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Ours is a troubled, liquid and precarious world. Tsunamis of economic change, neo-liberal ideology and the cult of individualism have led to the rise of extreme nationalist, nativist and fascist organisations, where intolerance is shown to the other, the migrant, or asylum seeker. It is a time where dialogue across difference seems hard to achieve, while new social media often serve as echo chambers in which people only listen to others like themselves. Moreover, representative democracy is in crisis, while lifelong learning has been instrumentalised and commodified with its labour market focus. Popular or citizenship education has long been in decline. Drawing on the work of distinguished Polish sociologist Bauman, and of adult educators R.H. Tawney and Raymond Williams, alongside new psychosocial interpretations of the history and contemporary world of adult education, the case is made for a reinvigoration of the public realm, in which the marginalised spirit of a dialogical, popular adult education can claim a central role.