Paradoxes of Neoliberal Policy

  • Chris Dolan
Part of the Educational Leadership Theory book series (ELT)


The paradoxes of neoliberal policy draw heavily from discourse analysis undertaken in Chap.  4, where the origins and developmental arc of several of the paradoxes which follow were foreshadowed. These paradoxes use my ethnographic data to discern the presence of struggle in the interactions between principals and the policy expectations bestowed centrally. In continuing to examine the power relations that mark and shape these interactions, the paradoxes are also concerned with the power/knowledge exertions of policy, including the neoliberal conceptions of the principal leadership that they advance, the will to truth they prompt in principal subjects and the governmental power they generate from their ‘expert-technical’ understanding of the domain to be governed (Hunter, 1994, p. 148). The paradoxes seek to interrupt the reification of these forces into singular and productive entities by exposing more fragile and contingent qualities and by revealing the simultaneous and interdependent existence of valid oppositions.


  1. AITSL. (2015). Australian professional standard for principals. Retrieved from
  2. Allen, A. (2011). Foucault and the politics of our selves. History of the Human Sciences, 24(4), 43–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alvesson, M., & Kärreman, D. (2011). Decolonializing discourse: Critical reflections on organizational discourse analysis. Human Relations, 64(9), 1121–1146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alvesson, M., & Willmott, H. (2012). Making sense of management: A critical introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Anderson, G. L., & Grinberg, J. (1998). Educational administration as a disciplinary practice: Appropriating Foucault’s view of power, discourse, and method. Educational Administration Quarterly, 34(3), 329–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bainton, D. (2015). Translating education: Assembling ways of knowing otherwise. In Making policy move: Towards a politics of translation and assemblage (pp. 157–185). Bristol, UK: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  7. Ball, S. J. (1994). Education reform: A critical and post-structural approach. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Ball, S. J. (1997). Policy sociology and critical social research: A personal review of recent education policy and policy research. British Educational Research Journal, 23(3), 257–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ball, S. J. (2013). Foucault, power, and education. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ball, S. J. (2015). Subjectivity as a site of struggle: Refusing neoliberalism? British Journal of Sociology of Education, 37(8), 1129–1146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ball, S. J., Maguire, M., Braun, A., & Hoskins, K. (2011). Policy actors: Doing policy work in schools. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32(4), 625–639.Google Scholar
  12. Bates, A. (2013). Transcending systems thinking in education reform: Implications for policy-makers and school leaders. Journal of Education Policy, 28(1), 38–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Benwell, B., & Stokoe, E. (2006). Discourse and identity. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Berkhout, S. (2007). Leadership in education transformation as reshaping the organisational discourse. South African Journal of Education, 27(3), 407–419.Google Scholar
  15. Binkley, S. (2009). The work of neoliberal governmentality: Temporality and ethical substance in the tale of two dads. Foucault Studies, 6, 60–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bleiker, R. (2003). Discourse and human agency. Contemporary Political Theory, 2(1), 25–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Butler, J. (1997). The psychic life of power: Theories in subjection. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Carpenter, B. W., & Brewer, C. (2014). The implicated advocate: The discursive construction of the democratic practices of school principals in the USA. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 35(2), 294–306.Google Scholar
  19. Case, P., French, R., & Simpson, P. (2011). Philosophy of leadership. In A. Bryman, D. Collinson, K. Grint, B. Jackson, & M. Uhl-Bien (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of leadership (pp. 242–252). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Clarke, J., Bainton, D., Lendvai, N., & Stubbs, P. (2015). Making policy move: Towards a politics of translation and assemblage. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Clarke, M. (2013). Terror/enjoyment: Performativity, resistance and the teacher’s psyche. London Review of Education, 11(3), 229–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Clarke, M., & Moore, A. (2013). Professional standards, teacher identities and an ethics of singularity. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(4), 487–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cohen, M. I. (2014). ‘In the back of our minds always’: Reflexivity as resistance for the performing principal. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 17(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Contu, A. (2008). Decaf resistance on misbehavior, cynicism, and desire in liberal workplaces. Management Communication Quarterly, 21(3), 364–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Davidson, A. I. (2011). In praise of counter-conduct. History of the Human Sciences, 24(4), 25–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. De Lissovoy, N. (2016). Education and emancipation in the neoliberal era: Being, teaching, and power. