1983, p. 173) In a countermove-
ment to Clausewitz’s definition of war as a continuation of politics, Habermas
defines “discourse as a continuation of communicative action by other means”
(Habermas 1990, p. 130). Education is part of this discourse and can contribute
to this discourse by reflecting on learning processes. This would be a response
to Habermas’ demand for an “attitude change accompanying the passage from
communicative action to discourse” (ibid, p. 126).
Ultimately, however, this also means confronting those undesirable discourses
from a pedagogical point of view, which claim exactly what, contrary to the
educational goal, which is implicitly always present, from a peace science per-
spective. Changing from the system level to concrete conditions in the lifeworld
can open up the pedagogical space of experience that frees from impotence.
Here people act in dealing with the needs of their existence. Here they encounter
impairments through dividing systems, and here they experience the disadvantage
and the exclusion from the participation that would make them socially fully-
fledged subjects in the first place. Nobody is only at home in the lifeworld since
everyone is also integrated into systems. Nobody is only system representative
because they are also in a lifeworld. This area of tension, in which the individ-
ual and society, biography and discourse are entangled, is equally the breeding
ground for stereotyping and occlusion and opening and breaking stereotyping,
depending on whether ambivalences are split off and suppressed or experienced
and accepted as enriching.
Communication and Participation as Perspectives
of Narrative and Participatory Pedagogy
A pedagogical silver bullet to counteract the division is the communication and
the corresponding participation. The pedagogical approaches to this exist. They
are based on a narrative and participative exploration of life stories, life plans,
and lifeworlds. These can be participatory projects in municipal settlements and
neighborhoods, narrative groups in public and social institutions, performative
explorations of living and working environments. Residents may photograph,
160 Dialogue with Adorno. How to Deal with Right-Wing Populism
film, document, and in this way rediscover their lives for themselves and others.
City walks could invite people to explore public structures or discourse-building
memorial sites. Educational theater projects such as forum theater (or theatre of
the oppressed, Boal 1993) made accessible the themes of the lifeworld for reflec-
tion. The approaches are grounded on the assumption that blind adherence to the
familiar can be opened up by processes of Verwindung (Vattimo 1987 referring
to Nietzsche and Heidegger) in the meaning of distorted or twisted overcoming.
A historical project about the mass emigration of South Tyrolean families “home
to the Reich,” adopted in the Hitler-Mussolini Agreement of 1939, may serve
as an example. In this project, young people dealt with the migration trauma
of their grandparents. They interviewed contemporary witnesses, collected mem-
ory objects, and performed the traumatic events artistically. The cultural memory
(Assmann J. 2011) could be worked on a more fluid social memory, accord-
ing to Aleida Assmann (2015), and helped the young people establish a new
understanding of the current and fearful migration movements.
Learning as experience means that experiences do not obey interventions,
nor are they open to direct access and insight, but they can be shared and co-
experienced (cf. Laing 1977, p. 15). According to Dewey (1916/2009), experience
only increases learning if we think from the solution found back to the problem
that caused the learning experience (ibid, pp. 240–261). In this lies the educa-
tional hope of transformative learning, connecting the personal and the social
level. Suppose problem-solving experiences living together in the lifeworld could
be recovered and made fruitful for changing social narratives. In that case, this
could affect the level of system and dominant practices.
The phenomenological attention for the potential of learning experiences in the
lifeworld needs spaces for narrative exchange, participation, and reflexive appre-
ciation of this experience. In this way, people’s experiences in living together can
enter into an individual and social consciousness and, as counterdiscourses of the
lifeworld, enter into a dialogue with the dominant discourses of division.
Communication and Participation as Perspectives of Narrative 161
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