Sabine Hornberg

Potential of the World Polity Approach and the Concept 'Transnational Educational Spaces' for the Analysis of New Developments in Education


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The Stanford scholars around John W. Meyer have, for many years, presented work within the theoretical frame of the world polity approach, a version of the neo-institutionalistic sociology of organizations that focuses on scientific aspects of social theory. These are treated according to a macro-perspective and with recourse to empirical data covering wide historical and geographical spaces. This article begins by outlining the empirical findings of Meyer and his colleagues on worldwide educational developments in order to make clear their research perspectives, interests, and objectives. Next, so as to categorize the interpretation of the educational dynamics that Meyer and his colleagues suggest, the theoretical assumptions underlying the world polity approach are sketched out. The argument then followed is that because of reference to the nation state as the central driving force for isomorphism and neglect of the economic dimension by the Stanford scholars new education opportunities brought about by processes of globalization and internationalization cannot be adequately conceptualized and analyzed under the umbrella of the world polity approach. The concept of transnational educational spaces (Adick, 2005; Hornberg, in press) appears as an opportunity to work on these developments and so is outlined. The article closes by hinting at the perspectives that drawing on the world polity approach and the concept of transnational educational spaces could offer conceptual and empirical work in education.

globalization, world polity approach, transnationalism, transnational educational spaces