Political Power beyond the State: problematics of government.


I rather like the question: what are we doing when we read. An explicit reading of a text as something about which I also write enables me to explore the question in more detail.

It doesn’t matter what we do when we read, as long as we do something. Marking the text is the one activity. I have never read a library book. A read and summary of the text is another. The reading undertaken for my final year of the EdD took the form of brief summaries,  less detailed then the versions completed in the first few years of the EdD. But this change of approach  is not what I am thinking about just now.

In reading Miller and Rose (2008) chapter two: Political Power and the State I am most interested in how the limitations inherent in  the language of political philosophy, state / civil society; freedom / constraint; public / private; can be undermined (made to stutter) to provide the intellectual tools required to analyse the problematics of government.

The discourse of derision to which teachers have been subject for the last 30 or more years is surely part of the denigration of the state (the counterpart to civil society) as cold, malign and potentially monstrous (p53). Yet if personal autonomy is not the antithesis to political power, but a mechanism through which it is exercised, if as Miller and Rose suggest,  the loose assemblage of agents, calculations,  techniques, images and commodities enable individuals to be governed through their freedom to choose: what space is there for resistance?  How is it possible to circumnavigate governing which operates through subjects?  Is is possible to subvert the control of action at a distance which maintain the illusion of autonomy while shaping our conduct.

Within this apparently all pervasive framework within which the ‘expert’ is cradled – it helps to understand the multiple dimensions of political discourse. The arena within which policy is formulated and justified creates an idealised schemata for representing, analysing and rectifying reality. These political rationalities characteristically have a moral frame, an epistemology disposition and are articulated from within a distinctive idiom (p58).  It is through these apparatus our reality becomes thinkable and amendable to political deliberations.

Despite this, Miller and Rose (2008) declare that while we may inhabit a world full of programmes and policies (police) the world itself is not programmable. Arguably, we do not live in a world that is governed so much as a world traversed by the ‘will to govern’; our lives unfold in the crevices between ambition and outcome. We make subversive use of the intentions, policies and networks that cradle our professional lives for our own purposes. The will emerges as a negotiation between force, energy any meaning at any given point in time. Each locale, at the intersection between forces, is also a point of resistance to any one way of thinking and acting.  It is also a point of promulgation of another way of organising a different or oppositional programme.  Government is a congenitally failing operation.

I am heartened that Miller and Rose (2008) are so dismissive of government and find scope for optimism in the futility of policy. For the future of Post 16 Professionalism amidst the deregulating zealotry of the coalition, it suggests there are indeed reasons to be cheerful. That practitioners have much more scope for action, resistance, definition than imagined. After all – who defines our moral, epistemological and idiomatic framework?  If we are unable to interrogate and reframe these for ourselves, in direct opposition to policy – what claim can we make to professional status?  The capacity to legislate, to establish institutional infrastructure and resource them according to practitioners preferences is limited. So somewhere in this exploration I need to consider the ways in which we – in the absence of state sponsorship – can create genuine lasting alternatives.


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