2.7 “Enabling” Participatory Governance in Education: A Corpus-Based Critical Analysis of Policy in the United Kingdom
Abstract: This 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).
Summary (3 min read)
- 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).
- 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 .
- 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.
- 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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Cites background from "2.7 “Enabling” Participatory Govern..."
...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)....
...…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)....
Cites methods from "2.7 “Enabling” Participatory Govern..."
...For more details on the use of this approach in critical policy analysis see (Mulderrig, 2015) 3....
"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.