This chapter began as a response to Elana Michelson’s (2004) critique of Joe Muller’s book Reclaiming Knowledge (2000), and in particular his approach to knowledge, and its implications for the future of South African education. I have two related purposes in revising the paper for this book. The first is that despite being located in the South African context, Muller’s book raises much more general issues and, as will have been apparent in Chapters 3, 5 and 7, have much influenced my own thinking. Furthermore, it is not insignificant that I have included our joint paper for the recent World Congress of Sociology as the final chapter of this book. Second, the example of educational reform in South Africa, while interesting in itself and as an example of a country in ‘political transition’,1
illustrates the extent to which apparently abstract and academic debates about knowledge are not just the luxuries of intellectuals in countries with relatively well developed educational systems; they have a real significance for what happens in thousands of school classrooms.