Visions unite: From informal to formal: Popular Adult Education and the state: opposites converge and get established through the concept of democracy

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceeding


The Swedish concept of folkbildning (the ‘bildung’ of the people) and its introduction in the mid-1900th century was connected to the advent of Folkhögskolan (the popular adult education) with explicit as well as implicit references to the Danish philosopher Gruntvig’s ideals of education. The broad popular movement which the adult education ideals was incorporated into during the beginning of the 20th century, was setting values on the political agenda independent of the prevailing national state church. Within these movements, which were formed through and sustained by their resistance towards the state, democracy became a key concept. This paper studies the ideals of the popular adult education and the state through their relation to democracy inside and outside the established school system, based on political steering documents and curriculums from the elementary school as well as policy documents of the popular adult education. In accordance with Koselleck’s theory of conceptual history, a concept is, compared to an ordinary word, ambiguous in its essence. It is impossible to differentiate the social and political world from its linguistics; concepts could therefore be regarded as keys to historical insights. On the basis of Koselleck’s theory and the key concepts experience and expectation the use of the concept democracy in the above mentioned documents is discussed and analyzed. The study shows that the popular adult education and the established educational system in the beginning had different spaces of experience, with references to separate traditions, but they gradually converged into what could be seen as a common horizon of expectation about the meaning of democracy. At the same time, when this convergence appeared, an administrative shift could be identified where the popular adult education was incorporated into the established school system.


  • Lotta Johansson
  • Bosse Bergstedt
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Educational Sciences


  • education, democracy, popular adult education, history of concepts, Koselleck, civil society, curriculum, steering and policy documents
Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch
EventInternational Conference on the History of Concepts, 2012: Spaces, Languages, Time - Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 2012 Aug 232012 Aug 25
Conference number: 15


ConferenceInternational Conference on the History of Concepts, 2012