This theoretical review examines how democratic education is conceptualized within educational scholarship. Three hundred and seventy-seven articles published in English language peer-reviewed journals between 2006 and 2017 are discursively analyzed. Democratic education functions as a privileged nodal point of different political discourses. Two discourses against (elitist and neoliberal) and six discourses pro democratic education (liberal, deliberative, multiculturalist, participatory, critical, and agonistic) construct its meaning. It is argued that the different versions of democratic education respond to various (a) ontological and epistemological assumptions, (b) normative approaches to democracy, and (c) conceptions of the relationship between education and politics. For educational policy, the review provides a critique of elitist and neoliberal policies and support for participatory decision making across discourses. Recommendations for educational practice are made by identifying pedagogies across democratic education scholarship as well as specific pedagogies for each discourse.
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