23 SES 11 C, Global Education Policy
This paper seeks to shed light on the increasing importance of international norms set by private actors in the sphere of corporate education. In the vein of the World Society (WS) approach, I argue that this type of education is not only about acquiring new skills (Ramirez, Meyer, and Lerch 2016). It also diffuses certain value and norm sets that influence the way we see the world. However, the paper also criticises WS scholars for not being attentive to important differences between public and private norm diffusion, let alone to the diversity of private norm diffusions.
Combining sociology of education with sociology of organisations, industrial sociology and critical geography studies, I will develop an analytical framework that helps us to better understand the peculiarity of global private norm diffusion, as well as important differences between different private diffusion channels. These norms are part of a ‘extrastatecraft’ (Easterling 2014) and contribute to establish a transnational authority. Any speculation about the return of the nation state that does not account for this transnational private authority runs the risk of overlooking how profoundly the world has changed in the last few decades, giving rise to a transnational private infrastructure that is part of the “new geographies of centrality” (Sassen 2017). This infrastructure cross-cuts the national and international divide. It consists of parts of different national territories that became fused into transnational operational spaces. Sassen’s work on global cities was one of the first contributions to draw our attention to this reconfiguration of space. My study explores the extent to which a similar geography can be identified in the sphere of (non-formal) education as well.
The study is informed by a ‘retroductive approach’, as developed by Charles Peirce (Peirce 1992), which combines an inductive and deductive methodology. A theoretical account of global norm-setting informs the design of my research, which seeks to map the new geographies of centrality in the sphere of corporate education. The empirical research draws on the inductive methodology of case studies, in a way that gives sufficient weight to the empirical material (e.g. Feagin, Orum, and Sjoberg 1991; Yin 2003). This way of interrelating the theoretical discussion with an inductive approach is the best way of undertaking an explorative study that seeks to develop concepts and new research agendas rather than to ’verify’ a finished theory (e.g. Jessop 2005, 48; Swedberg 2012). My empirical analysis includes a broad range of publicly accessible information consisting of management journals and magazines, statistics, trade journals, online and newspaper articles, annual reports and website information provided by companies. These primary sources are complemented by secondary sources from the academic literature. In addition, it includes information provided by 23 human resource managers of multinational companies through expert interviews.
The findings highlight a variety of different private norm-diffusion channels. In a first part I outline how multinational companies (MNCs) play a vital role in disseminating norms and value promoted by firm-based education and training. Drawing on organisation sociology and in particular on the information provided by the interviews, I identify important differences between MNCs and will discuss the consequences for their role as norm diffusor. The study also identifies a complex interaction between private non-market and market relations further underpinning the transnational extrastatecraft. Many MNCs outsource parts of their training to internationally active external providers which brings a market-mediated dynamic into the global diffusion mechanism. An important finding of the study is the instability and volatility that characterise some of the private norm diffusion mechanisms, which in turn privileges other mechanisms that benefit from network effects and intellectual property rights to gain an oligopolistic market position, which in turn underpins their authority as a global norm-setter. What these different private non-market and oligopolistic-market norm diffusions have in common, despite all these differences, is the little legitimacy they require, another aspect the World Society does not account for. They depend much less than other norms on the sense-making of the recipients to gain acceptance. They are, in other words, part of an emerging private form of authoritarianism underpinned by global ‘shadow sovereign’ (George 2015), which raises major concerns about democracy and its future not only in the sphere of education. Against the background of these empirical studies the paper will conclude with outlining a new research agenda and a call for a rethinking of what we consider to be global policy.
Easterling, Keller. 2014. Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space. London: Verso. Feagin, Joe R., Anthony M Orum, and Gideon Sjoberg. 1991. A case for case study. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. George, Susan. 2015. Shadow sovereigns: How global corporations are seizing power. Cambridge: Polity Press. Jessop, Bob. 2005. "Critical Realism and the strategic-relational approach." New Formations 56:40-53. Peirce, Charles Sanders. 1992. The Essential Peirce, Edited by Nathan Houser, Christian Kloesel, and the Peirce Edition Project, 1 vol. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. Ramirez, Francisco, John W. Meyer, and Julia Lerch. 2016. "World Society and the Gobalization of Educational Policy." In Handbook of Global Education Policy, edited by Karen Mundy, Andy Green, Bob Lingard and Antoni Verger, 43-63. West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell. Sassen, Saskia. 2017. "Embedded borderings: making new geographies of centrality." Territory, Politics, Governance (March):1-11 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21622671.2017.1290546. Swedberg, Richard. 2012. "Theorizing in sociology and social science: turning to the context of discovery." Theory & Society 41 (1):1-40. Yin, Robert K. . 2003. Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
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