Philosophy And Theory Of Civil Education: Facets Of Interaction


The author looks from a historical-pedagogical and theoretical-methodological perspective at the philosophical-pedagogical treatment of the concepts of citizen and civil education developed by philosophers in the periods of antiquity, мodern and recent time. The article stresses that these ideas have underpinned the concepts and theory of education, but the question that is still not quite clear is on what fundamental basis modern concepts and theories of civil education are built, how philosophy and the theory of civil education interact, how the connection between philosophical ideas of educating a citizen and the theories of civil education is mediated. To obtain answers to these questions a theoretical analysis has been carried out of the philosophical content of the concept of citizen and philosophical ideas of educating a citizen. The implementation of the research initiative undertaken by the author warrants a number of conclusions: the distinction between philosophical views of citizen and the phenomenon of the state predetermines differences in pedagogical views on civil education; in the 20th century civil education in West European societies was based on the philosophical ideas of personal responsibility and orientation toward democratic values whereas civil education in East European societies was oriented toward the ideological values of socialism and communism; the modern world sees a narrowing of the gap between the views on civil education espoused by Russian and West European pedagogy.

Keywords: Citizencivil educationpedagogyphilosophy


Educating a citizen, shaping his moral, legal and political attitudes is one of the key problems of education in the modern world. Without a clear idea of what civil education should be like, and what principles it should be guided by in the process of civil education it is impossible to tackle this problem.

The fundamental basis of educating a citizen has been developed by the philosophy of education which revealed the essence of the concept of citizen, identified and described the characteristics of citizen and determined the ideas of civil education. The concepts and theories of education have been built and are still being built proceeding from these ideas. However, it is not quite clear how philosophy interacts with the theory of civil education, how the link between the philosophical ideas of educating a citizen and the theories of civil education is mediated. Without understanding the philosophical ideas of educating a citizen it is extremely difficult to understand the starting points and principles of civil education.

This article presents materials that contain a brief description of analytical data obtained for the purpose of revealing and understanding the facets of the interaction of philosophy and the theory of civil education.

Problem Statement

Modern pedagogical science pays considerable attention to the study of citizen education. Pedagogical science is concentrated more on the search for new approaches, methods and technologies aimed at improving civil education. The question that is still unclear is on what foundation modern concepts and theories of civil education are based. The study of philosophical ideas of citizen permits not only to identify this foundation but to gain a deeper insight into the mediated connection between the philosophical content of the concept of citizen and the concepts and theories of civil education.

Research Questions

In the process of research an attempt has been made to answer the following questions: how does philosophy interact with the theory of civil education? And how is the link between the philosophical ideas of educating a citizen and the concepts and theories of civil education mediated?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to reveal and explicate the links between the philosophical ideas of educating a citizen and the concepts and theories of civil education.

Research Methods

The study used the method of theoretical analysis which made it possible to reveal and explain the links between the philosophical ideas of educating a citizen and the concepts and theories of civil education.


One of the first uses of the word “citizen” goes back to the 5th century AD. Plato in his work The State, analyzing the reason for the emergence of various types of state notes that the state consists of three estates (workers, guardians and philosopher-kings) who seek to unite in implementing the ideas of justice. Plato sets forth these ideas in describing the models of the state structure. They have to do with the participation of citizens in solving state issues and interrelationships which Plato describes as “the ability to rule and the ability to obey.” In effect, the citizen, according to Plato, is a person who knows how to rule and how to obey (Plato, 2017).

A more concrete idea of citizen is contained in Aristotle’s work Politics, in which the author, focusing on the concept of “citizen” writes: But a state is composite, like any other whole made up of many parts; these are the citizens, who compose it. It is evident, therefore, that we must begin by asking, who is the citizen, and what is the meaning of the term? (Aristotle, 2017). A distinctive feature that distinguishes a citizen from the other members of the population of a Greek polis is defined by Aristotle as the right, under the law, to take part in law court proceedings and in the popular assembly. In identifying the essential feature of the concept of “citizen” Aristotle does not focus attention on its humanitarian content (Crittenden & Peter, 2018).

