Paul Ricoeur, political educator

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If the constitution of societies is presented as the result of collective creation, forms of collective responsibility are therefore required

Education, considered by Paul Ricoeur to be an active praxis, has the objective, among others, of leading to ethical human action, being a possible path for the person to discover a path, even if provisional, towards knowledge, as well as establishing forms of recognition of self, or a way of orientation in the world. The French philosopher's little ethics, so called in The self as another (1990), in addition to providing a “good life” based on the binomial self-esteem and concern mediated by justice and friendship, it appears as a current mindset.

In this direction, there is a meeting between education and politics, resulting in an education operation in which the mark of social responsibility appears in a significant way. Paul Ricoeur calls, it is possible to move in this direction, men and women to action, the mainstay of a considerable part of his philosophical thought, which seeks to promote political education. According to Valence's thinker, people must seek, in one way or another, an active position in relation to their destinies. There is talk of something like a “collective school”, a movement capable of implementing forms of public intervention.

in your book Around the politician The scope of the political educator's praxis is highlighted, which would ultimately occur through the preparation of people regarding the “responsibility for collective decision-making”. It can be said that this preparation has a function of denunciation, of contesting the status quo subordinated to the injustices of capitalist society, both past and present. In this way, Paul Ricoeur's concern is with the various forms of violence and injustice.

The political educator, who must be a participant in local, national and global plans, has the task, so the philosopher thought, of increasing awareness about collective responsibilities, something that dialogues with his ethical project built throughout the second half of the century XX. It is a call, in this sense, for citizen participation in relation to the public domain. Paul Ricoeur wishes, at the same time, to expand citizen participation in decision-making, which would make a movement towards the democratization of democracy possible.

In this sense, the practice of this type of educator, and thinking about education in a Postgraduate Course , focuses on highlighting those decisions that signal economic interests, which are at the service of capital. Ricoeur's political proposal is, it would be possible to point out, to confront the dynamics of capitalism, in which one glimpses (im)possible ways of imagining, very much in a solidarist and communitarian sense, other models of society. This is clear in his intention to promote what he calls “economic democracy”.

Still in this direction, the French scholar speaks in terms of the proposition of a “rational economy”, which would be capable of being marked from an ethical perspective that takes into account the future destinies of societies. Even activating a perspective of thought that is still modern in nature, Paul Ricoeur has in mind the ideas of “forecast” and “consequence”, which would result from deliberations, above all, collective. We can follow his reflection: “(…) the development of a rational economy represents an achievement of decision over chance and destiny” (RICOEUR, 1995, p. 155). The proposed political education seeks to transcend the logic of competition and individualism typical of the social and economic regime of liberalism, in which a kind of utopia of collectivism operates.

Paul Ricoeur is clear in his political pedagogy: collective decisions, which move through games on a local-regional-global scale, would present themselves as a condition for caring for others, for caring for the world. Once again we resort to his considerations: “it is time to repeat that the political educator of modern times will increasingly have the task of initiating citizens to exercise collective choice” (RICOEUR, 1995, p. 155). We not only want an economy based on fair retributivism, but also the formation of organized communities and people of solidarity.

In this sense, some propositional questions are asked: what do we want, then? An economy of consumption, of power, of prestige? What kind of person do we want to build? What do we want with these choices, with future generations in mind? The political challenge of Paul Ricoeur, an author still little known and debated in Brazil, meets a democratic economy, which would imply a political education that makes possible the establishment of extra-capitalist subjectivities, which would only be viable with maximized inclusion sectors of society in public deliberations.

It is a whole work of awareness, which ultimately could be carried out through the problematization of capitalism, the knowledge of its unfair memories, its impact on people's lives in a process of de-alienation and the imagination of other possible worlds. – all of them surrounded by popular participation, which would certainly include all those marginalized and silenced historically. As he made clear: “The only way, in fact, to compensate for the shifts in freedom – from the zone of individual initiative to the zone of collective decision – is to have as many individuals as possible participate in the discussion and decision” (RICOEUR, 1995, p, 155).

Ricoeur's problem as a political educator moves towards making people today aware of the losses of capitalist society, as well as making imaginable a different world in the future, in which solidarism and collectivism would appear as a kind of counter-project. As you can see, it is something that passes, in one way or another, through the individual plane, through the constitution of subjectivity, up to the scope of the collective, that is, social action. Ultimately, we want a society educated to make democratically informed collective decisions, with these deliberations constituted as beneficial actions for humanity.

It is a bet on the future, being, therefore, a disposition crossed by a clear utopian perspective. In this way, the philosopher's political project is projected as an attitude of confrontation against capitalism, with important consequences for the delegitimization of the neoliberal gear. It is in this sense that we have his idea of ​​an economic democracy in mind. Then, point out the author of Time and narrative: “(…) this problem of economic democracy will be the big problem in the coming decades, because, in truth, it does not exist anywhere” (RICOEUR, 1995, p. 155).

The political educator therefore moves strategically, with the following definition being important: the search for the transformation of human values, which we could conceive as neoliberal subjectivity, but also of what is called by the scholar as utensils, that is, the mechanisms by which which this society becomes practicable. This movement goes from subjectivity to action, which implies a review of current morality.

In other words, if the constitution of societies is presented as the result of collective creation, forms of collective responsibility are therefore required. Hence the need to create, precisely, instruments of collective responsibility (formal and informal), which would imply, through the maximized opening of the plurality of voices that make up societies, developing economic democracy.

