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2.7 “Enabling” Participatory Governance in Education: A Corpus-Based Critical Analysis of Policy in the United Kingdom

01 Jan 2015-pp 441-470

AbstractThis chapter presents a computer-aided critical discourse analytical method for analysing education policy discourse in historical context. It identifies key procedural steps as well as the central importance of interpretation and contextualisation in assessing the wider socio-political significance of the findings, which are grounded in a political economic account of state education in the UK. The discussion is structured around three distinctive but complementary phases of the methodology. First, corpus linguistic ‘keywords’ analysis is used to track the historical emergence and subsidence of dominant political themes in policy. The chapter then explains how this interdisciplinary method helped identify two significant rhetorical trends in recent policy discourse: ‘personalisation’ and ‘managerialisation’. ‘Personalisation’ involves a more salient role for personal pronouns in constructing an apparently consensual, collectivised representation of policy decisions (Mulderrig, Disc Soc 23:701–728, 2012). ‘Managerialisation’ highlights the operation of ‘soft power’ in contemporary educational governance whereby a particular grammatical transformation constructs an ‘enabling’ leadership role for the government alongside a form of ‘managed autonomy’ for citizens (Mulderrig, Crit Disc Stud 88:45–68, 2011).

Topics: Education policy (56%), Government (50%)

Summary (3 min read)

INTRODUCTION

  • The idea of the ‘enabling state’ has emerged in recent decades as a way of theoretically conceptualising and politically enacting advanced liberal governance.
  • The result is a growing emphasis on ‘productive social policy’ in which the enabling state provides ‘workfare’1 incentives and structural opportunities for the active citizen to work.
  • It follows that in a knowledge economy individual success for the ‘active citizen’ (and protection from social and economic exclusion) lies in the ability to acquire and market this commodity better than one’s competitors.
  • The case study outlined therefore focuses on the historic negotiation of the roles and relations of governa ce in UK education policy discourse during the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
  • Interpretation is integral to the multi-layered, iterative methodology that typifies CDA.

CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS AS INTERPRETIVE METHOD IN EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH

  • In particular it offers a dialectical theory of discourse that recognises its socially constitutive potential without reducing social practices (and their analysis) to ‘mere signification’.
  • Instead it is best seen as a problem-oriented interdisciplinary research movement that includes a variety of approaches, theoretical models and research agendas (for recent overviews see Fairclough et al., 2011; in education Rogers et al., 2005).
  • What unites them is, broadly, a shared interest in the semiotic dimensions of power, injustice, abuse, and social change.
  • The way I engage with CDA is mainly influenced by Fairclough’s discourse-dialectical, critical realist approach (2003; 2006; Fairclough et al., 2002) and shares with it a research interest in investigating the impact of broad processes of social and political change (here characterised in relation to advanced liberalism).
  • Other approaches to CDA have developed in different theoretical and methodological directions depending on the foci of research.

The dialectics of discourse

  • A key theoretical starting point for CDA is the dynamic and mutually constitutive relationship between discourse and other non-discursive elements that comprises any object of social research.
  • Further, it seeks to interpret these practices in relation to the formation and transformation of social structures, thus making one of its research objectives the investigation of social change.
  • CDA offers the analytical apparatus to do this, illuminating how different (representations and enactments of) moments of the social are textured into discourse.
  • This ‘porous’, hybridising quality of discourse (in CDA terms its ‘interdiscursivity’) is the conduit that allows the slippage of values, norms, practices and power relations between different domains of social practice (for example from business management to education).

Key concepts in CDA

  • In the previous section the authors observed how the discourse moment internalises all other moments; hence the ideological and materi l significance of language and why they should analyse it.
  • In Fairclough’s terms (2003), they mediate the possible (social structures) and the actual (social events).
  • Assessment, professional training, financial management, policymaking, curriculum and materials design, and so on.
  • A given text may be simultaneously analysed in terms of genres, discourses and styles.
  • The authors reasons for doing this may be explanatory (in order to explain social change or the persistence of certain practices) or normative (in order to question the (ethical) acceptability of the practices examined).

Interpretive Methodology

  • Next (‘stage 2’) it draws on dialogue with other disciplines and theories that address the issue under investigation, incorporating their theories and methods as ppropriate in order to a) theoretically construct the object of research (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992) and b) develop a model for analysing it.
  • Thus having selected an object of research the methodological procedure then involves identifying further discourse analytical concepts (like argumentation, transitivity, modality, metaphor etc.) likely to support a critical exploration of the research object(s).
  • Part of this process involves making practical decisions about the validity and viability of the research design, as in the case study discussed below.

