How can education contribute to resolving global crises through collective political action in today’s societies that are increasingly characterised by political polarisation and identity-related differences, conflicts and inequalities?

The interdisciplinary DEMOPOL research project (Kone foundation, 2021–2023) addresses this question with an innovative theoretical approach and by bringing to dialogue contrasting perspectives from different theoretical traditions.

The research is based on (1) the theories of democratic and global citizenship education in which the idea of shared principles of justice and democracy has been central, and (2) identity-political theories that are rooted in the idea of different political identities and power-laden interests. By studying the tensions between these theoretical approaches and combining them, the project examines the possibilities of education to establish foundations for collective political action in polarised societies. The project employs theoretical and methodological approaches from philosophy and educational sciences and creates novel connections between these fields.

The research project forms preconditions for educational policies and practices that support the construction of shared democratic foundations in polarized societies and therefore advance the development of the political culture toward a more sustainable form. The research focuses on political action as a complex and diverse phenomenon, which requires novel and increasingly multifaceted approaches from democratic education. The project maps the previously unexplored possibilities of democratic education associated with, among other things, political emotions, activism, human rights education and youth movements.

The research project is carried out at the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Educational Sciences by a five-member research group consisting of researchers in the fields of philosophy and educational sciences. The project is divided into five subprojects. Read more about the researchers of the project in People and the subprojects here.