Lara Rettondini

Research project: Disciplined Autonomy: Reinterpreting Rousseau's Political Education


This research project aims to reassess the tension between the concepts of discipline and autonomy in the nexus of education and politics through engaging with Rousseau's conception of law, central to his theory of self-formation, in relation to Kant's and Hegel's response to his pedagogical and political philosophy as well as to Gramsci's return to educational and political problems foregrounded by him.

Rousseau's conception of law is encapsulated in his normative conception of freedom. He conceives freedom as autonomy, this understood as self-mastery and as self-legislation, in the Greek political sense. Autonomy, for Rousseau, is a higher form of freedom which implies not simply liberty, an individual capacity, but a kind of liberation, a collective achievement. This project will focus on two influential lines of critique of Rousseau, as developed by Kant and Hegel, both of whom, after him, ground their conceptions of free rational will in terms of the law, or ‘Recht', and both of whom question the legitimacy of his account of freedom and his pedagogical approach to the formation of the capacity for autonomy. It will also focus on Gramsci's dialogue with Rousseau in his emphasis on collective self-determination and political education.

This research seeks to provide a reinterpretation of Rousseau's understanding of sovereign law-making and shed new light on how this is bound up with his account of civic education. The project will be framed around a Rousseauian question, that is in terms of how to educate or ‘train the will', i.e. the faculty or capacity of the will, insofar as the will is meant to be ‘autónomos', self-legislating, self-determining, thus free. It will argue for a Rousseauian understanding of self-legislation as an educating process by which, through a dialectic between discipline and self-discipline, an autonomous will, individual or collective, becomes one that is self-educating as well.


I am Course Director for Interior Architecture and Design in the Leeds School of Arts, at Leeds Beckett University. I am also a registered architect, co-director of London-based practice Studio X Design Group, and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

Areas of research interest

  • Political Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Education
  • Rousseau
  • Gramsci


  • MA in Fine Art, Goldsmiths
  • MA in Architecture and Urban Culture, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya
  • Laurea in Architettura, Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia