Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Not for Profit

Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Not for Profit
    Book Description:

    In this short and powerful book, celebrated philosopher Martha Nussbaum makes a passionate case for the importance of the liberal arts at all levels of education.

    Historically, the humanities have been central to education because they have been seen as essential for creating competent democratic citizens. But recently, Nussbaum argues, thinking about the aims of education has gone disturbingly awry in the United States and abroad. We increasingly treat education as though its primary goal were to teach students to be economically productive rather than to think critically and become knowledgeable and empathetic citizens. This shortsighted focus on profitable skills has eroded our ability to criticize authority, reduced our sympathy with the marginalized and different, and damaged our competence to deal with complex global problems. And the loss of these basic capacities jeopardizes the health of democracies and the hope of a decent world.

    In response to this dire situation, Nussbaum argues that we must resist efforts to reduce education to a tool of the gross national product. Rather, we must work to reconnect education to the humanities in order to give students the capacity to be true democratic citizens of their countries and the world.

    Drawing on the stories of troubling--and hopeful--educational developments from around the world, Nussbaum offers a manifesto that should be a rallying cry for anyone who cares about the deepest purposes of education.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4201-8
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. ii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Ruth O’Brien

    The humanities and arts play a central role in the history of democracy, and yet today many parents are ashamed of children who study literature or art. Literature and philosophy have changed the world, but parents all over the world are more likely to fret if their children are financially illiterate than if their training in the humanities is deficient. Even at the University of Chicago’s Laboratory School—the school that gave birth to philosopher John Dewey’s path-breaking experiments in democratic education reform—many parents worry that their children are not being schooled enough for financial success.

    InNot for...

    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. I The Silent Crisis
    (pp. 1-12)

    We are in the midst of a crisis of massive proportions and grave global significance. No, I do not mean the global economic crisis that began in 2008. At least then everyone knew that a crisis was at hand, and many world leaders worked quickly and desperately to find solutions. Indeed, consequences for governments were grave if they did not find solutions, and many were replaced in consequence. No, I mean a crisis that goes largely unnoticed, like a cancer; a crisis that is likely to be, in the long run, far more damaging to the future of democratic self-government:...

  6. II Education for Profit, Education for Democracy
    (pp. 13-26)

    To think about education for democratic citizenship, we have to think about what democratic nations are, and what they strive for. What does it mean, then, for a nation to advance? In one view it means to increase its gross national product per capita. This measure of national achievement has for decades been the standard one used by development economists around the world, as if it were a good proxy for a nation’s overall quality of life.

    The goal of a nation, says this model of development, should be economic growth. Never mind about distribution and social equality, never mind...

  7. III Educating Citizens: The Moral (and Anti-Moral) Emotions
    (pp. 27-46)

    Education is for people. Before we can design a scheme for education, we need to understand the problems we face on the way to making students responsible democratic citizens who might think and choose well about a wide range of issues of national and worldwide significance. What is it about human life that makes it so hard to sustain democratic institutions based on equal respect and the equal protection of the laws, and so easy to lapse into hierarchies of various types—or, even worse, projects of violent group animosity? What forces make powerful groups seek control and domination? What...

  8. IV Socratic Pedagogy: The Importance of Argument
    (pp. 47-78)

    Socrates proclaimed that “the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.” In a democracy fond of impassioned rhetoric and skeptical of argument, he lost his life for his allegiance to this ideal of critical questioning. Today his example is central to the theory and practice of liberal education in the Western tradition, and related ideas have been central to ideas of liberal education in India and other non-Western cultures. One of the reasons people have insisted on giving all undergraduates a set of courses in philosophy and other subjects in the humanities is that they believe such...

  9. V Citizens of the World
    (pp. 79-94)

    We live in a world in which people face one another across gulfs of geography, language, and nationality. More than at any time in the past, we all depend on people we have never seen, and they depend on us. The problems we need to solve—economic, environmental, religious, and political—are global in their scope. They have no hope of being solved unless people once distant come together and cooperate in ways they have not before. Think of global warming; decent trade regulations; the protection of the environment and animal species; the future of nuclear energy and the dangers...

  10. VI Cultivating Imagination: Literature and the Arts
    (pp. 95-120)

    Citizens cannot relate well to the complex world around them by factual knowledge and logic alone. The third ability of the citizen, closely related to the first two, is what we can call the narrative imagination.¹ This means the ability to think what it might be like to be in the shoes of a person different from oneself, to be an intelligent reader of that person’s story, and to understand the emotions and wishes and desires that someone so placed might have. The cultivation of sympathy has been a key part of the best modern ideas of democratic education, in...

  11. VII Democratic Education on the Ropes
    (pp. 121-144)

    How is education for democratic citizenship doing in the world today? Very poorly, I fear. This is a manifesto, not an empirical study, so this chapter will not be filled with quantitative data, although the data support my concern.¹ The disturbing trends I am describing must simply be summarized, and illustrated by telling and representative examples.

    The argument I have been making is intended as a call to action. If it should turn out that things are less bad than I believe them to be, we should not breathe a sigh of relief; we should do exactly what we would...

  12. Afterword to the Paperback Edition: Reflections on the Future of the Humanities—at Home and Abroad
    (pp. 145-154)

    Since the publication ofNot for Profitin the spring of 2010, I have traveled extensively, both in the United States and abroad, talking about the ideas of the book and current developments in the places I’ve visited. In the United States, I’ve been to liberal arts colleges, large state universities, religious universities, and large private universities. Outside the United States, I’ve spoken about the future of the humanities in Australia, Britain, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Korea, the Netherlands, and Spain. The book has already appeared in translation in Spanish, Italian, French, and Dutch, and a total...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 155-162)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 163-168)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 169-170)