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The concept of resonance in education

We cannot produce resonance at will, and therefore we cannot plan its occurrence.

Published : 20.12.2021

The resonance (Rosa, 2021) is the experience of being in deep connection with the world and actively getting involved in this experience, therefore living what happens as something with meaning. This is the reason why resonance is considered the opposite of the phenomenon of alienation.

What does resonance mean?

The first important aspect of resonance is that it represents the other (opposite) of alienation as described by Rosa. Alienation represents the loss of meaning, the separation of the human being from a meaningful life, the product of the instrumentalization of the dimensions of life. In other words, alienation is the state in which we lose the positive and meaningful relationship with our world.

“To sum up, resonance as alienation’s other, then, is defined by four crucial elements: first, by af<-fection in the sense of the experience of being truly touched or moved; second, by e->motion as the experience of responsive (as opposed to purely instrumental) self-efficacy; third, by its transformative quality; and fourth, by an intrinsic moment of unpredictability, i.e., of non-controllability or non-disposability. We can never simply establish resonance instrumentally or bring it about at will; it always remains elusive. Put differently: whether or not we “hear the call” is beyond our will and control” (Rosa, 2021).

Therefore, it is essential to recognize the unpredictability and uncontrollability of the resonance. We cannot produce resonance at will, and therefore we cannot plan its occurrence.

The connection between resonance and education

How plausible is the use of the concept of resonance in the educational dimension? To answer the question, I have to introduce the concept of educational action, understanding it as a particular form of communicative action (Habermas, 1984, 1990). This means that we are in the presence of a particular communicative rationality. The rationality of educational action means that there is an ethical conviction in the actors involved in it. An educational action represents the motivation of an actor to communicate a vision, perspective or knowledge about our world to another actor. This action is carried out through the learning process and it is in this process that resonance can emerge.

When will the educational action be more likely to produce resonance?

As Rosa points out, even though resonance is not controllable, there are some conditions that increase its probability. From my point of view, it is necessary at this point to ask the question are there some conditions that improve the possibility of resonance arising in educational action?

My answer is affirmative, when we behave in a rational way (educational rationality) and we take into consideration the need for resonance as one of the important conditions of the educational action.

Now, the natural consequence of this logic is to wonder about the conditions that increase the probability of resonance in educational action. For this I need to explain the concept of resonance axes.

“When we scrutinize these axes more closely, we find that we can systematically distinguish three different dimensions of resonance: the social, material, and existential dimensions of resonance” (Rosa, 2021).

The social axis means the relationship with other human beings or, in other words, the possibility of being touched, of resonating through interaction with others. The social axis is of special importance for the emergence of resonance, because it is on this axis that three different process take a place. The first is the instrumentalization of the human relationships, which occurs when the education process evolves in the direction of a relationship between means and ends. The second is the objectification where the subject of the educational action becomes an object, whatever the category (dimension of the objectification) used for this objectification, the third is what Taylor (1991) calls fragmentation, which occurs when the experience of totality of human interaction is reduced to a single dimension, such as the transfer of knowledge.

Educational rationality produces resonance

To summarize my reflection, if educational action is guided by educational rationality, that means the will to produce resonance. Despite the uncontrollability and unpredictability of resonance, we know that we can increase the possibility of resonance by considering the resonance axes. Assuming the importance of the social axis represents the explicit objective of not transforming the educational action to a process of knowledge transfer, or the reduction of educational action through the instrumentalization and fragmentation of the total human experience.

Resonance in education represents the recognition of the ethical imperative of the educational action and the consideration of the risk of instrumental rationality in our educational field.


• Habermas, J.1984. The Theory of Communicative Action. Beacon Press.
• Habermas, J. 1990. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. The MIT Press.
• Rosa, H. 2021. The idea of resonance as a sociological concept. Global Dialogue Magazine of the International Sociological Association. Accessed 26.11.2021.
• Rosa, H. 2019. Resonance a sociology of our relationship to the world. Polity Press.
• Taylor, C. 1991. The Ethics of Authenticity. Harvard University Press.