Historically, adult education has adopted a critical stance towards, almost a mistrust of, theory and has instead valorised practice and experience. It has been inexorably ‘pulled to the practical’. At the same time, however, it wants to be taken seriously as a professional activity and therefore finds that it cannot remain entirely in the realm of the practical. It needs a publicly stated rationale which its practitioners can believe in and disseminate; it must justify its claims to be valuable and significant and seek to persuade those outside the field of practice of its ‘truth’ and desirability. It is forced, therefore, to move from the particularised discourses of practices to a more universal ‘knowledgeable’ discourse which can provide a justification for policy.