Adult education has frequently assumed a political role in society and has also been regarded as a social movement. The first systematic attempt to analyze it from the perspective of political theory, "Adult Education and the State" examines the purpose of adult education, the reasons it should be regarded as a citizenship right, and how modes of formal and non-formal adult education function as instruments of government or democracy.
Beginning with a historical perspective, Peter Jarvis examines the relationship between adult education and civil society. He discusses the concept of democracy and illustrates the variety of different forms with which the education of adults may be related. The idea of citizenship is also examined, and it is suggested that the education of adults may be regarded as a citizenship right which in some cases is being lost as a result of current government policies. The author also looks at the relationship between liberal adult education and society, suggesting that its provision is one of the symbols that a society is moving on the long journey towards becoming civilized. The final chapter illustrates the existence of utopian thought in radical adult education.