, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 187-228

First online:

An Epistemic Frame Analysis of Neoliberal Culture and Politics in the US, UK, and the UAE

  • Carol A. MullenAffiliated withVirginia Tech Email author 
  • , Eugenie A. SamierAffiliated withFaculty of Education, The British University in Dubai
  • , Sue BrindleyAffiliated withFaculty of Education, University of Cambridge
  • , Fenwick W. EnglishAffiliated with
  • , Nora K. CarrAffiliated withGuilford County Schools

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Neoliberalism is a loosely knit bricolage from economics, politics, and various forms of reactionary populism that can be envisioned as a kind of epistemic frame in which largely counterrevolutionary forces engage in the creative destruction of institutional frameworks and powers, forging divisions across society that include labor and social relations (Harvey, A brief history of neoliberalism, 2009). Such “creative destruction” implies that neoliberalism is actually a reactionary “catalog of mind” (Robin, The reactionary mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, 2011, p. 17); that when believers engage in reactions to programs and ideas which represent what Bourdieu (Acts of resistance: Against the tyranny of the market, 1998) called “the left hand of the state” (typically represented by teachers, judges, social workers), one result has been the “involution of the state” (p. 34) and the “destruction of the idea of public service” (Bourdieu, The abdication of the state. In P. Bourdieu (Ed.), The weight of the world: Social suffering in contemporary society, 1999, p. 182). We examine neoliberalism using Shaffer’s (Int J Learn Media 1(2):1–21, 2009) concept of an “epistemic frame” based on the epistemic frame hypothesis that suggests that a community of practice has a culture, and that the collection of values, skills, knowledge, and identity form the “epistemic frame” (p. 4). An epistemic frame has a kind of grammar and structure comprised of people’s thoughts and actions, reinforced by the ways that people see themselves, the values to which they hold, and the epistemology that binds together their agenda. The purpose of our analysis is to create a praxis for what has been termed Regressionsverbot, which is defined as “a ban on backward movement with respect to social gains at the European level” (Bourdieu, Acts of resistance: Against the tyranny of the market, 1998, p. 41). In the form of cases from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates, neoliberal initiatives are examined, unpacked, and interrogated.


Neoliberalism Globalization Regressionsverbot Epistemic frame Capitalism