23 SES 09 A, Resisting Neoliberalism in an Era of Risk: Local, national and transnational perspectives: Part 1
Symposium to be continued in 23 SES 12 A
This symposium argues that if education systems are to provide learners and teachers with the capacities to act under the social conditions of neoliberalism then we need to find ‘resources of hope’ (Williams, 1989) that enable this competitive market approach to be resisted. This is because neoliberalism is a deeply fatalistic discourse which ‘speaks about the death of dreams and utopia and deproblematises the future’ (Freire 2004:110) in ways that lead to narrow educational processes and developments. Neoliberalism prioritises individualisation of achievement and competition rather than collaboration among teachers and students and so creates a low trust environment where professionals (and students) have to be monitored and efficiency and monetised values are prioritised over other pedagogical and social values such as diversity, equity, well-being and care.This means thatit is a key role of academics to reproblematise the social reality of the present and to foster critical awareness of alternatives rather than acceptance of our current conditions (Roberts, 2005; Olssen, 2009). Our aim in this symposium is, therefore, to offer positive examples of resistance to neoliberal education from across sectors and geographical contexts.
Resistance has two central dimensions: it must involve action(physical, material or symbolic) and be oppositionalin that actors challenge or subvert dominant discourses and practices in some way. Resistance also needs to be intentional and interactional because it is ‘defined not only by resisters’ perceptions of their own behaviour but also by their targets’ recognition of, and reaction to, this behaviour’ (Hollander and Einwohner, 2004: 548). The possible resources and strategies will differ from context to context but a sense of action and of opposition holds them together. This symposium will also draw on Johansson and Vinthagen’s (2016) concept of a ‘repertoire of resistance’ which is ‘a combined result of the interplay between social structures and power relations, as well as activists’ creative experimentation with tactics and experiences of earlier attempts to practise resistance, together with the situational circumstances in which the resistance is played out’ (ibid. p. 421). This means that groups develop ways of resisting that are embedded in relationships and processes of interaction between the resisters and their targets. These repertoires are organised in specific contexts according to the historical and current power configurations, time, space and relationships in which they are embedded.
The four papers in this part of the symposium show how resistance has been enacted in ways that represent a variety of perspectives with a specific focus on adult and higher education. The first shows how adult literacy practitioners in Scotland have challenged policies that lead to narrow curricula through acts of everyday resistance and workarounds based on their repertoire of resistance developed through their professional culture. The next uses an Italian Third Age University as an illustrative case of resistance to the neoliberal discourse. The interplay between cultural, normative and economic frames of reference are used to identify the interstices where resistance is possible and can be locally appropriated to create spaces for physical, material or symbolic action. The third focuses on Higher Education in England and takes a socio-material approach to examine both physical and discursive aspects of academics’ experience. Examples of tactical and symbolic workarounds and of staff holding on to core disciplinary values and vocational commitments are used to reveal both collective, organized movements and resistant events. The final paper examines Danish popular adult education and draws on Biesta’s (2010) concepts of qualification, socialisation and subjectification to discuss what adult education ‘is good for’. It identifies pockets of resistance at both the institutional level of popular education and as a central value behind grass-roots activities.
Biesta, G. (2010). Good Education in an Age of Measurement. Ethics, Politics, Democracy. London: Paradigm Publishers. Freire, P. (2004). Pedagogy of Indignation, Boulder and London: Paradigm. Hollander, J. A., & Einwohner, R. L. (2004). ‘Conceptualizing resistance’, Sociological Forum 19 (4), 533-554. Johansson, A. and Vinthagen, S. (2016). ‘Dimensions of Everyday Resistance: An Analytical Framework’, Critical Sociology, 42 (3) 417-435 Olssen, M. (2009). 'Neoliberalism, Education, and the Rise of a Global Common Good.' In Re-Reading Education Policy: A Handbook Studying the Policy Agenda of the 21st Century, edited by M. Simons, M. Olssen, and M. A. Peters, 433-457. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Roberts, P. 2005. 'Review Essay: Pedagogy, Politics and Intellectual Life: Freire in the Age of the Market, Pedagogy of Indignation.' Policy Futures in Education 3 (4), 446-458. Williams, R. (1989). Resources of Hope. London: Verso
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