Policy Futures in Education
ISSN 1478-2103

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Volume 5 Number 2 2007


CONTENTS [click on author's name for abstract and full text]


Neoliberalism and Education
Guest Editor: DAVID HURSH

David Hursh
. Introduction, pages 115‑118
David Gabbard. Militarizing Class Warfare: the historical foundations of the neoliberal/neoconservative nexus,
pages 119‑136

João M. Paraskeva. Kidnapping Public Schooling: perversion and normalization of the discursive bases within the epicenter of New Right educational policies, pages 137‑159
Pauline Lipman & David Hursh. Renaissance 2010: the reassertion of ruling-class power through neoliberal policies in Chicago, pages 160‑178
Luis Armando Gandin. The Construction of the Citizen School Project as an Alternative to Neoliberal Educational Policies,
pages 179‑193
Sandra Leaton Gray. Teacher as Technician: semi-professionalism after the 1988 Education Reform Act and its effect on conceptions of pupil identity, pages 194‑203
Dave Hill. Critical Teacher Education, New Labour, and the Global Project of Neoliberal Capital, pages 204‑225
Penny Griffin. Neoliberalism and the World Bank: economic discourse and the(re)production of gendered identity(ies),
pages 226‑238

John Clarke. Citizen-Consumers and Public Service Reform: at the limits of neoliberalism?, pages 239‑248

A Brief History of Neoliberalism (David Harvey)
reviewed by Kenneth Saltman, pages 249-255
reviewed by Victoria Perselli, pages 255-263
VIEW FULL TEXT doi: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2. 249

Keith Hammond. Palestinian Universities and the Israeli Occupation, pages 264‑270

Michael A. Peters. Identity, Reason and Violence, pages 271‑274 VIEW FULL TEXT doi: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2. 271


doi: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2.115


If we are to understand the educational reforms of the last several decades, we must place the reforms within the rise and supremacy of neoliberal theory. It is only by understanding the profound shift in social and economic goals that we can make sense of the rise of standardized testing, auditing, and accountability in education, the increased emphasis on education for economic productivity, and the increasing control over education by national and international governing bodies.

The articles in this special issue focus on neoliberalism and its impact on education and society in the USA, the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Brazil. As described in several of the articles, neoliberalism arose as the capitalist response to economic and political gains by the middle and working class, women, and people of color made during social democratic administrations after World War II. Beginning in the 1970s, with the elections of Ronald Reagan in the USA and Margaret Thatcher in England, neoliberal political and corporate leaders began arguing that the government had no little or no direct responsibility for the public welfare but, instead, economic well-being would be ensured through economic growth in an increasingly globalized economy. Under neoliberalism, governments, observes David Harvey (2006), are to ‘optimize conditions for capital accumulation’ by creating ‘a ‘good business climate’’ (p. 25), by reducing the corporate tax burden and decreasing governmental spending on social services, privatizing or deregulating sectors formerly run or regulated by the state such as transportation, telecommunication, oil and other natural resources, welfare and education, and creating, where possible, competitive markets and free trade. Education, therefore, should be privatized and where that is not possible, subjected to market forces.

Neoliberalism requires not only changes in the social and economic structures but in individuals themselves.

Neoliberalism proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within the framework characterized by strong property rights, free markets and free trade. (Harvey, 2005, p. 2)

Consequently, neoliberalism perceives of and promotes the individual as an autonomous entrepreneur responsible for his or her self, progress and position. Lemke (2002) describes neoliberalism as seeking

to unite a responsible and moral individual and an economic-rational individual. It aspires to construct responsible subjects whose moral quality is based on the fact that they rationally assess the costs and benefits of a certain act as opposed to other alternative acts. (p. 59)

The market becomes central within such a conception of the individual.

Every social transaction is conceptualized as entrepreneurial, to be carried out purely for personal gain. The market introduces competition as the structuring mechanism through which resources and status are allocated efficiently and fairly. The ‘invisible hand’ of the market is thought to be the most efficient way of sorting out which competing individuals get what. (Olssen et al, 2004, pp. 137‑138)

Under neoliberal rationality, the state plays a central role in creating the appropriate conditions, laws, and institutions necessary for markets to operate. This includes producing and reproducing particular discourses, practices and structures that enable neoliberalism to persist and prosper. As the authors in the issue show, proponents of neoliberalism have worked to reshape how we talk and think about the world, and the social structures we act within. Under neoliberalism, we are to accept that the purpose of education is to promote economic growth rather than social well-being, that efficiency, even in education, is achieved only through competition, and that standardized tests are required to provide objective assessments so that inefficient schools can be identified, improved, or eliminated.

