Governing at a distance: The issue of lifelong learning in the age of neoliberal governance

Tien-Hui Chiang

Abstract

The discourse of international competitiveness bestows a legitimate authority on lifelong learning, commanding social members to become self-improvers who continuously monitor their own competence and contributions to national economic development. In this sense, self-improvement is closely tied to national prospects. This connection embodies the features of biopolitics, in that the practice of self-improvement is based on self-regulation, and its precondition is to constitute subjectivity by having teachers to acknowledge their own accountability associated with the national future. Because reflexive government or governmentality can ensure social security in rational actions, governmentality takes populations as objects and its objective, and this situation anchors the subject as the core focus of the art of governing. As the shaping of souls is able to create the enterprising subject, neoliberal governments need to apply performativity to teachers. In the regime of performance management, teachers are judged on their competence, the definition of which is rooted in their contribution to social progression. In this way, lifelong learning conveys the language of social obligation and returns, which serves to reconfigure teachers’ subjectivity, self-knowledge or self-conscience. This moral framework serves as infrastructure for delivering the ideas of neoliberalism. Teachers are thus motivated to join the game of lifelong learning or continuing professional development. This phenomenon projects a tenet that the art of governing is exercised in the tacit act of governing at a distance through governing technologies, subtly telling teachers the rules of conduct or the self of the self.

Keywords

Governing technology, performativity, the enterprising self, self-improvement, lifelong learning, teacher professional development

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.26220/aca.3206

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