Govern mentality in practice: governing the self and others in a marketised education system

Year: 2013

Author: Savage, Glenn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Governmentality theories, inspired by the work of Michel Foucault, offer powerful analytical concepts for researching contemporary educational governance and leadership practices (Ball 2013; Gillies 2013). In this paper, I illustrate the utility of a governmentality approach by featuring research case studies conducted in two government secondary schools in Melbourne, Australia. In doing so, I explore how forms of governance associated with marketisation are mediated, rationalised and put into practice by school leaders and teachers, with a particular focus on how individuals govern themselves and others in relation to a broader climate of ‘advanced liberal governance’ (Rose 1996, 1999; Miller and Rose 2008; Dean 2010).

The paper proceeds as follows. The opening section provides a succinct analysis of governmentality theories and highlights the utility of governmentality concepts for investigating everyday practices of educational governance and leadership. In doing so, it relates key concepts to an analysis of advanced liberal forms of market governance, which now dominate education policies in Western liberal democracies. The section to follow introduces the two case study schools and provides an overview of the aims and methodology of the research. The following three sections present and analyse fieldwork data. The first fieldwork section sets the scene by exploring the normalisation of market rationalities at each school, focusing on the frequent evocation of market metaphors and language amongst school leaders and teachers. The second fieldwork section focuses on the ways school leaders and teachers govern themselves in a marketised system, providing evidence to suggest educators are not merely subjects of market governance, but can also be active producers of their own market identities and practices. The third fieldwork section examines instances where school leaders and teachers actively resisted market forces of governance. The final section concludes the chapter, arguing that governmentality theories provide an illuminating lens for understanding and connecting the macro and micro realms of governance in a way that avoids traditional state-centric analytical approaches and which captures the complex and polymorphic nature of contemporary forms of governance.

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