Neoliberalism and education

by user








Neoliberalism and education
Reframing globalization for
English in Europe
David Block
Institute of Education,
University of London
Plan of action: A simple plan
English in Europe
Situating all of this in political economy
[Political economy] originated in Marx’s critique of
classical economics, but today it is understood as
an interdisciplinary field which:
1. adopts ideas and methods from economics,
politics and sociology;
2. deals with the relationship between the individual
and society and between the market and the
state; and
3. helps us understand how capitalism, social
institutions and social activities interrelate.
Neoliberalism is in the first
instance a theory of political
economic practices that
proposes that human well-being
can best be advanced by
liberating individual
entrepreneurial freedoms and
skills within an institutional
framework characterized by
strong private property rights,
free markets and free trade.
(Harvey 2005: 2)
David Harvey
The logic of Neoliberalism
Neoliberal economics, the logic of
which is tending today to win out
throughout the world … owes a
certain number of its allegedly
universal characteristics to the
fact that it is … rooted in a system
of beliefs and values, an ethos
and a moral view of the world, in
short, an economic common
sense’ , linked, as such, to the
social and cognitive structures of
a particular social order.
(Bourdieu 2005: 10)
… to put it in old-fashioned
Marxist terms, the main task
of the ruling ideology in the
present crisis is to impose a
narrative that will not put the
blame for the meltdown on the
global capitalist system as
such, but on its deviations
(overly lax legal regulations,
the corruption of financial
institutions, and so on).
(Žižek, 2009: 19)
Slavoj Žižek
An early view of globalization
The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world
market given a cosmopolitan character to production and
consumption in every country. … it has drawn from under the
feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All oldestablished national industries have been destroyed or are
daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries,
whose introduction becomes a life and
death question for all civilized nations,
by industries that no longer work up
indigenous raw material, but raw
material drawn from the remotest
zones; industries whose products are
consumed, not only at home, but in
every quarter of the globe.
(Marx & Engels 1967 [1846]: 83-84)
Immanuel Wallerstein on ‘globalization’
This term was invented in the 1980s. It is usually thought
to refer to a reconfiguration of the world-economy that
has only recently come into existence, in which
pressures on all governments to open their frontiers to
the free movement of goods and capital is unusually
strong. This is the result … of technological advances,
especially in the field of informatics. The
term is as much a prescription as a
description. For world systems analysts,
what is described as something new …
has in fact been a cyclical occurrence
throughout the history of the modern
world system. (Wallerstein 2004: 9)
Globalization ...
is an ongoing and ever-evolving process, not a point
in history which has definitively been reached.
involves the increasingly extended and intensified
interconnectedness of economic, political, social
and cultural phenomena, emergent in human
activity taking place across time and space scales.
means that time is compressed, i.e. phenomena
which previously unfolded over long periods now
unfold over shorter periods of time.
is about spatial scales, ranging from the local to the
global, interrelated to an unprecedented degree.
is what Appadurai has called a ‘complex, overlapping
and disjunctive order’ made up of different but
interrelated scapes, or forces and flows of people,
technology, money, information and ideas.
‘Liquid life’ is a kind of life
that tends to be lived in a
liquid modern society. ‘Liquid
modern’ is a society in which
the conditions under which its
members act change faster
than it takes for the ways of
acting to consolidate into
habits and routines. Liquidity
of life and that of society feed
and reinvigorate each
other.(Bauman, 2005: 1)
When referring to sustained linkages and
ongoing exchanges among non-state
actors based across national bordersbusinesses, non-government
organizations, and individuals sharing the
same interests (by way of criteria such as
religious beliefs, common cultural and
geographic regions)- we can differentiate
these as ‘transnational’ practices and
groups … . The collective attributes of
such connections, their processes of
formation and maintenance, and their
wider implications are referred to broadly
as ‘transnationalism’. (Vertovec, 2009: 3)
In the last decade the proliferation and mutually
conditioning effects of additional variables shows that it
is not enough to see diversity only in terms of ethnicity,
as is regularly the case both in social science and the
wider public sphere. Such additional variables include
differential immigration statuses and their concomitant
entitlements and restrictions of rights, divergent labour
market experiences, discrete gender and age profiles,
patterns of spatial distribution, and mixed local area
responses by service providers and residents. Rarely
are these factors described side by side. The interplay
of these factors is what is meant here … by the notion
of ‘super-diversity’. (Vertovec, 2007: 1025)
Tension points (in no particular order)
The global age: when it started
We are living in times like no other in history
Homogenisation vs. heterogeneity
Hybridity, third places and related concepts
Glocalization (+ the authenticity of the local vs. the
sophistication of the global)
To be a globalist or a sceptic or a transformationalist
Overwhelmed in the ‘runaway world’.
