Education policy beyond the Big Society: the paradox of neoliberal governmentality under the coalition government

Pickerden, Alex and Evans, Donna and Piggott, David (2015) Education policy beyond the Big Society: the paradox of neoliberal governmentality under the coalition government. In: Social Policy Association Conference, 6 - 8 July 2015, Belfast Metropolitan College, Titanic Quarter, Belfast.

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Abstract

Prior to the 2010 general election the ‘Big Society’ was the major political narrative created and sustained by the Conservative party under David Cameron. The Big Society as a narrative was formulated to become an approach to governance that would fix Broken-Britain and repair the nation’s economy and public services. This type of overarching political narrative was not new. In fact, the ‘Big Society’ in many ways can be viewed as both the response to New Labours ‘Third Way’ and a continuation of the political rebranding initiated by New Labour.
The purpose of this paper is to contextualise this argument in relation to education policy and education reform under the Coalition government. The reason for focusing solely upon the field of education refers to the growing connection between education as both a social and also an economic policy priority. Secondly, the paper makes the argument that the ‘Big Society’ much as the ‘Third Way’ under New Labour, is a product of neoliberal governmentality. Finally, attention turns towards conducting a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of the policy discourse around education reform under the Coalition. The data sample for this analysis consisted of fourteen political speeches made by policy-makers and politicians that speak for the Coalition on education reform.
The analysis uncovers several layers of the political discourse in relation to education reform. Alongside this illustration of the construction of political discourse the paper draws attention to some of the paradoxes and contradictions present within neoliberal governmentality. The concepts of ‘freedom’ and ‘responsibility’ which are central to the ‘Big Society’ narrative were also key aspects of the Coalitions education reform agenda. However, the dichotomy between autonomy and accountability is presented as paradoxical when transmitted towards policy intentions and policy outcomes.

Keywords:Big Society, Education Policy, Neoliberalism, Governmentality, Critical Discourse Analysis
Subjects:L Social studies > L433 Education Policy
L Social studies > L400 Social Policy
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Sport and Exercise Science
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ID Code:17887
Deposited On:17 Jul 2015 10:45

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