Document Type

Book Chapter


This chapter presents non-affirmative theory of education as the foundation for a new research program in education, allowing us to bridge educational leadership, curriculum studies and Didaktik. We demonstrate the strengths of this framework by analyzing literature from educational leadership and curriculum theory/didaktik. In contrast to both socialization-oriented explanations locating curriculum and leadership within existing society, and transformation-oriented models viewing education as revolutionary or super-ordinate to society, non-affirmative theory explains the relation between education and politics, economy and culture, respectively, as non-hierarchical. Here critical deliberation and discursive practices mediate between politics, culture, economy and education, driven by individual agency in historically developed cultural and societal institutions. While transformative and socialization models typically result in instrumental notions of leadership and teaching, non-affirmative education theory, previously developed within German and Nordic education, instead views leadership and teaching as relational and hermeneutic, drawing on ontological core concepts of modern education: recognition; summoning to self-activity and Bildsamkeit. Understanding educational leadership, school development and teaching then requires a comparative multi-level approach informed by discursive institutionalism and organization theory, in addition to theorizing leadership and teaching as cultural-historical and critical-hermeneutic activity. Globalisation and contemporary challenges to deliberative democracy also call for rethinking modern nation-state based theorizing of education in a cosmopolitan light. Non-affirmative education theory allows us to understand and promote recognition based democratic citizenship (political, economical and cultural) that respects cultural, ethical and epistemological variations in a globopolitan era. We hope an American-European-Asian comparative dialogue is enhanced by theorizing education with a non-affirmative approach.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017. This book is an open access publication. Open Access This book is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this book are included in the book’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the book’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

APA Citation

Uljens, M., & Ylimaki, R. M. (2017). Non-affirmative theory of education as a foundation for curriculum studies, didaktik and educational leadership. In M. Uljens & R. M. Ylimaki (Eds.), Bridging Educational Leadership, Curriculum Theory and Didaktik (Vol. 5, pp. 3–145). Springer International Publishing.