Globalization in Applied Linguistics
... the reluctance of many applied linguists to
consider the economic dimension of
globalization and the tendency for discussions of
that dimension to be cursory and one-sided
severely limit the contribution the field might
make to key contemporary debate. ... In the end,
it undermines the credibility of applied linguists
and makes it unlikely they will play a significant
role in solving the social injustices they so rightly
deplore. (Bruthiaux 2008: 20)
World Systems Theory: Key elements
The longue durée (Braudel)
A focus on:
 Events (wars, assassinations, natural disasters,
stock market collapses)
 ‘Structural time’, the basic formations and
principles underlying long-term historical
developments, which unfolds in frames generally
spanning long periods of time
 Cyclical processes, or shorter term trends, such as
economic, political and cultural cycles.
The world capitalist system
‘a large geographic zone within which there is a division
of labor and hence significant internal exchange of
basic goods as well as flows of capital and labor’
(Wallerstein 2004: 23).
A stratified system with the core and periphery status of
production processes around the world:
 Core = interconnected centres of economic power
and dynamism (Europe, North America, East Asia)
 Periphery = the poorer nation states of the world
(most of Africa, much of Central/South America)
Critiques of WSA: Too rigid? Eurocentric? A-cultural?
English in Europe
We can see English in Europe in many
different ways:
English is just another language among many.
English is linked to ‘native-speaker’ cultures.
English is not linked to ‘native-speaker’ cultures.
English is an instrumental language- no
culture/no identity.
English is a mediator of membership in
European and global communities of practice
(culture and identity of a different kind).
The full embrace of English in Europe
The English which is studied and acquired in
school must accommodate the mainland
European need to establish a sense of identity in
the use of the language, as well as operating
adequately in interaction not only between
Europeans from different member states but with
foreign-language and second-language users
worldwide, as well as with speakers of English
from the Inner Circle. (Modiano, 2009: 214).
4 broad functions of English in the
European context (Berns, 2009):
 the
 the
 the
institutional (or administrative)
 the
English at the European university
The Kantian university (17th-18th centuries), devoted
to Enlightenment values and rational thought.
Language: Latin
Humboltian university (late 18th-late 20th centuries),
devoted to strengthening the nation state and the
making of citizens. Language: ‘national’ language.
The Post-national university (end of the 20th
century-present), devoted to the education of global
citizens and the cosmopolitan, neoliberal values of
the global age. Language: English.
Based on Bull, cited in Mortensen and Haberland (2012)
In Sweden
By 2009, 65% MA programmes taught in English
50% of students ‘foreign’
94% of PhD theses in Natural Sciences published in
65% in Social Sciences and 37% in the Humanities
(Salö, 2010).
Disciplines publishing most in English are disciplines
producing most publications
Which leads to Gunnarsson’s (2001) warning about
an emergent diglossia (English = high; Swedish =
(based on Kuteeva, 2011a)
Two interesting assessments
The problem with understanding is minor. The
problem is when a group of people try to discuss
something in a foreign language, you will find the
easy solution that everyone understand and not the
solution that is hard to explain/understand in a
foreign language. (Kuteeva 2011b: 7)
The students (and teachers) spend more time trying
to understand or find the words. That implies that
less effort can be put into actually discussing
scientific problems in depth. (Kuteeva 2011b: 9)
The why of English-language study in
European universities
to attract international students;
 to prepare domestic students for the global labour
market; and
 to raise the profile of the institution.
… in the current globalised higher education space,
internationalisation is necessary even to attract
domestic students … As competition increases,
national and local universities fight for new recruits
and courses in English are a powerful draw.
(Doiz, Lasagabastar & Sierra, 2011: 447)
Neoliberalism and education …
the purpose of education from the neoliberal
perspective is to service the economy through the
production of human capital …. In other words,
education is re-construed as ultimately being
about the production of workers with the skills and
the dispositions necessary to compete in the
global economy. (Gray & Block, 2012: 120)
Norman Fairclough (2010): the
marketisation of education
Institutions of higher education come increasingly to operate …
as if they were ordinary businesses competing to sell their
products to consumers.
… universities are required to raise an increasing portion of
their funds from private sources, and increasingly to put in
tenders for funding
… institutions are making major organisational changes which
accord with a market mode of operation, such as introducing an
‘internal’ market by making departments more financially
autonomous, using ‘managerial’ approaches, for example, staff
appraisal and training, introducing institutional planning, and
giving much more attention to marketing.
There has been pressure for academics to see students as
‘customers’ ...
The marketization of education represents a major
frame shift in different contexts around the world. In
those countries where education operated in a
manner relatively free from government interference
(e.g. Britain prior to the Thatcher era), with
professional accountability of teachers at a
minimum and professional autonomy at a
maximum, there is now a dominant managerial
ethos leading to ever greater government control
and increased accountability of all professionals
involved. In those parts of the world where
education has always been centrally controlled, still
greater government control has been introduced
(e.g. South Korea).