Hobbes (2017) invests the concept of citizen with different content. According to Hobbes, a citizen is a person who has consciously decided to renounce the natural state. The natural state is the cause of the war of all against all. Such a person renounces his natural rights in favor of the sovereign (the state) for the sake of security and justice to become a subject (Leydet, 2017). Renunciation of natural rights implies a certain informal agreement whereby a person undertakes to comply with the laws and rules established by the state while the state undertakes to ensure for a person the possibility of exercising part of the natural rights, but only in the framework established by the natural law safeguarded by the coercive power of the state (Hobbes, 2017). Hobbes does not formulate the concept of citizen, but he implies that a citizen is a person who has become a party to the social contract.

Montesquieu invests the concept of citizen with a fundamentally different meaning while elaborating the ideas of the social contract. In his work On the Spirit of Laws Montesquieu paid considerable attention to revealing the regularities of the formation of the state and defining man’s place and role in it. With his characteristic enlightenment-inspired vision the philosopher reflects on the desire of people to unite in a state springing not from the renunciation of the natural law for the sake of personal security, but from the wish to gain strength through unity. In addition, Montesquieu (2015) notes that people unite in a state due to the unity of their will which the philosopher called “the civil state”.

Rousseau (2017), who looked into the phenomenon of “civil state” as a state (different from the natural state) of man that contributes to the formation of the “moral foundations,” directly linking this state with the phenomenon of citizen. Thus, according to Rousseau, a man in becoming a citizen becomes a human, which distinguishes him from an animal. Renouncing natural freedom man acquires moral freedom, freedom of choice because acting solely under the influence of one’s animal wishes, Rousseau maintains, is slavery, “…for the mere impulse of appetite is slavery, while obedience to a law which we prescribe to ourselves is liberty”. A citizen, according to Rousseau, is a person who has consciously made the decision to abandon the natural state and renounce natural rights (under a voluntary contract) and who has accepted the moral rules of joint being of people. Compliance with the moral norms and regulations of community life turns a person into a citizen (Culp, 2020).

Kant (2015) wrote that one distinguishing feature of the concept of “citizen” is a person’s readiness to obey the law. According to Kant, citizens are members of society who have united for law making. Kant singles out the following essential aspects of the concept of “citizen”:

“the freedom of everyone not to obey any law other than that he has agreed to;”

“civil equality, i.e. recognizing as standing above one only those members of the people on whom he has the moral ability to impose the same legal obligations as he can impose on him;

“to owe one’s existence and sustenance not to the arbitrary will of some other member of the people but to one’s own rights and powers as a member of the community.”

“only the capacity to vote constitutes the qualification of citizen, Kant (2015) writes, and this capacity presupposes the independence of those members of the people who intend to be not simply a part of the community, but its members, i.e. a part acting of its own accord jointly with the others”.

Hegel (2015), analyzing the content of the concept of “citizen,” draws attention to the fact that a person’s activity as citizen implies legal capacity. He links legal capacity with private property and ownership noting that this manifests the will of an individual person. Private property and ownership prompt the philosopher to reflect on man’s freedom, these reflections being interspersed with reflections on the citizen of a good state where he consummates his right (Hegel, 2015).

Marx provides a fundamentally different perception of citizen in his work Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Marx (1977) notes that a citizen is a structural part of the state as a member of a concrete family and as a member of the civil society. Every citizen belongs to a certain economic class and the body of his material and civil rights depends on his belonging to that class. Economic classes are in a state of class struggle between themselves, a struggle into which a citizen (as a member of the civil society) is inevitably drawn. Marx does not provide a cut-and-dried definition of the concept of “citizen” but the analysis of his ideas of man and citizen prompts the conclusion that by citizen the philosopher means a person who is a member of the family and in that role is a member of the civil society and belongs as a member of the civil society to a certain economic class, being involved in class struggle.

