Western Values, the meaning of education and globalization at the end of the 20th century

Professor René Barbier, University of Paris 8 (Educational Sciences, Research Center on Social Imagination and Education)




I will propose here only one simplified approach of the question of a relationship between education, tradition and modernization. Modernization is seen primarily frm the perspective of tuniversalization or economic globalisation.

Education is viewed from a very broad angle. It not only covers school education but any form of education taught in the family and society.

The published text of my speech is more complete, because this oral presentation must be short. You will thus find more developments of my ideas in the written version.

The data I use refer mainly to the situation in France. They can, nevertheless, easily be applied to a European situation. The approach is multi-disciplinary and even " multireferential ".

It recognizes the complexity of educational situations, meaning that we must approach these facts through a dynamic totality, through permanent interactions and interrelationships between elements which do not really exist, in and of themselves.

We very largely developped this approach in the Sciences of Education department at Paris 8 university.


The central idea is the following : up to what point is traditional education (at school, at home, in society) affected, destabilized, and called in question by the process of economic and financial universalization ? Which are the most affected values and can we enlighten some of todays fundamental values ?


The three axiologic directions that I propose are the following : to change what can be changed. To remain solidary. To accept what is inevitable.

These directions found in life run up against the phenomenon of universalization, largely dominated by the West and, particularly, by the United States of America, Japan and the European Community.

The universalization or the globalization of the economic, social, and cultural markets penetrates all our collective and individual lives. An individual affected in the most ancient and traditional ways of life. Institutionalized education also feels the impact and must follow, in spite of itself, the constraints imposed by universalization. All countries are concerned in this matter.

One wonders how the Asian countries will react when faced with the destruction of their ancestral way of life? France has fallen into universalization and the prospects dont look good for the majority of economists and sociologists who are digging into the subject. The consequences are felt in schools, cities, homes leisures through the impacts created by business cut-backs. The State itself cannot be completely independent when faced with financial power of international investment groups.