CASE STUDY: TOWARDS NEOLIBERAL ISM IN UK EDUCATION POLICY

  • The following case study illustrates one way of working with the interpretive approach associated with CDA.
  • The findings selected for discussion here focus on the New Labour government (1997-2005) but stem from a larger study exploring historical change in the representation and legitimation of the social relations of UK educational governance (Mulderrig, 2009).

The Political Economic Context

  • The historical context of the data examined in this study was a turbulent period of political and economic change as Britain, like other liberal Western economies, instituted a range of state-restructuring strategies that enabled the progressive dominance of neoliberal, market-valorising principles in the exercise of state power.
  • This discursive restructuring was in part instituted and legitimated through policy discourse, a discursive barometer of the changing goals and values of educational governance.
  • The focus of the proceeding discussion is the New Labour government, under which it is argued the neoliberal trajectory in education policy gained particular momentum.
  • This core premise is reflected in the following extract: ‘the wealth of nations and success of individuals depend upon the imagination, creativity, skills and talents of all their people’.
  • In the analytical terms outlined above, the power shift suggested byan ‘enabling’ model of governance means new discursive ways of being , doing/relating and thinking .

General Findings

  • I used this typology to examine the use of these managing actions throughout the data.
  • By 2005 they account for 20% of all verbal collocates31 of the government.

Bla

  • In h a way as ; by constr ays of doin lence betw participatio quivalence ates retation in tive, enab ole in the d ally that of onitor oth ctors than ructs a ste uaranteeing sive, positi ortunities ently mana ices.
  • Instrumental ways of doing: the extract brings diverse forms of activity in education and society under a single commodifying logic: the items in bold illustrate how education is reified into a product to be acquired and owned by individuals (through the verbs of possession underlined) in order to sell those educational outputs in a competitive labour market.
  • While innovation is commendable, there is a danger that the logic of entrepreneurialism will pervade education policy entirely, encouraging young people to divorce themselves from the intrinsic value of their own learning, narrowing the perceived value of education to the economic dividends it yields, and thus reinforcing a commercial ‘exchange-value’ view of education among all those involved.
  • In its leader role, the government is represented as institutionalising and orchestrating joined up governance.

Learning and Skills Council, Sector Skills Development Agency, Local Forums, Local

  • Strategic Partnerships, and the Skills for Business Network, LEAs).
  • The Blair government builds on this, elaborating a specifically skills-based growth strategy, developing new roles, relations and institutions of a networked or ‘joined up’ model of governance.
  • To the extent that the authors can call the flows of power under Major a ‘hollowing out’ of the state, they might therefore characterise those under Blair as ‘filling in’.
  • The facilitated actors are institutions (chools, universities, colleges) occupationally represented actors (learners, heads, teachers, workers, employers, parents, trainers) or the sectorally defined business.
  • Meanwhile schools are helped to take on an increased range of responsibilities for securing both excellence and social inclusion.

SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION

  • The concept of ‘enabling, participatory’ governance, increasingly associated with advanced liberal states, logically implies greater levels of public involvement and autonomy in the relevant domain of public (and private) life.
  • It suggests a reconfiguration of power away from the c ntre and towards the periphery.
  • Through a process of textual ‘proximisation’ the authors are all apparently invited into the deliberative processes of educational policy-making.
  • This does not necessarily entail genuine political agency.
  • The ‘soft power’ of contemporary ‘enabling’ governance relies ncreasingly on discourse through which the authors are invited to participate, deliberate and acquire self-steering capabilities.

