By Frederico Jensen
Whenever I talk about Roskilde University (RUC) with someone who is not a student here, they seem to not understand the reason why RUC is a necessary institution in Denmark. Their reasoning goes: Denmark is a great progressive country that has one of the highest standards of living in the world, one of the best economies and the happiest people so there is no need to reinvent the wheel or be critical. In addition, there is a general feeling that at RUC, a student does not go to learn, but rather to behave like a hippie, sitting in a circle with other people, discussing topics that are not important or relevant for the work market. A very common example is philosophy.
It is exactly for those reasons that we are being critiqued that makes RUC and other critical universities more important than ever. Danish society has bought into the ideas posed by Francis Fukuyama (and other liberal thinkers) in his essay “the end of history?” (Fukuyama F. (1989) The end of history? The National Interest, No. 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 3-18) where he argues that the Western world is at the end of time and that the way our societies are governed and organized is post-ideology and we have reached the best outcome for humankind. In this new world, people forget history and culture, and philosophy does not matter anymore.
This seems to be somewhat true in Denmark, people have forgotten past struggles that created the system of welfare that exists now. Forgetting that things were different in the past also creates a second problem, it makes us believe that there is no other option, no other way of doing things.
However, at RUC we say no. We say no to the end of history, we say no to accepting that what we have now is the best we can get. We do so by being critical, we do so by looking at things again, by examining the structures that determine how we live, and by pointing to alternative ways of doing things – alternative ways of learning and alternative readings of history, society and the people who live in it.
So, what I say to people who do not understand RUC or who think that RUC is not needed in Denmark is to look again, look again from a different angle, do not take things at face value, think outside the box, think critically about your own bias and assumptions and do not be compliant.
This is what RUC teaches us as students, to be critical and to look for the alternative. In that way, I think RUC and other critical universities provide a service for society because any society without critical thinking becomes decadent.
About the Author
I am Federico Jensen and a student at Roskilde university in my 3rd year. I am studying a bachelor degree in International Social Science with the main subject in International Studies. I was born in Argentina from a Danish father and an Argentinian mother, I have lived in four different countries and studied in different academic settings. My main interests are international political economy and development economics, particularly regarding economic discourses. I divide my spare time between playing basketball and binge watching Game of Thrones over and over again!