Global historical events in the 20th century led to a revision of previous philosophical ideas of citizen. One of the attempts at rethinking was made by Popper. In his works the philosopher did not dwell on the analysis of the essential properties of citizen focusing instead on the conditions of the interaction between the state and the individual as citizen. Such interaction, according to Popper, is determined by the models of the social system which philosophers described as “closed society” and “open society”.

The citizen in a “closed society” lives under the influence of a rigid system of taboos and ideological strictures, he has no opportunity to influence social reality directly or through political institutions. In a “closed society” the role of citizen is associated with strict adherence to the prescriptions of power, to following instructions, following the line laid down by the governance structures as the only correct one. However, such interaction between citizen and society is not exclusive. Owing to inevitable social changes taking place partly under the influence of economic processes, a transition is possible from a “closed society” to an “open society.” And then, in an “open society” the citizen, being its active member, has an opportunity, through democratic political institutions, to influence society’s economic and political life for the purpose of ensuring a decent level of satisfaction of personal needs and eliminating social tensions. A distinctive feature of a citizen who is a member of the “open society” is his personal responsibility for the formation and the performance of all the social institutions. Such a citizen is prepared for social activity aimed at transforming social institutions in case he is validly dissatisfied with the effectiveness of their functioning (Popper et al., 2013).

An analysis of the philosophical ideas of citizen is necessary for determining what philosophical foundations the concepts and theories of civil education rest, how the philosophy and theory of civil education interact.

Thus, Plato (2016) in his work Laws developing the idea that a distinguishing feature of citizen is the ability to obey and the ability to rule notes: “…obviously, by education we mean … what from childhood leads to virtue making man passionately desire and seek to become a perfect citizen who is able in accordance with justice to obey or to rule. Education that is concentrated on money, power or some other art devoid of reason and justice is low and ignoble and is not worthy of the name”.

Aristotle (2017), who sees a direct link between the state, citizen and his education notes that the education of a citizen must be a public concern because “No one will doubt that the legislator should direct his attention above all to the education of youth, or that the neglect of education does harm to states…”, and “Neither must we suppose that any one of the citizens belongs to himself, for they belong to the state and are each of them a part of the state…”.

Picking up Aristotle’s idea on the interest of the state in educating the young generation, Hobbes assigns a special role to the university in the business of social “civil teaching.” In state universities, according to Hobbes (1998), the foundation of civil doctrine, which is true and truly demonstrated, have to be laid.

Montesquieu (2015), developing the idea of the state being interested in educating a citizen, defines the important role of the family in civil education because “each particular family should be governed according to the plan of the great family that includes them all. If there is principle for the people taken generally, then the parts which compose it, that is, the families will have one also”. Reflecting on the features of education in a republican state, Montesquieu notes that education constitutes the transmission by parents of their knowledge and their feeling of love of country. “If it does not happen, it is because what was done in the father's house is destroyed by impressions from the outside”. Love of one’s Motherland, according to Montesquieu, will go hand-in-hand with love of laws and implies putting social good above personal good.

The importance of family in the education of a citizen was particularly stressed by Kant who noted that the interests of the family and the rulers in molding a future member of society do not coincide. The discrepancy manifests itself in the fact that “… parents are only concerned with their children’s success in life while the rulers see their subjects only as an instrument for achieving their goals. The parents worry about the family and the rulers about the state. Neither make it their final goal to achieve common good and perfection, which is the mission of mankind” (Kant, 2015). With Kant, the ideas of civil education are linked to the ideas of educating man as the proponent of culture free of prejudice seeking universal good, education committed to his moral improvement.

Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote that the quality of civility is not a characteristic of the new type of man, the European with uniform personal qualities oriented toward satisfying his personal needs (Krychok & Sergeeva, 2018). According to Rousseau (2015), public education no longer exists and cannot exist because where there is no fatherland there can be no citizen. These two words, “fatherland” and “citizen”, must be crossed out of our modern languages”. Nevertheless, the thinker proposes his approach to education which reveals clear features oriented toward preparing the pupil for future civil life. He writes, among other things: “In the natural system, because all men are equal, their common title is to be a man, he who is well educated for his title cannot be a bad executor… he will be neither a judge, nor a soldier, nor a priest, he will, above all, be a man, if need be he can be all that a man must be” (Rousseau, 2015).

