Special Issue Theme:
Reimagining Educational Policy and Leadership Beyond the Plunder of Neoliberal Technorationality
Dr. Warren Whitaker, Assistant Professor, Molloy College, Rockville Centre, NY, US.
Dr. Tricia Kress, Associate Professor, Molloy College, Rockville Centre, NY, US.
Dr. Robert Lake, Professor, Georgia Southern University, GA, US.
As the year 2021 is coming to a close, we are approaching the two year mark of the coronavirus pandemic. Nations around the world have begun entering a post-pandemic era that involves reopening of businesses and schools and learning how to live, however tenuously, with a soon-to-be endemic virus as part of daily life. PK-12 and higher education institutions have made various adjustments to safety policies and procedures, and remote possibilities for work and learning have gained traction as interacting synchronously and asynchronously from afar has become normalized across various industries around the world. Still, biological, socio-political, economic and structural barriers prevent a return to the “normal” of years past, exposing the delicate circuitry of a neoliberal capitalist machine that could not protect and cannot rescue the world from the devastation of a virus that has killed millions of people and left an indelible imprint on the lives of millions more. Lessons learned from the pandemic have been myriad, but especially prominent is how very fragile man-made social institutions and structures truly are. While neoliberal capitalism often operates like an invisible brain organizing and animating the movements of the body of the globalized human world, during and in the wake of the pandemic, it has become quite clear that the neoliberal, technorationalist brain cannot function without a docile body (Foucault, 1995) of human and non-human entities. Furthermore, the docility of the body is enforced through the maintenance of ideologies, systemic hierarchies and oppressions, and physical and psychological violence often levelled against individuals and communities identifying or identified as BIPoC, LGBTQIA+, and differently abled (Kress & Lake, 2021).
When the body refuses docility or compliance and the brain and body fall out of alignment, the dysfunction of neoliberalism as an organizing system becomes evident. Here, we cannot help but notice the fallacies of Cartesianism at work-- neoliberal technorationalism presumes an organizational, operational, and industrial logic (i.e., a mechanical brain) that is separate from, yet master over, organic bodies in motion that carry forth neoliberalism’s demands and practices within this same system. However, we assert, while Cartesian-cum-neoliberal ideology attempts to split the mind and body, the mind and body are in fact in a dialectical relationship (Kincheloe, 2008)-- one cannot exist independently of the other. Managerial processes provide directives for bodily reactions, while bodily reactions provide cover for replicating status quo operations that may be detrimental to the functioning of the body (or particular bodies). When the body resists, refuses or otherwise cannot carry forth the directives of the mind, the entire system risks breaking down as long as the non-cooperating body exists within the system. The system therefore seeks a return to homeostasis either by ejecting the non-cooperating body or remediating the body into compliance through coercion or force. If we extend this notion to managerial processes and bodies reacting in schools, in the very act of trying to remedy the structural reproduction of inequalities via practical solutions without attending to the underlying structures of educational management and policy-making processes, bodies (i.e., teachers, students, personnel) continue to perpetuate the status quo by being reactive to an inequitable system. Take for example trends toward integrating culturally responsive pedagogies in schools. While such curricular reforms are crucial for addressing inequalities and providing supportive learning environments for diverse students in the moment, such reforms cannot address wider social and institutional structures that generate the need for such pedagogies in the first place. Addressing inequality only at the level of the classroom, then, provides cover for the perpetuation of inequality at the structural level. The effect is like a dog chasing its tail. In order to truly address structural oppressions, mind and body, management and implementation MUST be addressed together. One necessarily implies the functioning of the other.
