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Humanities 2014, 3(3), 398-414;

Democratic Citizenship and the “Crisis in Humanities”

Department of Politics, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
Received: 9 June 2014 / Revised: 14 August 2014 / Accepted: 26 August 2014 / Published: 29 August 2014
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As a consequence of the recent global recession, a new “crisis in the humanities” has been declared, and ideas of how best to defend the humanities have been vigorously debated. Placing this “crisis” in the context of neoliberal reforms to higher education since the 1980s, I examine the argument expounded by Martha Nussbaum that the very foundation of democratic citizenship is at stake. I indicate a number of problems with Nussbaum’s case. First, to resist the neoliberal agenda that pits disciplines against one another, I maintain that we need to understand the humanities broadly to include the social sciences. Second, I indicate that the humanities are not just important to democracies, but are a vital aspect of any society because they form a crucial part of human existence. Third, I argue that the humanities are important to democratic societies not merely because they promote critical thinking about our political processes and sympathetic understanding as Nussbaum argues. More fundamentally, the diversity of the humanities in both their content and approaches to knowledge is central to freedom. Finally, I warn against framing the challenges facing the humanities in terms of a crisis discourse that deprecates freedom in accord with the neoliberal agenda. View Full-Text
Keywords: humanities; crisis; Martha Nussbaum; neoliberalism; higher education reforms; democratic citizenship; diversity; freedom humanities; crisis; Martha Nussbaum; neoliberalism; higher education reforms; democratic citizenship; diversity; freedom
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Spencer, V.A. Democratic Citizenship and the “Crisis in Humanities”. Humanities 2014, 3, 398-414.

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