Stephen Ball - Neo-liberal influences on policy

"Neoliberal education and
neoliberal education policy"
Stephen J Ball
Institute of Education,
University of London
Neoliberal education
• Much used often with little precision
• A “ principle of intelligibility and a principle of decipherment
of social relations” (Foucault 2010 p. 243)
• ‘The possibility of giving a strictly economic interpretation of a
whole domain previously thought to be non-economic” (2010
p. 219)
• Lazzarato - 5 interdependent/interrelated ‘states of being’
• Individualisation
• Inequality
• Insecurity
• Depoliticization
• financialisation
• visibility and opportunity - comparison by performance
• Making ourselves into an enterprise a molecular fraction of
capital, a firm, a business.
• Make an enterprise of ourselves – in competitive relations
• Responsibility for ourselves.
• To improve ourselves, to make ourselves more productive,
acquiring new skills, dispensing with antiquated
commitments. Invest in ourselves for future returns.
• Competition thrives on drive, aspiration and
inequality, it requires inequality.
• The technologies of neoliberalism – ranking,
comparison, performance measurement only
make sense by linking inequality to reward,
esteem and survival – inequality
• Inequality also inter-relates with market
segmentation, the articulation of supply and
• Measurement and differentiation
• Are we doing enough?
• Contracts
• Flexibilisation
• Profit.
• “a micropolitics of little fears” (Lazzarato)
• Changing issues of value into technical issues
• Deliberation and debate displaced by choice
• Necessarian logics of international competition
• Rendering collective conditions of experience
into personal problems
• A reconceptualisation of government (and other
actions) in relation to cost and efficiency rather
than rights or values
we have to reconnect education to
and work towards an educative relationship between schools and
their communities. Put simply “we should recognize the
centrality of education to larger projects of democracy and
community building”. Among other things schools should have a
responsibility to develop the capabilities of parents, students,
teachers, and other local stakeholders; to participate, to discuss,
to challenge and critique. It is time to get back to basics – to think
seriously about what is the purpose of education and what it
means to be educated, what schools are for, and concomitantly
and crucially who should decide these things.
• PRP.
• economies of student worth, investment and
• Complexity, IOE contracted to deliver MA for TF.
• Calculating ourselves in relation to an uncertain
• USS.
What’s this got to do with
Neoliberalisation as a dispositif
•an apparatus: discourse,
practices, relationships,
organisation forms, ethics and
Out there and ‘in here’
• An economisation of the social and a
depoliticisation of the political.
• How we think about ourselves, and others,
what we value, and how we value other.
• Our relation to ourselves.
• Neoliberalism “the ‘economic politics’ of
enterprise appears to know no boundaries
either in terms of where it might be
applied” or to whom. (Du Gay 2004 p. 40)
• Changes what it means to be a teacher, to teach and
learn, who we are.
• The re-articulation of teaching as a bundle of skills
and competences, as depthless, as a matter of
performance rather than principles, erasure of
reflection, instead - responsive.
• It may seem that we are oppressed by
neoliberalism but we are also produced by it,
animated, activated, 'made up’.
• Systems of recognition and esteem.
• A grid of intelligibility
• Systems of appraisal and comparison, review and
• Our relations with others, what and
who we value. Emotions, fear, guilt,
pride and envy. Over and against this
is a sense of loss, meaninglessness.
• We do not recognise ourselves where
we expect to be.
• – “a regime of truth offers the terms
that make self-recognition possible”
(Butler 2005 p. 22)
Out there
• Changes in the form and modalities of the state, new forms of
governance. Done in new places by new actors, a dis
articulation and reconstitution of the state in a set of
relations, a network, which is diverse, dispersed and unstable.
New sites of discourse and of legitimation, new causal stories
and narratives of success.
• Teach First, Teaching Leaders, Troops into Teachers. HSBC
‘financial literacy’. Reading Readiness (KPMG). Pearson
(Primary Review). Academy and Free school providers,
Teaching Schools, unqualified teachers (professionalism).
• Philanthropy –
• Bill Gates
• Broad
• KIPP and TFA.
Form and modalities of the
• The state manages the definition and boundaries of the
economy, almost anything is now subject to economic
relations, to 'investment'. The state divests itself of certain
responsibilities, practical and moral, but takes on out, new
forms of power relations - funding, contracting, target setting,
monitoring and measurement - although in practical terms the
work of these forms of governance can also be out-sourced.
The neoliberal economy
• The economy is an ensemble of
“regulated” activities, which is
constantly instituted and reordered
(Lazzarato 2009), supported and
monitored by the state.
• The state is a ‘market maker’.
We are all neoliberals now?
• New neoliberal teachers, trainers, scholars and academics.
• Is there something we might call neoliberal research,
refining the discourses and methods of the 'management' of
education - leadership, statistics of measurement, systems of
comparison, techniques of visibility.
• Related to new forms and priorities for funding (more
economisation), a relation to research increasingly driven and
articulated in terms of income and impact rather than other
systems of worth.
• We come to be measured in these terms, research income
and outputs - responsibility, worth, esteem.
• Regimes of truth, truths that are told about ours.
Refusing neoliberalism
• 1. Thinking in terms of abstractions is disempowering,
debilitating, but when we recognise the immediacy of the
neoliberalisation, it's presence in our quoditian practices, our
social relations, our relation to ourselves then there are
possibilities for struggle, for refusal.
• 2. An ethics of opposition is safe and familiar, it this is limited
to opposing ‘others’, rejecting what is intolerable. But what
about our relation to ourselves and to others, what about the
everyday, what stance do we take toward ourselves, what
truths do we tell about ourselves?
• “Maybe the target nowadays is not to discover what we are
but to refuse what we are.” (Foucault).
• Stephen J. Ball & Antonio Olmedo (2013): Care of the self,
resistance and subjectivity under neoliberal
governmentalities, Critical Studies in Education, 54:1, 85-96
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