However, the authors also note that neoliberal policies are both contradictory and resisted. For example, neoliberals decry state intervention because they presume that administrative and bureaucratic structures are inherently inferior to markets as a means of allocating resources. But, as Thrupp & Wilmot (2003) point out, all markets depend on the state for regulation (Sayer, 1995, p. 87). Recent educational reforms have been noted not for the government intervening less in the lives of educators, parents, and students, but more. In the USA, in cities like Chicago (see Lipman & Hursh in this issue), states like Florida and Texas, and in the passage of No Child Left Behind, governments, with corporate executives as cheerleaders, have intervened in education to create a system in which schools compete with one another and are assessed through standardized testing. In fact, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), made into law by a Republican president and congress that only a few years earlier had called for closing the Department of Education, represents the greatest intervention of the federal government into education in the USA (DeBray, 2006). NCLB has shifted educational control from the local and state levels to the federal level. This intrusion has not gone unnoticed.

Furthermore, while neoliberalism is promoted as the most efficient way to provide for economic growth and equality, and to improve schooling and decrease the achievement gap, data cast doubt on whether those goals can be achieved. In the USA economic inequality continues to increase and several years after the implementation of the testing and accountability systems at the states and federal levels, the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students is no longer narrowing but remaining the same or widening (Lee, 2006). In England, school choice enables the schools with high test scores to skim off the better students from schools with lower test scores; consequently, the schools that are already behind end up with even more challenging students and fall further behind (Gillborn & Youdell, 2000).

That neoliberalism has not delivered on its promises has not surprised observers like Harvey (2005), who concludes that the neoliberal vision cannot be achieved and is, therefore, ‘a failed utopian rhetoric masking a successful project for the restoration of class power’ (p. 203). Because neoliberalism cannot deliver on its promises, it is not always welcomed and is, therefore, sometimes implemented only through the authoritarian measures of the corporate and governmental elite. In some countries, neoliberalism has been instituted only through military violence, as in Chile in 1973 when the US backed military coup removed from power the elected President, Salvador Allende, and instituted a dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet, and more recently, in Iraq, where after the invasion the US privatized public enterprises, opened businesses and banks to foreign control, eliminated trade barriers, and substantially limited unions and the right to strike (Harvey, 2006, p. 10). As several of the authors show, implementing neoliberalism has required gaining control over the government and the media, and ignoring the voices of those who will be negatively affected by neoliberalism. In some countries, alternatives, such as the Citizen Schools in Brazil, have been created. Elsewhere oppositional political movements have formed, such as Teachers for Social Justice in Chicago and the Coalition for Common Sense in Rochester, New York.

The contributors to this issue provide a valuable overview of neoliberalism as it has been instituted in several countries and point towards what an alternative politics might look like. For example, David Gabbard, in ‘Militarizing Class Warfare: the historical foundations of the neoliberal/neoconservative nexus,’ shows how neoconservatives have assisted in developing the legal and cultural context in which neoliberalism might overcome resistance and thrive. Gabbard states: ‘Neoconservatism has provided a solution to a crisis in neoliberalism – the crisis of how to manufacture the public’s support for an agenda that was so decidedly contrary to the public’s larger interests.’ He traces the rise of market liberalism in the fourteenth century, the closing of the commons, the criminalization of poverty and the conjoining of neoconservatism and neoliberalism in the philosophy of Leo Strauss. Gabbard describes how neoliberals have controlled the media in order to control citizens.

Joao Paraskeva, in ‘Kidnapping Public Schooling: perversion and normalization of the discursive bases within the epicenter of New Right educational policies,’ also examines the way in which neoliberals and neoconservatives have used the media to gain hegemonic control over the way in which we think about education, the economy, and democracy. Paraskeva analyzes neoliberal policies that began with the Reagan and Thatcher administrations, in which educational policy shifted away from equity and comprehensive schooling to selectivity, productivity, parental choice, and institutional competition. He shows how neoliberals have changed the dominant discourses regarding the role of government and the purpose of schooling by substituting individualism and the market for egalitarian norms and values (Apple, 2000).

