This article presents a general theoretical framework for curriculum studies, Didaktik and educational leadership that builds upon strengths and limitations of these traditions, respectively, in Europe and the United States. Methodologically, a meta-theoretical level is used with two guiding core questions: (1) the relation between education and society and (2) the nature of educational influence on the interactive level. On the first question, a nonhierarchical position is defended as it offers a foundation for discursive institutionalism valuable for understanding school work. The second question is handled by three classic education concepts – recognition, summoning to self-activity and Bildsamkeit, as these support a non-affirmative view of educational influence for democratic education. We conclude that this theoretical framework allows us to more coherently conceptualise curriculum work, educational leadership and teaching.