Adult education is inevitably affected by the uncertainty that characterises the contemporary situation. Increasingly, difficult questions are posed about what constitutes the field of adult education and what are its values and purposes-all this at a time when a greater number of adults, from a diversity of backgrounds, enter an increasing variety of programmes. The difficulty in coping with the current uncertainty is compounded by the nature of the contemporary situation, which is itself difficult to characterise and interpret. Whilst there is general agreement that we are witnessing pro-found economic, technological and cultural changes, there is less agreement on whether these constitute a continuation of modernity, a phase of late modernity where already existing trends are intensified, or whether we are now in a condition of postmodernity, a radical break consequent on the failure of modernity.