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The Pedagogical State

November 2007 - October 2008

This ESRC-funded postdoctoral fellowship project investigated the cultural practices of governing through pedagogical means, and an evolving pedagogical relationship between state and citizen.

The project examined the political implications of the ‘schooling’ of citizen subjectivities (both within and outside of schools) and the significance of new forms of active citizenship for claims concerning the health of democracy.  The idea of the pedagogical state was interrogated as a lens through which to view changing governing practices in spheres such as parenting education, health policy, community empowerment and welfare reform.

The project aimed to question:

  • what pedagogical policies, strategies and forms of address state and non-state actors use to govern citizens
  • what is distinctive about pedagogy as a mode of power exercised both within an outside formal education
  • how different people experience pedagogical governing practices

Drawing on previous research on the introduction of compulsory Citizenship Education in secondary schools in England which highlighted the way in which citizens are prompted by Government to question the conditions of their own governability, this project sought to establish a framework through which to understand the distinctive nature of pedagogical power in contemporary modes of governing.  Rather than presuming that pedagogical power will be characterised by domination and resistance, critically investigating interventions in the governability of liberal citizens can help us to reconsider the reflexive and sceptical ways in which citizens act, re-act and co-construct governing practices. Such an approach can be useful in trying to avoid potentially simplistic critiques of bureaucracy, the ‘nanny state’, ‘teacherly’ or authoritarian state behaviours, the ‘infantilisation’ of adult citizens and the ‘schooling’ of society in so-called neoliberal times.

A two-day interdisciplinary symposium brought together international and UK researchers from human geography, sociology, political science and education to discuss this theme.

Principal Investigator: Dr Jessica Pykett

Learn more about the research programme: Publics