Relational administration: going deeper, yet wider, for understanding

Year: 2013

Author: Eacott, Scott

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reflects a methodological intervention for the scholarship of educational leadership, management and administration. Working within a Bourdieusian framework, I develop a research programme which I label Relational Administration, with associated methodology, and mobilise that to matters of administering educational institutions, most notably, the school. In doing so, I explicitly bring Bourdieu's writing on epistemology - and for the most part is it possible to argue that Bourdieu's oeuvre is epistemological - into conversation with the cotemporary capitalist condition, including notions of the post-bureaucratic, and the school in the image of the firm. This multi-analytic approach recasts the image of the school, the administration of schooling, and its relationship with a range of other social institutions and bodies. The move I make is beyond that of merely mapping the various relations that schooling has to external bodies (not to mention the arrays of internal dynamics at play). Here I want to explicitly state two differences between my argument and that of mainstream educational administration discourses. First, for me, the contemporary focus of ‘leadership' is an epistemic, and not empirical, research object; and second, the school, as a unit of analysis, is now located in a floating territory no longer defined by the downward linearity of state policy and/or ties to the ‘local'. In presenting this work, I argue that the developments, dynamics, and ruptures inherent with the research programme of Relational Administration have a significance that lies well beyond the boundaries of educational leadership, management and administration, beyond its immediate parents (education and public administration), and into the larger family of studies of society (sociology). This is partly because theory travels better across boundaries, especially geographic but also cultural boundaries, than empirical research. Importantly, this means that while the examples I use throughout the paper are primarily Australian, this is much more than an Australian story