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This is a repository copy of “Enabling” Participatory Governance in Education: A
Corpus-Based Critical Analysis of Policy in the United Kingdom.
White Rose Research Online URL for this paper:
http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/96449/
Version: Accepted Version
Book Section:
Mulderrig, J.M. (2014) “Enabling” Participatory Governance in Education: A Corpus-Based
Critical Analysis of Policy in the United Kingdom. In: Smyers, P., Bridges, D., Burbules, N.
and Griffiths, M., (eds.) International Handbook of Interpretation in Educational Research.
Springer International Handbooks of Education, 1 . Springer Netherlands , Dordrecht , pp.
441-470. ISBN 9789401792813
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9282-0_21
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Draft version of Chapter to appear in ‘International Handbook of Interpretation in
Educational Research’
‘Enabling’ participatory governance in education: a corpus-based
critical policy analysis
Jane Mulderrig
INTRODUCTION
The idea of the ‘enabling state’ has emerged in recent decades as a way of
theoretically conceptualising and politically enacting advanced liberal governance. At
its heart lies the assumption that the primary goal of the state is international
competitiveness and that this is best achieved through economic liberalism and labour
market activation. The result is a growing emphasis on ‘productive social policy’ in
which the enabling state provides ‘workfare’
1
incentives and structural opportunities
for the active citizen to work. Framed in the rhetoric of reciprocity, of ‘rights and
responsibilities’ (Giddens, 1998), this brings about a new contractual relation
between citizen and state. In an era when the state is no longer perceived to be
capable of offering economic guarantees and social protections, the weight of
responsibility shifts to the individual. In 1990 the OECD proposed the ‘Active
Society’ as the future for social policy, in which the primary goal of governments is
no longer guaranteeing full employment but facilitating full employability. The main
policy instruments to achieve this are education and training alongside (limited and
contingent) income support, whereby the state ‘foster[s] economic opportunity and
activity for everyone in order to combat poverty, dependency and social exclusion’
(OECD, 1990:8). In terms of the social relations of governance, this entails new
forms of ‘active, participatory’ citizenship coupled with a more devolved, ‘enabling’
model of political leadership. In other words, advanced capitalist societies have, it is
claimed, undergone a fundamental reconfiguration of the distribution of social power,
roles and relations in the state. This chapter uses critical discourse analysis to explore
the extent to which this was historically brought about in the UK through education
policy discourse.
Alongside these postulated changes in the relations of governance, there has
been an increasing emphasis in advanced capitalist economies on educational
investment as economic investment. This is particularly explicit in the ambitions set
out in the Lisbon Agenda (2000) for the European Union to become ‘the most
dynamic, competitive, knowledge-based economy in the world, with sustainable
growth, more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’. At the heart of this
competitive economy is a new commodity: knowledge. With a post-industrial shift in
primacy from physical to intellectual labour growth is now seen to depend
increasingly on the production and application of knowledge (Bell, 1973; Castells,
1998). It follows that in a knowledge economy individual success for the ‘active
citizen’ (and protection from social and economic exclusion) lies in the ability to
acquire and market this commodity better than one’s competitors. In effect,
investment in learning is now seen as a key political mechanism for achieving
economic growth and social cohesion. This has inevitable consequences for the
perceived value, function and content of schooling, fundamentally challenging the
educational status quo and generating structural and ideological pressures to align
education more closely with economic policy goals. Here again this process relies on
reshaping the roles and relations of education so as to foster the lifelong learning

Draft version of Chapter to appear in ‘International Handbook of Interpretation in
Educational Research’
citizen, whose responsibility is to safeguard her future ‘employability’ through the
accumulation of skills (Brine, 2006). The case study outlined therefore focuses on the
historic negotiation of the roles and relations of governance in UK education policy
discourse during the late 20th and early 21
st
centuries. In particular the analysis
examines how their historic reconfiguration helped shape a new policy hegemony in
which an apparent consensus on, and thus legitimacy for, policy goals is construed
through an inclusive governmental identity. At the same time an ‘enabling’ and
distinctly managerial model of governance progressively reconfigures the balance of
power in education towards a more devolved, managerial model. A computer-aided
approach to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is used to highlight the systematic
grammatical forms through which these transformations are historically enacted and
naturalised in policy discourse.
The remainder of the chapter is organised as follows. I begin by discussing
CDA as a distinctive approach to interpretive analysis and its potential contribution to
critical social research. A key characteristic of CDA is that it explicitly acknowledges
the (normative) position of the researcher and the interpretive process in the research.
In other words CDA has an explicitly emancipatory agenda in which critical
interpretation of empirical objects is seen as a mechanism both for explaining social
phenomena and for changing them. This explicitly interventionist stance sets CDA
apart from some other approaches to social science, while it is nevertheless committed
to the same levels of scientific rigour. In this chapter I therefore argue that rather than
a discrete stage in the research process, interpretation is integral to the multi-layered,
iterative methodology that typifies CDA. In essence this approach involves a
continual movement between, and critical reflection upon, the different stages and
levels of the research (formulation of the research object or ‘problem’; selection of
appropriate data; identification of relevant conceptual and procedural tools with which
to analyse them; assessment of the significance and normative implications of the
findings).
CDA is inherently interdisciplinary, combing a theory of discourse and a range
of (always variable) text analytical methods with social and political theories relevant
to the object of inquiry in order to contextualise and interpret its findings. Thus the
social context of the data under investigation is always crucial to the interpretive
process. In the next section I therefore present a more detailed account of the
historical context of this case study, framed in a political economic theorisation of
specific transformations in the British welfare state (Jessop, 2002; Hay, 1996; 1999).
This account of the political economic context of the case study is itself a theoretically
informed interpretation of the social practices (of educational governance) under
investigation. Moreover, this theoretical account was used as the lens through which
the research questions were refined, the foci of textual analysis identified and the
significance of the findings interpreted. Thus at every stage of the research process
the object of inquiry was shaped through processes of theoretical and methodological
interpretation. Reflecting this integration I do not treat it here as a separate element of
the research, but rather point to its relevance throughout the research process.
Following a more general account of the historical context of this study I
briefly discuss the rationale for focusing on, and questions formulated in order to do
so, the changing roles and relations of neoliberal governance as constructed in
education policy discourse. I begin with a description of the combined corpus-based
methodology developed for this particular study, outlining the procedures this
involved. I then present the findings from the research, drawing on the political
economic context of the data in order to interpret their potential significance. I