In the U.S. context, where the editors of this special issue work and reside, there is evidence of neoliberalism’s systemic breakdowns in examples like the massive shift in the labor force through demands for living wages, mass resignation/retirement, career changes, and worker relocation. Making headlines in October of 2021 when we began conceptualizing this call, was the supply chain disruption made visible by the bottleneck of container ships unable to dock off the coast of California. The news media and public discourse around this issue depicted the problem as many pieces of goods (supply) clustered together and prevented from movement due to one obstacle (limited distribution capacity). If the obstacle were removed, flow and harmonious motion would ostensibly “resume”. This linear and segmented logic generates a relatively predictable, practical solution-- find a way to move the goods. However, when we think about the supply chain in a more holistic way, this isn’t merely a bottleneck. It is many different worlds and mini systems coming into contact to create what retailers and consumers experience as a bottleneck of goods but is rather a knot of multiple worlds, processes, conditions, and human experiences. It is a prime example of how when the body is misaligned with the demands of the neoliberal brain, the system as a whole begins to break down. We also cannot help but notice how this phenomenon that presents as a bottleneck is experienced as such largely because of ideologies of self-interest generated by neoliberal capitalism and consumerism. What the consumer might experience as an individual frustration is the result of a collective bodily resistance and a systemic breakdown because the mind and body are not working synchronously. From our point of view, pragmatic solutions to restoring the equilibrium of the neoliberal supply-demand circuit reinforces self-interested consumption. Yet, ignored here are the many bodies impacted by the previously functioning circuit that are now refusing compliance and creating the blockade. Restoring the prior equilibrium implies perpetuating the prior status quo which involved suppression of wages, labor exploitation, maintenance of white supremacy and patriarchy via socio-political and economic oppression of people of color and women, a continued colonial expansion project, and natural resource extraction and destruction of land. The end goal of restoring individual consumption is in conflict with the need to resolve the reasons why there is a bottleneck in the first place. To truly reconcile this problem things simply cannot return to where they were-- the entire system has to be reimagined.
In the world of education, we have noticed similar plunders: exploitation and coldness sets in when managerial processes are divorced from the day-to-day lived realities of teachers and students. Man-made educational institutions become machines, the culpability of unjust impact is atomized, and managers-staff-students are all dehumanized when puppeteered by the wires of a broken technocratic system. As educators, our instincts are to fall back on the world of pragmatics. After all, there are students who need to learn and we are working within the constraints of budgetary constraints. This is a reality that has consequences for people’s lives in the moment and into the future. Yet, we also desire a world where our actions are not simply reactions to the failings of an unjust system. We desire systemic changes that allow management, policy and practice to work in harmony to contribute to human and non-human flourishing beyond the cyborg dreams of the neoliberal machine. This special issue of Research in Educational Policy and Management recognizes in the contemporary moment a need and opportunity for contemplation, deep reflection and vision-driven action to reinvent PK-12 and higher education policy and management for a more equitable and sustainable future. We invite prospective authors to reimagine educational policy and management outside the trappings and plunder of Cartesian-cum-neoliberal technorationalism. Authors interested in contributing an article might consider the following questions:
- How can we reimagine educational policy, management, research and practice to repair the damage and plunder of a macro level Cartesian split that maintains systems of dehumanization and oppression?
- How can the relationship between policy, management and practice be recast as not a circuit of mind and body but a return to holism and unification of human and non-human world experiences and processes?
- How might we envision the totality of education, policy, management, practice and research as working together in a symbiotic relationship or all-in-one homeostasis?
- How might various epistemologies and ontologies shed light on and/or offer alternatives to the reactionary relationship between policy, management, practice and research?
- What brings us into states of reimagining educational policy, management and practice individually and in collaboration and community with human and non-human others?
- What historical, contemporaneous or fictional alternatives inspire new visions of how to live educational policy-management-practice-research differently?
We are especially interested in scholarship that features philosophical and theoretical perspectives that push the boundaries of Cartesian-neoliberal, technorationalist ways of thinking about policy and management, including but not limited to:
- Posthumanism and new materialisms
- pluriversal politics
- epistemologies of the South
- Collectivist ways of knowing
- Indigenous knowledges
- Critical disability studies (DisCrit)
- Critical race theory
- Black Feminist theory and Critical Race Feminism
- Anti-, post- and decolonial perspectives
- Critical and Marxist theories
- Anarchist organizational theories
- Queer theory
- Borderland epistemologies
Interested authors should submit an abstract proposal of up to 500 words by December 30th, 2021 to Dr. Warren Whitaker at email@example.com. Authors whose proposals are accepted to the special issue will submit their completed manuscripts for peer review by June 1st, 2022.
*Note: This special issue will be published free of charge. Contributing authors will not be asked to pay a publication fee.
Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. Vintage Books.
Kincheloe, J. L. (2008). Knowledge and critical pedagogy: An introduction. Springer
Kress, T. & Lake, R. (2021). Postformal method for critical education research. In C. Matias (Ed.) The Handbook of Critical Theoretical Research, pp. 259-271.