Hegel (2015) looks at the idea of civil education through the prism of the influence of civil society on the individual. The philosopher writes: “The civic community, in its character as universal family, has the right and duty to supersede, if necessary, the will of the parents, and superintend the education of the young, at least in so far as their education bears upon their becoming members of the community… the community has the right to proceed according to tried methods, and to compel parents to send their children to school …”.

The questions pertaining to civil education were raised by such brilliant thinkers and pedagogues as Komenski, Pestalozzi, Diesterwerg, Spencer and others. However, one of the first attempts to frame the idea of civil education as scientific-pedagogical belongs to the German educator Kerschensteiner. In his work Civil Education, he stresses the interconnection between the state system and civil education. Hobbes and Rousseau attribute the differences of views on the phenomenon of state to the difference of views on civil education. The difference of views on citizen and the phenomenon of state predetermines the differences of views on civil education.

Speaking about the interconnection between state and citizen Kerschensteiner points to the social-cultural determination of the functioning of the education system as a whole and civil education, in particular. The state, according to Kerschensteiner, is a value for man only when his vital interests are connected with the interest of the state. Civil education is heavily influenced by external and internal factors. Before considering the question of what civil education should be like it is necessary to clarify whether these factors exist.

Kerschensteiner singles out as external factors the socio-economic and political system and the cultural level of the popular masses. The internal factors, in his view, are the correlation within the structure of individual of selfish and altruistic motives, of the will and intellect; and psychological activity of the individual in the process of learning (the quest of knowledge).

Analyzing the social problems of his time, Kerschensteiner points to the fact that the state must seek to mitigate social contradictions and achieve a balance of social interests. Through education, the state must provide each of its members with the opportunity to understand his functions and place in the state organism.

According to Kercshensteiner, the family plays a significant role in civil education at the early stage in the formation of the individual. Its role consists in preparing its members for citizenship. The pillars of citizenship are, in his opinion, freedom of conscience and the right to vote. The aim of all education is to create a society consisting, as far as possible, of people who have a capacity for independent thinking, are harmoniously developed and possess freedom of action flowing from these supreme principles. The school, as Kerschensteiner (1911) notes, only becomes a school of civil education when its organization is informed with the idea that moral education is more important than intellectual education.

Further development of the idea of civil education was influenced by global events in the 20th century. These events had a direct impact on the formation of two directions of civil education, one of which was implemented in the countries of Western Europe and the other was formed under the impact of dialectical materialism and the ideology of the Communist Party in the USSR and the “socialist camp” countries (Potekhina, 2018).

The “Western” scenario of the development of civil education was adopted in the countries with the capitalist model of economic relations and a democratic form of governance. Its characteristic feature was the introduction in education of such democratic social values as pluralism of opinions, freedom of choice and personal responsibility of every citizen (Siegel et al., 2018).

The provisions set forth by Kerschensteiner in his concept of civil education were in many ways shared by Dewey. Dewey saw education as an instrument for transforming and developing democratic society. The state and citizens, according to Dewey, must be interested in developing democratic traditions in the education of children at school (Ploeg, 2016). Civil education, Dewey believed, presupposes the inculcation of certain models of behavior based on the ideals inculcated by the school. The school, according to Dewey (1916), must be a model of society and must prepare children for life in the civil society and in the democratic state. Society and state must exert an educational impact on man to motivate him for socially useful activity.

Dewey’s pedagogical ideas are in many ways echoed by Korchak. Speaking about civil education Korchak (2018) noted that this education must be the main education at school. To achieve its goals the education process must be based on children’s self-government. The school educates a citizen only when the educational practice is governed by an atmosphere that enables the child to make a personal contribution to the social good.

