work in progress in social theory and cultural sociology

A neoliberal sense of entitlement

09.14.2011 · Posted in Uncategorized

I think Hall (see previous entry) is wrong on the neoliberal programme of Cameron and Osborne in at least one respect. It is not about simply about cutting back government influence and interference so that the wealthy are free to dispose of their wealth as they please. Just as the New Labour before them they do engage in what they themselves used to criticise as “social engineering” and like their predecessors they seem to be guided by a strong belief in the centrality of Althusser’s ISAs: It’s “Education education education“. David Cameron on “coasting state schools” according to the BBC on 9th September:

“More than four out of five state schools in Surrey and Oxfordshire are doing worse than two state schools in relatively deprived parts of inner-London. That must be a wake-up call.” He added: “If you can get 70% of children to get five good GCSEs, including English and maths, in parts of inner London, you should be asking why aren’t we doing that everywhere in parts of the country that are wealthier like Oxfordshire where I represent.”

Their are two possible readings to this – a mean one and a benevolent one. The mean one (suggesting a Freudian slip) is that it cannot be that children to poorer parents perform as well or better than those of wealthier parents and Government needs to reinstate the traditional class system threatened by such a development. The benevolent reading (which presumably is the message that the speech writer wanted to convey) is that if educational policies can achieve great improvements in impoverished Inner London, they surely can do the same for wealthier areas that used to have the edge in terms of education. Whatever reading is the correct one: In both cases this is about the entitlement of the wealthier to state-funded education that is at least as good as that of those two excellent Inner London schools. If this is neoliberalism, then neoliberalism is not just about “small government” – it is unlikely that we will see a radical reduction in rules, regulations and targets.

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