Economic theory, neoliberalism and the interests of educators (Editorial)

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Hodge, Steven
Holford, John
Milana, Marcella
Waller, Richard
Webb, Sue
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Critical commentary on education policy frequently resorts to the term ‘neoliberal’ to describe the influence of economic theory on the way we understand, measure and reform practices and institutions. This influence reaches a wide range of activities funded by governments such as health care, welfare, and public services in general. The appeal of economic theory to policymakers can be readily appreciated. As Edwards (2007) explains, governments must make a great many decisions and within very tight timeframes about areas in which the decisionmakers have little or no domain expertise. True, some government agencies or ‘line departments’ develop high levels of expertise in their fields of operation. But the parts of government which hold the purse-strings, the so-called ‘central agencies’, are not in such close contact with the communities they serve. Rather, such centrality within government entails no specific expertise in groups and their interests. Thus departments of finance and treasury, those who control allocation of resources and broad directions of policy, cannot base their decisions on intimate knowledge of constituencies and human concerns. They rely instead on the knowledge base of economics. The rationale for such dependence is straightforward. Economic theory presents policymakers with tools for comprehending production, consumption and distribution of resources. Not only does the discipline of economics offer methods for identifying and quantifying a wide range of resources and their dynamics, it includes ways of understanding human motives, thinking and action that help to classify the behaviour of populations in relation to resources. With the tools of economic theory at their disposal, policymakers in the executive arms of government can allocate resources and take account of human interests without specific expertise in the areas affected by their decisions.

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International Journal of Lifelong Education
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This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the International Journal of Lifelong Education, Volume 37, Issue 3, Pages 279-282, 30 Jun 2018, copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:
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Hodge, S; Holford, J; Milana, M; Waller, R; Webb, S, Economic theory, neoliberalism and the interests of educators (Editorial), International Journal of Lifelong Education, 2018, 37 (3), pp. 279-282