Care of the self, resistance and subjectivity under neoliberal governmentalities

Resistance is normally thought of as a collective exercise of public political activity. In this article, Ball and Olmedo approach the question of resistance in a different way, through Foucault’s notion of ‘the care of the self’. Neoliberal reforms in education are producing new kinds of teaching subjects, new forms of subjectivity. It makes sense then that subjectivity should be the terrain of struggle, the terrain of resistance. A set of e-mail exchanges with teachers, based around Ball’s work on performativity, enable the authors to access the work of power relations through the uncertainties, discomforts and refusals that these teachers bring to their everyday practice. By acting ‘irresponsibly’, these teachers take ‘responsibility’ for the care of their selves and in doing so make clear that social reality is not as inevitable as it may seem. This is not strategic action in the normal political sense. Rather it is a process of struggle against mundane, quotidian neoliberalisations, that creates the possibility of thinking about education and ourselves differently.

Resisting the flows of neoliberalism is different from past struggles. For now it also encompasses resisting our own practices, it is about confronting oneself at the centre of our discomforts. If one follows the logic of critique we end up finding out that we are precisely the ones to be blamed. Resistance to dominant discourse(s) and the technologies in which they are shaped, implies that we must change our understanding of what being a teacher is all about. All of this involves constant and organised work on the self, that is, the ‘establishment of a certain objectivity, the development of a politics and a government of the self, and an elaboration of an ethics and practice in regard to oneself’ (Foucault).


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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