Governing the Brain: New Narratives of Human Capital in Australian Early Childhood Education

  • Zsuzsa Millei
Part of the Critical Cultural Studies of Childhood book series (CCSC)


Becker (1964) at the University of Chicago originated the idea of human capital theory. In Becker’s understanding of the theory the individual is repositioned—as an actor in the social world—in the market of behaviors. According to his theory, as a rational actor, the individual optimizes his or her own “profit” by accumulating those behaviors and skills that make him or her more desirable on the market. At the heart of the theory lies the possibility of perfecting the human (Luke, 1997). By translating behavior into economic terms, human capital theory enabled the systematic application of economic theory to social issues, such as unemployment or the issue of minorities who dominated in lesser-skilled occupations. While this theory construes the individual in terms of two components, first, genetic endowment and second, acquired set of aptitudes (Besley & Peters, 2007), more emphasis in policy making has been placed on how best to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and aptitudes. Education, training, and parenting under the influence of policies using human capital reasoning became aligned with market goals and applied market terms, such as investment, return, competition, and so on.


Human Capital Early Childhood Early Childhood Education Human Capital Theory Governance Network 
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© Theodora Lightfoot-Rueda and Ruth Lynn Peach 2015

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  • Zsuzsa Millei

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