Pauline Lipman & David Hursh, in ‘Renaissance 2010: the reassertion of ruling-class power through neoliberal policies in Chicago,’ provide, as an example of ‘actually existing neoliberalism’ (Brenner & Theodore, 2002), a detailed analysis of the rise of and resistance to Chicago’s educational policies. They describe how corporate and political leaders have gained control over economic and educational policy and created Renaissance 2010, a plan for remaking not only the public schools but also the city itself: to transform Chicago from an industrial hub into a corporate, financial and tourist center, a command center for the global economy (Sassen, 1994, 2004). Over the past 25 years successive city governments have concentrated public resources and legislation to facilitate downtown development and gentrification of working-class and low-income neighborhoods, dramatically transforming the urban landscape. In the process of becoming a global city, not only has the city become spatially and economically segregated, but also the corporate and political leaders, particularly embodied in the Commercial Club of Chicago, have developed a dual school system, one for the white middle and upper class and the other for the poor, mostly people of color.

Likewise, Luis Armando Gandin, in ‘The Construction of the Citizen School Project as an Alternative to Neoliberal Educational Policies,’ argues that the neoliberal policies being instituted in Brazil are being resisted as proponents of the Citizen School project use the neoliberal discourse of decentralization and autonomy to rearticulate an alternative project, the Citizen School. In contrast to neoliberalism, Citizen Schools aim to provide everyone with guaranteed access to a public space for the construction of citizenship, to not merely transmit knowledge to students but to transform knowledge.

Sandra Leaton Gray, in ‘Teacher as Technician: semi-professionalism after the 1988 Education Reform Act and its effect on conceptions of pupil identity,’ shows the effect of recent British Conservative and New Labour governments on education, in particular how the increased auditing and control over teachers’ work, or the ‘new managerialism,’ has undermined teachers’ professionalism and students’ identities as learners. Instead, neoliberal policies, in preparing students for the labor market, have standardized both teachers and students, thus alienating them from the educational process.

Similarly, Dave Hill examines the effect ‘new managerialism’ has had on teacher education in England and Wales in ‘Critical Teacher Education, New Labour, and the Global Project of Neoliberal Capital.’ These past and current neoliberal governments, he argues, have radically transformed teacher education with the goal of preparing students for the workplace, compliant to management’s requirements. Schools, consequently, have narrowed their curriculum and practices. Hill ends his analysis by describing what a Radical Left proposal for teacher education might look like.

While Hill shows how neoliberals desire to reshape the student into an economically productive, non-critical citizen, Penny Griffith, in ‘Neoliberalism and the World Bank: economic discourse and the (re)production of gendered identity(ies),’ argues that the discourse of the World Bank reproduces particular hierarchical gendered identities. The World Bank does this by limiting their consideration of gender inequality to women differing in their ability to ‘accumulate human capital in the home and the labor market’ and ignoring the structural and cultural ways in which that inequality is reproduced.

John Clarke, like Gandin, suggests that neoliberalism has not yet been universalized. In ‘Citizen Consumers and Public Service Reform: at the limits of neoliberalism?,’ he examines the United Kingdom’s National Health Service to uncover the political and governmental difficulties in converting users of the national health services into the ideal consumers as envisioned by neoliberal theorists. Based on 106 interviews of both providers and users of health care services, he uncovers people’s resistance to thinking of themselves as either customers or consumers of health services.

The issue is rounded out by two reviews of Harvey’s recent book: A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005), the first by Kenneth Saltman and the second by Victoria Perselli.

Apple, M. (2000) Official Knowledge, 2nd edn. New York: Routledge.
Brenner, N. & Theodore, N. (2002) Cities and the Geographies of ‘Actually Existing Neoliberalism’, in N. Brenner & N. Theodore (Eds) Spaces of Neoliberalism: urban restructuring in North America and Western Europe, pp. 2‑32. Oxford: Blackwell.
DeBray, E. (2006) Politics, Ideology and Education: federal policy during the Clinton and Bush administrations. New York: Teachers College Press.
Gillborn, D. & Youdell, D. (2000) Rationing Education: policy, practice, reform, and equity. Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Harvey, D. (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Harvey, D. (2006) Spaces of Global Capitalism: towards a theory of uneven global development. New York: Verso.
Lee, J. (2006) Tracking Achievement Gaps and Assessing the Impact of NLCB on the Gaps: an in-depth look into national and state reading and math outcome trends. Cambridge, MA: The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.
Lemke, T. (2002, fall) Foucault, Governmentality and Critique, Rethinking Marxism, 12(3), pp. 49‑64. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/089356902101242288
Olssen, M., Codd. J. & O’Neill, A.M. (2004) Education Policy: globalization, citizenship and democracy. Thousand Oaks, Sage.
Thrupp, M. & Wilmot, R. (2003) Educational Management in Managerialist Times: beyond the textual apologists. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Sassen, S. (1994) Cities in a World Economy. Thousand Oaks, Pine Forge Press.
Sassen, S. (2004) A Global City, in C. Madigan (Ed.) Global Chicago, pp. 15‑34. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Sayer, A. (1995) Radical Political Economy: a critique. Oxford: Blackwell.


Militarizing Class Warfare: the historical foundations of the neoliberal/neoconservative nexus

doi: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2.119


Given the vacuity of political metaphors in the USA, most Americans might assume neoliberalism and neoconservatism to be at odds with one another. This article argues to the contrary. Neoconservatism has provided a solution to a crisis in neoliberalism – the crisis of how to manufacture the public’s support for an agenda that was so decidedly contrary to the public’s larger interests. Aided in large part by the political philosophy of Leo Strauss, neoconservatism has emboldened neoliberals to embrace the heteronomy always implicit within the capital relation by recognizing their own ‘natural right’ to rule by virtue of their demonstrated superiority. Hence, the advancement of the neoliberal agenda has demanded more than the economic disenfranchisement of the population. To fulfill its desires to return America to nineteenth-century conditions, when capital dominated, neoliberalism has formed an alliance with neoconservatives to effect an equally devastating political disenfranchisement of American citizens.


Kidnapping Public Schooling: perversion and normalization of the discursive bases within the epicenter of New Right educational policies

doi: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2.137


Public schooling has been kidnapped. The author examines how this happened – since we all know very well who did it. How did public schooling become a hostage of world’s neo-rightist political processes? This article attempts to unveil some of those strategies that underpin the very core of the neo-rightist current triumphalistic posture. To understand the way neo-rightist political processes encompassed public schooling at such a frightening pace it is necessary to situate neoliberal policies based on what has been called the third hegemony of historical capitalism. Also it is necessary to be aware of (a) how particular key concepts and practices have been cleverly and gradually twisted and perverted, positively hijacked from the social sphere, and coined within an economic flavoured materiality, and (b) how the new rightist triumphalism is deeply enmeshed within the politics of the common sense and the role that the media plays in building a particular commonsensical framework. The article ends by taking the Portuguese reality as an example, not only denouncing the poor record of some of the graduate and teaching education courses within the universities and colleges, but stating the need to rescue democracy by reinventing it.


Renaissance 2010: the reassertion of ruling-class power through neoliberal policies in Chicago

doi: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2.160


The Chicago Public Schools, along with the city of Chicago itself, serve as an exemplary case of neoliberal reorganization, as corporate and governmental ‘leaders’ remake Chicago into a global city meeting the needs of capitalism. As such, Chicago provides us with an example of ‘actually existing neoliberalism,’ in which neoliberalism’s goals are contradictory and contested. The focus in this article is on Renaissance 2010, a corporate proposal to reform both the city and its schools to create schools and spaces that will attract the professionals needed in a global city. Renaissance 2010 places public schooling under the control of corporate leaders who aim to convert public schools to charter and contract schools, handing over their administration to corporations and breaking the power of unions. However, as the article shows, such reforms not only disenfranchise the poor, people of color, students, parents, and educators, but also create an economically and spatially separate city. Consequently, while neoliberalism is promoted as an efficient and neutral reform, in Chicago neoliberalism faces increasing resistance.


The Construction of the Citizen School Project as an Alternative to Neoliberal Educational Policies

doi: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2.179


This article examines the ‘Citizen School’ project implemented in Porto Alegre, Brazil as an example of how to fight against neoliberal projects. It begins by describing the broader context in which the Citizen School project was born, including the hegemonic agenda for education, first in its global aspects and then in specific instances in Brazil. The Brazilian case is understood not as a simple reproduction of a global trend in education, but as a hybrid process, with local characteristics and peculiarities. Therefore, this article examines the ways in which the global process of neoliberalism and marketization heavily influences the Brazilian educational scenario but, at the same time, it also studies the results of the encounter of this global process with the local dominant alliances and struggles for transformation. Second, it situates the Citizen School project in the context of the counter-hegemonic educational struggles in Brazil. Finally, the article also addresses how the leaders of the project were able to disarticulate some of the decentralization and autonomy proposals from its neoliberal agenda and rearticulate them in an alternative project, the Citizen School project.


Teacher as Technician: semi-professionalism after the 1988 Education Reform Act and its effect on conceptions of pupil identity

doi: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2.194


This article discusses whether the occupational culture of teachers has changed as a consequence of increased managerialism, using as an exemplar some of the routine planning, assessment and reporting procedures in common use in schools in England. The article examines this claim in the light of developments after the 1988 Education Reform Act, which had a profound effect on the way education is delivered in England. It then relates this question to the issue of teacher and pupil identity within the English education system, and concludes that there are dangers with using such frameworks for education, as they can undermine the role of the child as an individual within the schooling process.


Critical Teacher Education, New Labour, and the Global Project of Neoliberal Capital

doi: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2.204


The first part of this article contextualises ‘education reform’ – the restructuring of education and teacher education – within the global and national requirements and demands of Capital in the current epoch of global neoliberalism and neoconservatism. The second part analyses developments in teacher education in England and Wales under both Conservatives (1979‑97) and New Labour (1997‑2006) and the extent of continuities between the two. These developments have resulted in the detheorised, non-egalitarian and technicist state of teacher education in England and Wales, with its marginalisation of issues of the social contexts of education, and issues of equality/inequality. These silences work to produce teachers more fit to develop children and young adults fit for the purposes of Capital. The third part sets out a series of progressive egalitarian policy principles and proposals that constitute an egalitarian manifesto for education and for critical teacher education and critical pedagogy, very distinct from both the Conservative and New Labour policies, and calls for critical transformative egalitarian education.


Neoliberalism and the World Bank: economic discourse and the (re)production of gendered identity(ies)

doi: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2.226


This article examines the World Bank’s discourse of neoliberalism with a view to understanding how this informs and sustains the Bank’s policies and practices in particularly gendered ways. ‘Neoliberalism’ is, here, a discursive structure that constitutes a powerful and pervasive contemporary model of economic development, resting on assumptions of economic growth and stability, financial transactions and human behaviour that are deeply gendered whilst presented as universal and neutral. The article thus seeks to offer an analysis of the discursive practices by which the Bank (re)produces a fundamentally gendered discourse of neoliberalism. Neoliberal discourse is a power-laden and discursively regulatory framework of economic identity that (re)produces the social reality that it defines through particular discursive practices, predicating, pre/proscribing and (re)producing the meanings, behaviours and human identities that best correspond with the pre-given, economic ‘reality’ thereby constructed. It is in the places that the Bank does not explicitly discuss or mention gender that gender identity(ies) most clearly reside, constituting the foundations of the Bank’s neoliberal economic logic and informing at every level the Bank’s processes of decision and policy making.


Citizen-Consumers and Public Service Reform: at the limits of neoliberalism?

doi: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2.239


This article addresses the question: what is not neoliberal? It explores the problem of treating neoliberalism’s universalising ambitions as having come true in practice and argues that this obscures both the uneven and partial impact of neoliberalism and the forms of political cultural work that are needed to make it come true. Focusing on one quintessential neoliberal development – the transformation of citizens into consumers – the article uses evidence from a recent study of public service reform in the United Kingdom to suggest that neoliberal subjects have not (yet) materialised in this specific context. It considers how New Labour and neoliberal discourses ‘tell the time’ of other social imaginaries, attempting to residualise them as leftovers from earlier ways of thinking.


Palestinian Universities and the Israeli Occupation

doi: 10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2.264


This article details the emergence of Palestinian universities in the 1970s in the conditions of Israeli occupation. Palestinian universities grew during the first intifada in 1986. An outline of the present controls on and around these universities is given – controls that are contrary to academic freedom and the basic right to education. Israeli actions involve arrests, violence, detention and death. In these conditions, however, academic culture still flourishes. Universities have become centres of resistance. The article details the arrest and imprisonment of several academics. Reports of routine violence only emerge when European and American academics visit Palestinian universities. This article thus urges more and more exchange visits with a view to the full details of Israel’s occupation being brought out in the international community of academics.


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