Draft version of Chapter to appear in ‘International Handbook of Interpretation in
Educational Research’
conclude with a brief reflection on the insights afforded by the interpretive analytical
process of CDA into the reality of so-called ‘enabling’, participatory forms of
educational governance and the salient role played by discourse in their enactment. In
particular I suggest that as advanced liberal democracy moves towards greater
emphasis on ‘reflexive, participatory’ governance and ‘active, responsible’
citizenship, critical language awareness is vital for the defence of democratic
freedoms and the promotion of alternative visions for education.
CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS AS INTERPRETIVE METHOD IN
EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH
CDA is an approach to social scientific research that brings a detailed account of the
role of language (and other forms of semiosis) in social life. In particular it offers a
dialectical theory of discourse that recognises its socially constitutive potential
without reducing social practices (and their analysis) to ‘mere signification’.
Combining detailed textual analysis with theoretically informed accounts of the
phenomena under investigation, CDA identifies the processes by which particular
ways of using language (re)produce social practices and help privilege certain ways of
doing, thinking and being over others. The approach has its origins in Linguistics,
although unlike some branches of the discipline, it is not a discrete discipline with a
relatively fixed set of methods. Instead it is best seen as a problem-oriented
interdisciplinary research movement that includes a variety of approaches, theoretical
models and research agendas (for recent overviews see Fairclough et al., 2011; in
education Rogers et al., 2005). What unites them is, broadly, a shared interest in the
semiotic dimensions of power, injustice, abuse, and social change. The way I engage
with CDA is mainly influenced by Fairclough’s discourse-dialectical, critical realist
approach (2003; 2006; Fairclough et al., 2002) and shares with it a research interest in
investigating the impact of broad processes of social and political change (here
characterised in relation to advanced liberalism). Other approaches to CDA have
developed in different theoretical and methodological directions depending on the foci
of research. The variability in theory and method in fact stems from some important
theoretical principles and ontological assumptions underpinning CDA. I begin by
outlining these, as well as the analytical concepts this gives rise to, and discuss the
interpretive and methodological implications for educational and other areas of social
scientific research.
The dialectics of discourse
A key theoretical starting point for CDA is the dynamic and mutually constitutive
relationship between discourse and other non-discursive elements that comprises any
object of social research. It is this dialectical approach which leads CDA to engage
explicitly with social scientific theory, since it seeks to correlate its close textual
analyses with a view of social practice as something which people actively produce
on the basis of shared norms of behaviour that are partly constituted in language.
Further, it seeks to interpret these practices in relation to the formation and
transformation of social structures, thus making one of its research objectives the
investigation of social change. In short, CDA seeks to explore the ‘ways in which
discourse ‘(re)constructs’ social life in processes of social change’ (Fairclough,
2005:76). A useful way to conceptualise the relationship between the discursive and
non-discursive is Harvey’s (1996) framework in which he posits six ‘moments’ of