The ideas of organizing the process of education by creating conditions for personal choice and providing an educational environment that can ensure free development of the individual, were developed by Carl Rogers. Explaining the essence of his concept in his work Freedom to Learn Rogers describes students who are actively and voluntarily involved in the study process as citizens. Rogers does not focus on what civil education is, but his ideas of the development and nurturing of personality are connected with the ideas of molding a citizen. Thus, Rogers pays special attention to the question of creating conditions for fostering a sense of personal responsibility for the results of one’s activities before the collective, of active involvement of children in academic and social activities of an educational entity (class, school) (Rogers & Freiberg, 2019).

Civil education practiced in the USSR was oriented toward the person being the object of educational influence. The result of such education was unconditional adoption of the priority of social interests over personal ones (Meshkov, 2017).

The questions of civil education in the USSR were raised by Makarenko who saw civil education as a complex, multifaceted influence of the collective on the individual. The civil properties of the individual are shaped through the striving to achieve collective goals. The moral values that underlie civil education are derived by the subjects of the education process from the ideals of socialism and communism. Although Makarenko stresses that collective goals stand above the interests of the individual his model of civil education leaves some room for individuality (Dorokhova, 2018). Such individuality is manifested in a feeling of personal responsibility for all the aspects of the life of a collective and each of its members.

Makarenko’s ideas of civil education clearly reveal the duality of collectivism as an instrument of civil education and the author’s admission of the need for an individual approach to every single person. The educationist sees the setting of correct goals for civil education as a way of resolving this duality. The content of civil education is revealed in “long-term perspectives” oriented toward integration of the individual into the political system of Soviet society, which implies that a Soviet citizen must “be able to visualize his own life only as part of the present and future of the whole society” (Makarenko, 2016). However, like Plato, Makarenko believes that the ability to rule and the ability to obey are the civil qualities of the individual that should be formed through civil education. These qualities are instilled through equal participation in the life of the collective, the exercise of the right to vote in resolving collective needs, problems and questions, which is an effective instrument of civil education.

Reflecting on the content of civil education, Sukhomlinsky (2011) noted that it is based on the fostering of “moral convictions, ideas, feelings and actions of the individual”. Through civil education, according to Sukhomslinsky, the “merger of the social and the personal” is effected and its aim is to instill a feeling of responsibility to society in the framework of the ideas of socialist morality (Cockerill, 2011). Sukhomlinsky put moral education at the top of civil education comparing the pedagogue’s educational activity to weeding out of manifestations of asocial behavior and violation of ethical norms (Shekhovskaya et al., 2019). Socially useful labor and man’s involvement in its results are, according to Sukhomlinsky, the most important instrument of education.

In Russia at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, the political, economic and social reforms taking place in the country prompted educationists to reappraise the Soviet legacy of civil education. The gap between Russian and Western pedagogical views on civil education is narrowing (Shafranov-Kutsev & Yarkova, 2018).


The implementation of the research initiative undertaken by the author leads to the following conclusions:

The difference of philosophical views on citizen and the phenomenon of state predetermine the differences between pedagogical views and civil education;

In the 20th century civil education in the West European societies was built on philosophical ideas of personal responsibility and orientation toward democratic values whereas civil education in the East European societies was oriented toward ideological values of socialism and communism;

In the modern world, we witness a drawing closer together of the views on civil education espoused by Russian and West European pedagogues.