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  27. Dean, M. (2010). Governmentality: Power and rule in modern society (2nd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  28. Death, C. (2016). Counter-conducts as a mode of resistance: Ways of “not being like that” in South Africa. Global Society, 30(2), 201–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. DeMatthews, D. E., Mungal, A. S., & Carrola, P. A. (2015). Despite best intentions: A critical analysis of social justice leadership and decision making. Administrative Issues Journal, 5(2), 3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Demetriou, O. (2016). Counter-conduct and the everyday: Anthropological engagements with philosophy. Global Society, 30(2), 218–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Dyrberg, T. B. (2016). Foucault on parrhesia: The autonomy of politics and democracy. Political Theory, 44(2), 265–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fitzgerald, T., & Savage, J. (2013). Scripting, ritualising and performing leadership: Interrogating recent policy developments in Australia. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 45(2), 126–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Foucault, M. (1982). The subject and power. Critical Inquiry, 8(4), 777–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Foucault, M. (1984). What is enlightenment? In P. Rabinow (Ed.), The Foucault reader (pp. 32–50). New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  35. Foucault, M. (1987). The ethic of care for the self as a practice of freedom: An interview with Michel Foucault on January 20, 1984. Philosophy & Social Criticism, 12(2–3), 112–131.Google Scholar
  36. Foucault, M. (1997). Subjectivity and truth. In S. Lotringer (Ed.), The politics of truth (pp. 147–168). Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  37. Foucault, M. (2000). Sexuality and solitude (R. a. o. Hurley, Trans.). In P. Rabinow (Ed.), Ethics: Subjectivity and truth (pp. 175–184). London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  38. Foucault, M. (2007). Security, territory, population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–78. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  39. Foucault, M. (2010). The government of self and others: Lectures at the Collège de France 1982–1983 (G. Burchell, Trans.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  40. Guthey, E., & Jackson, B. (2005). CEO portraits and the authenticity paradox. Journal of Management Studies, 42(5), 1057–1082.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hunter, I. (1994). Rethinking the school: Subjectivity, bureaucracy, criticism. Sydney, Australia: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  42. Lyotard, J.-F. (1984). The postmodern condition: A report on knowledge. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  43. Morley, L., & Rassool, N. (2002). School effectiveness: Fracturing the discourse. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Niesche, R. (2014). Deploying educational leadership as a form of governmentality. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 35(1), 143–150.Google Scholar
  45. Niesche, R., & Haase, M. (2012). Emotions and ethics: A Foucauldian framework for becoming an ethical educator. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 44(3), 276–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. O’Farrell, C. (2007). Key concepts. Retrieved from
  47. Owen, D., & Tully, J. (2007). Redistribution and recognition: Two approaches. In A. S. Laden & D. Owen (Eds.), Multiculturalism and political theory (pp. 265–291). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Peck, J., & Tickell, A. (2002). Neoliberalizing space. Antipode, 34(3), 380–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Phillips, K. R. (2006). Rhetorical maneuvers: Subjectivity, power, and resistance. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 39(4), 310–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pignatelli, F. (2002). Mapping the terrain of a Foucauldian ethics: A response to the surveillance of schooling. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 21(2), 157–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rizvi, F., & Lingard, B. (2009). Globalizing education policy. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rose, N. (1996). Governing ‘advanced’ liberal democracies. In A. Sharma & A. Gupta (Eds.), The anthropology of the state: A reader (pp. 144–161). Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  53. Rossi, A. (2017). Foucault, critique, subjectivity. Journal for Cultural Research, 21(4), 337–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Simons, M., & Masschelein, J. (2008). Our ‘will to learn’ and the assemblage of a learning apparatus. In A. Fejes & K. Nicoll (Eds.), Foucault and lifelong learning: Governing the subject (pp. 48–60). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  55. Sinclair, A. (2011). Being leaders: Identity and identity work in leadership. In A. Bryman, D. Collinson, K. Grint, B. Jackson, & M. Uhl-Bien (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of leadership (pp. 508–517). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  56. Slater, G. B., & Griggs, C. B. (2015). Standardization and subjection: An autonomist critique of neoliberal school reform. Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 37(5), 438–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Springer, S. (2012). Neoliberalism as discourse: Between Foucauldian political economy and Marxian poststructuralism. Critical Discourse Studies, 9(2), 133–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tambakaki, P. (2011). Agonism and the reconception of European citizenship. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 13(4), 567–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Webb, P. T. (2014). Policy problematization. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 27(3), 364–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wright, A. (2012). Fantasies of empowerment: Mapping neoliberal discourse in the coalition government’s schools policy. Journal of Education Policy, 27(3), 279–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Dolan
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations