oa Journal of Education - An analysis of needs talk in relation to sustainable development and education

Volume 41, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0259-479X



The year 2005 marked the beginning of the United Nations Decade of Education for sustainable development. Commonly, sustainable development (SD) means development that does not compromise the needs of future generations. Therefore the term implies two broad categories of needs: needs of present generations and needs of future generations. In this paper, I theorise about these two categories of needs. More importantly, however, I theorise about needs discourses associated with sustainable development. In other words, I focus not only on needs as the distribution of satisfactions but also on the contested character of needs or the politics of needs. Nancy Fraser writes that �needs talk� functions as a medium for making and contesting of political claims: �it is an idiom in which political conflict is played out and through which inequalities are symbolically elaborated and challenged�. Furthermore, she proposes a scheme for classifying the varieties of needs talk in late capitalist societies, suggesting that there are three major needs discourses: �oppositional� discourses, �reprivatisation� discourses and �expert� needs discourses. All of these relate to sustainable development, but sustainable development produces another discourse which might be descriptionbed as a �futures� needs discourse. In this paper I explore some of the current rival needs discourses and reflect on �futures� needs discourses vis-�vis sustainable development. I also suggest some implications of my discussion for education.

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