Essays in Education


The purpose of this article is to develop a new perspective of large-scale educational reform as long waves or long cycles in the history of Western industrialized countries (specifically the US). Kondratieff cycles refer to a “law of motion” in the capitalist mode of production: Since the establishment of the industrial capitalism in the late 18th century, capitalism has moved through long waves of upswings followed by long waves of downswings, each complete cycle comprising about 50 to 60 years intervals. So far, four Kondratieff cycles have been identified: 1789-1849, 1849-1894, 1894-1945, 1945-1995. It is argued that we are in the fifth Kondratieff cycle which would run until 2045/50. The historical evidence provided in this article demonstrate that large scale educational reforms in the history of Western industrialized countries have coincided with the downswing phase of each Kondratieff cycle. Stated differently, large-scale educational reforms comprising a new educational philosophy, pedagogical principles, curricular revolutions and management innovations have come during the time of major economic, social and political revolutions caused by a clear Kondratieff crisis of capitalism about every 50 years in the last two hundred years of the Western capitalism. The article ends with some propositions for a theory of long waves in educational policy and practice.

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