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In the Blink of an Eye: The Augenblick of Sudden Change and Transformative Learning in Lukács and Benjamin

Carlin, MA (2010) In the Blink of an Eye: The Augenblick of Sudden Change and Transformative Learning in Lukács and Benjamin. Culture, Theory and Critique, 51 (3). pp. 239-256. ISSN 1473-5784

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Abstract

Although much work dedicated to clarifying the link between learning and change has made a sincere effort to show how change can be a part of the learning process of every individual's life, the progressive functionalist approach to understanding this link in developmental psychology has created a blind spot when it comes to a consideration of the possibilities of sudden change. Developmental approaches to understanding change are also evident in macro‐level politics, and they have increasingly become part of other spheres of social life such as education where the individualized inculcation of skills has come to define the progressive mantra of learning and telos of schooling. Instead of remaining within the confines of liberal progressivism or functionalism that advance a notion of transformation in gradual, piecemeal, and developmental terms, change needs to be re‐conceptualised to account for the ways that learning can be a momentous, sudden, and sometimes violent event. To this end this article discusses temporal, sensory, and perceptual change through use of the concept of ‘Augenblick’ – a German term connoting a fleeting moment of time normally associated with a form of sight. Focusing on the theories of education inherent in the work of Georg Lukács and Walter Benjamin this article demonstrates how micro‐ and macro‐ forms of expressions of the Augenblick occurring at not only the individual, but also the social level in the context of revolutionary politics force us to rethink the ways that the dominance of liberal conceptions of learning prefigure the horizon of the possibility of change.

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