(Gray & Block, 2012: 121)
Topics from recent volume on
marketisation and education
(Molesworth, et al, 2010)
The international and financial context of marketisation
Governmental funding for education as a market
University branding and promotion
The new purposes of universities: from national citizen
makers to global citizen makers
New notions of value: League tables and student surveys
(vs. older notions of quality, such as intellectual curiosity)
The student as consumer/client and what this means in
terms of new demands made on universities
The rise of a new language: ‘choice’, ‘excellence’, ‘valueadded’, ‘social capital’, etc.
Connecting English in Europe with a
political economy take on globalization
There are business interests and these are generally
played out in English. But …
There is a skills agenda in neoliberal approaches to
education and English is positioned as a key skill
and a big part of ‘social capital’.
There is a reconfiguration of the job market in the
advanced economies of the world, such that
occupations like teaching have become declassed.
Class has been marginalized from debates during the
neoliberal era, both by the neoliberal tradition and
the liberal multiculturalist tradition. But …
There is a notion of global citizenship linked to the
English language, which can be cosmopolitan, but
is too often consumerist (see Gray, 2012).
Resistance to the current dominance of neoliberalism
might- and certainly does- take place in English
around the world. But …
The Englishisation of European universities is most
pronounced in the hard sciences and other ‘useful’
disciplines. The consequences?
In the Englishisation of European universities, there is
the rupture between a language and ongoing
development of ideas in anything from philosophy
to medicine. The consequences?
World Systems Analysis revisited
economic cycles- Currently, the post 1970s
neoliberal cycle. But are we in for a new
economics? Or will it be more and more patches?
Political cycles- Currently, the spread of the
Washington consensus (= the ditching of the
social democratic consensus). But what politics lie
Cultural cycles- currently, the demise of collectivism
and the rise of individualism. Also, the English era.
But might it all change with the coming of the
‘Chinese century’?
Thank you.
David Block
Institute of Education,
University of London
Roy Bhaskar’s Critical Realism
... the intervention of philosophical reflection in the
practice of science or putative science needs no
stressing when one focuses on the social sciences.
Their Angst-ridden state already renders them
particularly prone to philosophical suggestion. And it is
clearly in the social sciences, with their evident malaise
and their invocation of flaccid
philosophies in support of widely
discrepant practices, that philosophy
might be expected to do something
more than paint its grey on black.
(Bhaskar, 1998: 16)
Some issues with Postmodernism
(Bhaskar, 2002: 205-206)
An emphasis on difference, relativity and pluralism.
An accentuation on the emphasis of language
characteristic to twentieth century philosophy.
Scepticism about or denial of the need to say anything
about the world.
The impossibility of giving better or worse grounds for
a belief, action (including speech action) or practice.
Life is viewed as a pastiche, not a totality; an
assemblage not a whole.
The incapacity to sustain an account of change as
rational; and hence to topicalise the phenomenon
of (individual; collective; global) self-emancipation.
Heightened reflexivity, without however a clear
conception of self- hence no self-reflexivity or
capacity to situate itself.
The genesis of a politics or more generally culture, of
identity and difference thematising the specificity
of particular group interests, and indeed individual
ones too, without however sustaining the idea of
essential unity of all human (or more generally just
all) beings- that is difference and identity without
unity and universality.
Tradition Plus side
… correct to stress that
there are causal laws,
generalities, at work in
social life. … also correct to
insist that these laws may
be opaque to the agents’
spontaneous understanding.
(Bhaskar, 1998: 21)
Down side
… the reduction of
these laws to empirical
regularities, and in the
account that it is
thereby committed to
giving of the process of
their identification
(Bhaskar, 1998: 21)
Hermeneutic … correct to point out that The ‘epistemic fallacy’:
the social sciences deal with ‘the need to constitue a
[a] pre-interpreted reality …
the social sciences stand, at
least in part, to their subject
matter in a subject-subject
… relationship, rather than
simply a subject-object …
one. (Bhaskar, 1998: 21)
transitive dimension to
complement the
intransitive diemsion or
ontology alread
established’ Bhaskar,
1989: 18)
For the critical realist …
… there is no inconsistency between being an
ontological realist … believing that there is a real
world which consists in structures, generative
mechanisms, all sorts of complex things and totalities
which exist and act independently of the scientist …
saying that that knowledge is itself socially produced;
it is a geo-historically specific social process, so it is
continually in transformation in what I call the
epistemological, transitive or social dimension for our
understanding of science. Science … is
characterised by relativism, … pluralism, diversity,
difference and change … (Bhaskar, 2002: 211)
Fly UP