Toward an Ideal Relational Ethic: Rethinking university-community engagement

Steve Garlick, Victoria J. Palmer


Abstract

This paper explores how an ideal relational ethic based on Zygmunt Bauman’s (1995) notion of forms of togetherness is needed to underpin university-community engagement processes and practices. We focus on the notion of being-for, and suggest that it can be used as an ‘engagement bridge’ between higher education institutions, the creation of human capital and communities, and can be a means to achieve ethical outcomes to local concerns. Much of Bauman’s (1995; 2001; 2007) theoretical development has focussed on the liquidity of modernity, to give the impression that community - in the spatially, physically located and fixed sense of the term - no longer exists. This paper proposes that spatial dimensions, particularly in the context of developing relational ethics, are important. This is particularly so for paying adequate attention to context-specific values, principles and issues in communities, for developing enterprising human capital via engagement, and for addressing matters of socio-political importance such as the environment. Contemporary neo-liberal times require ethical and moral leadership from universities. This paper suggests that such leadership can be developed from focussing attention on the forms of togetherness fostered by university-community engagement.

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