Educational Leadership Reconsidered: Arendt, Agamben, and Bauman

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In this paper we claim educational leadership as an autonomous discipline whose goals and strategies should not mirror those typical of business and political leadership. In order to define the aims proper to educational leadership we question three common assumptions of what it is supposed to carry out. First, we turn to Hannah Arendt and her contemporary critics to maintain that education aims at opening up exceptions within the normal course of events rather than simply preserving it. This way, education is not reduced to an instrument at the service of the reinforcement of a given social and economic system. This leads us to ask what should exactly educational leadership oppose by means of these exceptions. According to Tyson E. Lewis’s wise application to education of Giorgio Agamben’s ontology of impotentiality, the apparently reasonable idea that education must help the subject to develop his potentials is precisely an instrumentalization of education which brings about a desubjectification of the learner. Education should actually make the pupil aware of his right not to carry his potentiality to its actualization and dwell instead in a state of impotentiality. Third and last, we complicate this picture by alluding to Zygmunt Bauman’s critique of the rejection of Western individuals to realize certain possibilities, which they deem too costly. By analysing in conjunction Agamben’s encouragement to suspend one’s potential and Bauman’s insistence on the need of not suspending it, we conclude by defining what, in our opinion, defines the raison d’être of educational leadership.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-369
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in Philosophy and Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • Educational leadership
  • Giorgio Agamben
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Impotentiality
  • Tyson E. Lewis
  • Zygmunt Bauman


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