Draft version of Chapter to appear in ‘International Handbook of Interpretation in
Educational Research’
social processes. An ontological distinction between different elements of the social
world, the term ‘moment’ is deliberately chosen to reflect their transient and
contingent nature. Briefly, these moments are 1) beliefs/values/desires (our
epistemology, ontology and sense of self), 2) institutions (ways of formally organising
political and social relations on a more or less durable basis; for example education,
religion, politics, the military etc.), 3) material practices (the physical and built
environment), 4) social relations, 5) power (internalising all other moments since it is
a function of them), and 6) discourse
2
. Each of these moments has distinct properties
therefore researching them gives rise to distinctive academic disciplines. One thing
that marks out CDA from other research traditions in Linguistics is its commitment to
dialogue with other disciplines
3
in order to understand the relationship between
discourse and these other dimensions of social life.
Discourse is a cross-cutting dimension in so far as it internalises all other
moments including values, beliefs, desires, and institutionalised ways of doing and
being. The discourse moment is at its most potent as a mechanism of sociocultural
reproduction when it is the most invisible and naturalised. Critically analysing (here,
policy) discourse therefore means highlighting the inconsistencies, assumptions,
vested interests, values and beliefs that sustain the relations of power it internalises.
CDA offers the analytical apparatus to do this, illuminating how different
(representations and enactments of) moments of the social are textured into discourse.
This ‘porous’, hybridising quality of discourse (in CDA terms its ‘interdiscursivity’)
is the conduit that allows the slippage of values, norms, practices and power relations
between different domains of social practice (for example from business management
to education).
Key concepts in CDA
In the previous section we observed how the discourse moment internalises all other
moments; hence the ideological and material significance of language and why we
should analyse it. Equally, because of its socially constitutive and constituted nature it
is possible and necessary to identify different levels of analytical abstraction. The
analytical categories developed in CDA
4
remind us that texts do not exist in a social
vacuum but instead form part of a process through which discourse structures and
enables social life. The concept of social practices will be familiar to many social
scientists. It refers to the more or less stable, durable, conventionalised forms of social
activity that help (re)produce our institutions and organisations. In Fairclough’s terms
(2003), they mediate the possible (social structures) and the actual (social events). For
example the field of school education comprises a range of different practices like
classroom teaching, assessment, professional training, financial management, policy-
making, curriculum and materials design, and so on. Each has a discursive dimension
and is partly characterised by its distinctive set of discourse practices. Taken
together these form the order of discourse of that social field or institution. These
discourse practices essentially provide the conventionalised (but mutable and
contestable) resources for doing, thinking and being in a manner appropriate to
participation in a particular institution or organisation. For this reason socialisation
and explicit training in a particular social practice (e.g. teaching) involves learning
particular ways of using language. Discourse practices can therefore be analysed
along three main dimensions: genres (ways of acting and interacting), discourses
5
(ways of talking and thinking about the world from a particular perspective), and
styles (ways of being or self-identifying). Different orders of discourse are

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  • ...The role of the state is that of ‘enabler’ (cf. Mulderrig 2011, 2015), providing a health-promoting ‘habitat’ (sanitation, urban planning, regulation of food production, etc.) while exhorting individuals to become ‘active partner[s] in the drive for health’ (Rose 2001, 6)....

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  • ...…that leads CDA to engage explicitly with social scientific theory since it seeks to correlate its close textual analyses with a view of social practice as something that people actively produce on the basis of shared norms of behavior that are partly constituted in language (Mulderrig 2015)....

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Abstract: Focusing on a long-running health campaign, this paper examines the UK government’s use of a policy technique known as ‘nudge’, which draws on behavioural economics in order to shape civic behaviours towards more desirable ends. Public health campaigns tend to be immune to critique because of assumptions that their goals are laudable and that they are ‘unproblematically’ educational. Here I argue that the use of ‘nudge’ tactics helps legitimate a narrowing of the sphere of governmental responsibility for this complex and classed social problem by pathologising working class lifestyles as inherently ‘irrational’. I use critical discourse analysis to explore the textual strategies through which a corpus of TV cartoon adverts enacts a ‘biopedagogic’ discourse and shapes ‘self-disciplinary’ subjectivities, targeting children in particular. Through subtle semiotic markers (register and regional accent) these adverts target a northern English, working class demographic, and shift responsibility onto certain individuals while glossing over the deeply entrenched and escalating forms of social inequality which lie behind the problem. In light of the increasing prominence of ‘soft’ governance techniques like nudge, I argue for a close dialogue between detailed linguistic analytical methods and a Foucauldian analytics of power.

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  • ...For more details on the use of this approach in critical policy analysis see (Mulderrig, 2015) 3....

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"2.7 “Enabling” Participatory Govern..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Next (“stage 2”) it draws on dialogue with other disciplines and theories that address the issue under investigation, incorporating their theories and methods as appropriate in order to (a) theoretically construct the object of research (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992) and (b) develop a model for analyzing it....

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Q1. What are the contributions in "‘enabling’ participatory governance in education: a corpus-based critical policy analysis" ?

In this paper, Smyers, P., Bridges, D., Burbules, N.M. and Griffiths, M. present a case study of the role and relations of governance in UK education policy discourse during the late 20th and early 21st centuries.