This opportunity will give Paul Ricoeur the opportunity to speak about the relationship between ethics and politics, aiming at what he calls “collective health”, something that involves the fair measure between two forms of moral elaboration, namely, the moral of conviction and the morality of responsibility. In his view, what would be desirable would be a balance between the two perspectives, given that separately – as they are embedded in the forms of perception of social action – they appear to be based on violence and thus distant from justice in its broadest sense.

The philosopher from Valence then clarifies his point of view: “The task of education is, in my opinion, to maintain a lively tension at this point; because if we reduced the morality of conviction to the morality of responsibility we would fall into political realism, Machiavellianism, which results from the constant confusion of means and ends. But, on the other hand, if the morality of conviction intended to have a kind of direct action, we would fall into all the illusions of moralism and clericalism. The morality of conviction can only act indirectly, through the constant pressure it exerts on the morality of responsibility and power; Unlike the latter, it is not linked to the possible and the reasonable, but to what we could call “human desirable”, to optimum ethical” (RICOEUR, 1995, p. 157).

Paul Ricoeur's bet, following his arguments, is directed towards the resumption of utopian meanings when it comes to politics. This instrument would be a way of developing something like a political imagination, since as a human goal it would result in a combined goal for the establishment of another possible world in economic, social and political terms that frictions totality and singularity: “(…) it is necessary fight on two fronts: on the one hand, reunite humanity, which is always threatened with being fragmented by rival groups; on the other, to save each person from the anonymity in which modern civilization sinks” (RICOUER, 1995, p. 158).

Paul Ricoeur advances, in this way, towards a kind of intercultural democracy. If we want to promote a mediation effect of available democratic policies in order to critically achieve social pluralism in which the dialectic between conflict and public participation can develop through awareness of collective responsibility, moving towards intermittent dialogue as a way of stimulating political heteroglossia.

But in order for this disposition to be realized, the philosopher reflects in terms of values, in which the political educator acts with a view to “(…) integrating the universal technical civilization with the cultural personality, as I defined it above, with the historical singularity of each group ”. But the philosopher is prudent under the effects of heteroglossia, because, in the sphere of values, not everyone must survive, but those capable of imposing responsibility on democratic social action are reinforced. Ricoeur's care (1995, p. 159) takes place, moreover, within the scope of protecting social and cultural singularities in the face of “universal civilization”, as it, as he argues, “(…) exerts over the core of each one of the historical groups an action of erosion, a subtle destruction”.

What the scholar sees is the possibility of the fraying of singularities by the universal and its global technologies, launching into a discussion about the impacts of this movement in temporal terms. In his opinion, there is a temporal confrontation that permeates the problem. This is because the world of technology, of technocratic civilization, is devoid of stability; it has no past, given that with each new invention the previous one is erased in such a way that it seems to establish a futuristic condition. On the other hand, according to the scholar, “(…) we only truly have individual and cultural personality to the extent that we fully embrace our past, its values ​​and its symbols, and to the extent that we are capable of interpreting it completely” ( RICOUER, 1995, p. 160). The political educator must act towards arbitration between the various temporalities available and in circulation/interaction, this gesture therefore constituting a major problem in culture.

The equalization of temporalities, in a path that aims to recover hidden or latent pasts and deactivate technocratic presentism, would be able to print operations of consciousness in the face of reality, which is intended to be intercultural with a focus on the struggle for economic democracy, in the fair approach of the universal binomial /singular, always emphasizing the human dignity of the person and the reinterpretation and activation of alternative temporalities in the face of the phenomenon of consumer society.

The Ricoeurian project of political education is established, at least, based on five complementary axes, namely: the problematization of consumer society, forcing an understanding of collectivity in which the economy is not the dominant vector, in a clear attempt to curb the constitution of neoliberal subjectivities; the opening to a democracy that is not only representative, but participatory; the commitment to cultural dialogue; the urgency in self-management, which would imply non-formal spaces for political participation (but with them in dialogue); the establishment of an autonomous and creative education, which would open space for the emergence of political imagination.

Paul Ricoeur's challenge is to provide a model of education in a broad sense, a perspective that does not conceive of it as atomized, but that, on the contrary, perceives it in a mode of social action. Political education would present itself, in this sense, as an instrument capable of offering conditions for the affirmation of being, a means of making the educational process itself meaningful, given that it is focused on interaction with the world.

The project of hermeneutics of the historical condition that the philosopher develops during his life turns to education, because it is there that the person becomes aware of the possible modes of socialization, knowing, then, what are their conditions of action, the which defends it from the modes of alienation implied by the available ideologies that shape the social fabric.

We could say, then, that Paul Ricoeur departs, correlatively, for a hermeneutics of the social condition, in view of his desire to make available to students the layers of discursivity that shape societies, the devices of power in action in them, the ideologies that are formed and directed towards the configuration of human life. The person, then, becomes a social hermeneutist, which makes them proficient in listening and understanding the Other, in critical orientation towards reality, resulting, at the limit, in the possibility of imagining other possible political worlds, and, above all, with social justice.

*Piero Detoni He has a PhD in social history from USP.


BAGGIO, Giomar. Ethics, person and education in Paul Ricoeur. Master's Dissertation (Postgraduate Program in Sciences), Regional University of the Northwest of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, 2016.

RICOUER, Paul. Around the politician. Readings 1. São Paulo: Edições Loyola, 1995.

RICOEUR, Paul. The self as another. Translated by Ivone Benedetti. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2014.

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