Educational research in a postmodernity of resignation: A cautionary corrective to utopian resistance

Year: 1994

Author: Bagnall, Richard G.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The paper develops from the premise that our several and collective realities may be taken as being and becoming increasingly postmodern in nature. Postmodernity is seen as culture that is self-consciously informed by an understanding of: the interpretative nature of human perception; the contextualisation and fragmentation of belief, meaning and being; and the de-differentiated and generalised nature of contemporary communication.

Two opposing currents of postmodernity are recognised: one of resistance and one of resignation. Analytical attention to date in educational research has tended to focus on the former. As a counter to that utopianism, the present work seeks to elucidate the nature of educational research in a postmodernity of resignation.

It is suggested that such research would be characterised by its immediacy, ephemerality, superficiality, fragmentation, changeability, non-progressiveness, anti-intellectualism, crude instrumentalism, and marketisation. Educational research as a vocation would be suffused with uncertainty, insecurity, demoralisation, and self-interest.

In traditional modernist conceptions of alternative research approaches, a postmodernity of resignation is seen as favouring idiographic over nomothetic, inter- or multi-disciplinary over disciplinary, eclectic over traditional, political over apolitical, and objectifying over participative research. In other respects, there are contradictory indications within it, particularly with respect to whether the research would tend to be grounded or paradigmatic, hermeneutic or empirical-analytic, historicist or universalist, qualitative or quantitative, and action-based or descriptive.