Beyond the current political economy of competence development


  • Henning Salling Olesen Roskilde University, Denmark



Competence, qualification, subjectivity, profession, political economy of working people


Competence is a concept imported into the adult and continuing education arena from the psychological terminology of human resource development in work organizations. It has been elevated to a societal and political level as part of a new discursive regime. This article points out the significance of the particular circumstances in which the competence discourse has emerged, and argues for its critical investigation within a Marxist framework. A new discourse of learning and competence reflects a new material dependency of capital(ism) on the concrete quality of work and workers, requiring a total program of learning for work. This opens a new arena of political struggle over the direction of learning processes and the participation of workers in work and society. The socio-economic realities and new understanding of the interrelationship between knowledge, skills, learning and practice central to the competence concept, raises a potential issue about the role of work and the living worker in a capitalist economy. This requires a re-development of the notion of economy based in the value and interest of working people, and enabled by the full development of the competences of the workers themselves. A notion of the "political economy of working people" is proposed as a framework for investigating the potentials of competence development for enhanced democracy.


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How to Cite

Salling Olesen, H. (2013). Beyond the current political economy of competence development. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 4(2), 153–170.

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