  1. Aristotle. (2017). Politics: A New Translation. Tr. C. D. C. Reeve. Hackett Publishing Company, Incorporated.
  2. Cockerill, A. (2011). Values education in the Soviet State: The lasting contribution of V.A. Sukhomlinsky. International Journal of Educational Research, 50(3), 198-204.
  3. Crittenden, J., & Peter, L. (2018). Civic Education. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Fall 2018 Edition).
  4. Culp, J. (2020). Bildung und Gerechtigkeit. Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung, 74(2), 296-309.
  5. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education.
  6. Dorokhova, T. S. (2018). Educational system of A. S. Makarenko in the context of prospects for the development of modern Russian education (on the results of the anniversary conference). Pedagogical education in Russia, 9, 144-150.
  7. Hegel, G. W. F. (2015). Philosophy of Right. Translated by Alan White. Hackett Publishing Company, Incorporated.
  8. Hobbes, T. (1998). On the Citizen. Cambridge University Press.
  9. Hobbes, T. (2017). Leviathan (Longman Library of Primary Sources in Philosophy). Taylor & Francis Group.
  10. Kant, I. (2015). The Ethics of Immanuel Kant: Metaphysics of Morals - Philosophy of Law & The Doctrine of Virtue Perpetual Peace the Critique of Practical Reason: Theory of Moral Reasoning. Bookwire.
  11. Kerschensteiner, G. (1911). Education for Citizenship. McNally & Company.
  12. Korchak, Y. (2018). How to love a child: And Other Selected Works. Tr. O. Medvedeva-Nathoo, A. M. Czernow. Vallentine Mitchell.
  13. Krychok, P. S., & Sergeeva, E. M. (2018). Humanistic Aspects of Civic Education. Higher technical education, 2(1), 29-33.
  14. Leydet, D. (2017). Citizenship. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition).
  15. Makarenko, A. S. (2016). My system of education. Pedagogical poem. AST Publishing house.
  16. Marx, K. (1977). Critique of Hegel's ‘Philosophy of Right’. Cambridge University Press.
  17. Meshkov, A. E. (2017). On the Transformation of the Concept of "Civil Education" in the National Social and Scientific Thought of the Early Twentieth Century: Historical and Pedagogical Aspect. Bulletin of Chelyabinsk Pedagogical University, 2, 55-60.
  18. Montesquieu, C. (2015). The Spirit of Laws. Baker & Taylor Publisher Services.
  19. Plato. (2016). The Laws. Cambridge University Press.
  20. Plato. (2017). State. AST.
  21. Ploeg, V. (2016). Dewey versus “Dewey” on democracy and education. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 11(2), 145–159.
  22. Popper, K., Ryan, A., & Gombrich, E. H. (2013). The Open Society and Its Enemies. Princeton University Press.
  23. Potekhina, E. N. (2018). Essential Characteristics of the Concept of Citizenship in the Modern Context. Pedagogical art., 1, 38-47.
  24. Rogers, K., & Freiberg, D. (2019). Freedom to Learn. Smysl.
  25. Rousseau, J.-J. (2015). Emile, or on Education. Strelbitsky multimedia publishing house.
  26. Rousseau, J.-J. (2017). The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Law: Also, a Project for a Perpetual Peace (Classic Reprint). Fb&c Limited.
  27. Shafranov-Kutsev, G. F., & Yarkova, E. N. (2018). National values of Russian education in the context of international integration. RUDN Journal of Sociology, 18(3), 532-541.
  28. Shekhovskaya, N. L., Shumakova, I. A., & Efimova, A. G. (2019). Genesis of the Idea of Civil Education in Russian Pedagogy. Scientific result. Pedagogy and Psychology of Education, 5(1), 33-40.
  29. Siegel, H., Phillips, D. C., & Callan, E. (2018). Philosophy of Education. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition).
  30. Sukhomlinsky, V. A. (2011). Education of a Citizen. Education of Schoolchildren: theoretical and scientific-methodical journal, 7, 3-9.

Copyright information

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

About this article

Publication Date

28 December 2020

eBook ISBN



European Publisher



Print ISBN (optional)


Edition Number

1st Edition




Multicultural context, learning environment, modern society, personality formation, informatization of the society, economics and law system of the region

Cite this article as:

Kuznetsov, V. V. (2020). Philosophy And Theory Of Civil Education: Facets Of Interaction. In N. L. Shamne, S. Cindori, E. Y. Malushko, O. Larouk, & V. G. Lizunkov (Eds.), Individual and Society in the Modern Geopolitical Environment, vol 99. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 475-484). European Publisher.