With the rapid development of technology and the ever-increasing vigilance of governments and institutions, we are now in an era of, to use David Lyon’s term, “surveillance societies,” where surveillance activities have “spilled over the edges of governmental bureaucracies to flood every conceivable social conduit” (2001, p. 33). Surveillance, as defined by Lyon (2007, p. 14), “is the focused, systematic and routine attention to personal details for purposes of influence, management, protection or direction.” In addition to the management and observation of people’s actions, surveillance also takes the forms of informational politics and control, including audits, examinations, and social classification (Gilliom, 2010, p. 204). The school, an enclosed space where students are monitored in various ways, is of particular interest to surveillance scholars.Footnote 1 Michel Foucault (1977, p. 176) has pointed out that it is a space of discipline and control, and that a “relation of surveillance, defined and regulated, is inscribed at the heart of the practice of teaching.”

While studies on real schools can affect the use of surveillance practices there, literature that portrays institutional education experiences can provide an imaginary platform to experiment with thoughts about the topic—not only for adult scholars but also for school children—and therefore also merits discussion. In an empirical study on school children’s reading, John Kornfeld and Laurie Prothro (2005, p. 217) conclude that “reading literature which addresses student experiences in school can help students make sense of those experiences and, more importantly, open their minds to ideas about teaching and schooling that they otherwise might never have considered.” Among the wide range of choices Kornfeld and Prothro offered to the school children were the Harry Potter books.Footnote 2 In this article, I will show that J.K. Rowling’s series is particularly illuminating with regard to surveillance in schools.

Despite its other-worldly elements, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry strongly resembles a boarding school in our world, where the interplay of surveillance and resistance accounts for much of the dynamics. Already at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, when Harry receives hundreds of letters from Hogwarts, each with an absurdly precise address, we learn that the fictional world of Harry Potter epitomises a surveillance society. While the exact means of identifying the whereabouts of Harry is not mentioned, it can be inferred that the Ministry of Magic has authorised the school staff to track the boy. When Harry arrives at Hogwarts, it becomes clear that surveillance is also at work in the magical school, with teachers managing students’ discipline, prefects patrolling the corridors, and so on. The apotheosis of surveillance in Hogwarts—both the school’s surveillance over students and the Ministry’s surveillance over the school—is engendered by Dolores Umbridge during Harry’s fifth year at school. By contrast, Albus Dumbledore appears to be rather withdrawn and sometimes defiant against the establishment. Pitting Umbridge against Dumbledore as two different types of principals, the Harry Potter books are in fact putting forward a vision of school leadership that affirms the necessity of surveillance in schools, and make clear that the optimal degree of surveillance means a fine balance between managerialism and anarchism.

Managerialism and Anarchism in Education

Managerialism and anarchism can be seen as two extreme versions of education. Managerialism is “leadership and management to excess” so that it “becomes an end in itself” (Hoyle and Wallace, 2005, p. 68). Many management practices in schools are initially meant to facilitate teaching and learning. For example, lesson observations encourage peer feedback and can improve teaching. School grant reports are used to ensure that financial support actually benefits students. However, problems arise when these measures accumulate and begin to dominate the educational routine, forcing teachers and school administrators to channel a lot of their energy into fulfilling managerial obligations and causing stress (Morley and Rassool, 2000, p. 174). Educational managerialism describes a way of running the school whereby the necessity and exactitude of procedures supersede educational objectives.

The increase in centralised governmental control over schools in the UK began in the early 1980s, when Her Majesty’s Inspectors took on a more active role (Hoyle and Wallace, 2005, pp. 83–84). In the US, this happened even earlier, when the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act was passed in 1965, transferring a large part of the decision-making power from individual schools and school districts to the state (Scott and Meyer, 1994, pp. 139–140). Not only has governmental surveillance tightened, but self-management within schools has also been encouraged, either in response to policy directives or because school administrators have imbibed the beliefs and values of policy-makers (Hoyle and Wallace, 2005, pp. 71–72). Some teachers will adopt the managerial mentality of the government and/or school administrators in their attitudes towards students.

At the opposite end of centralised managerialism stands educational anarchism, a vision never quite successfully realised in spite of sporadic efforts in individual schools in the course of history. The notion of anarchism is often mistaken for the desire for a lawless state without governmental regulation, for pure negativity and destruction. Contrary to the common misconception, anarchism is a political vision with positive essence. One influential anarchist thinker, Peter Kropotkin defines anarchism as

a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government […]—harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being. In a society developed on these lines, the voluntary associations which begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all its functions. (Kropotkin, 1971, p. 1)

Anarchists are not longing for lawlessness and confusion, but they believe that harmony can be better achieved in a society regulated not by the government but through the mutual assistance and cooperation of the members. Anarchists are sceptical of a centralised form of education controlled by the state, which “produces specific outlooks, frameworks, dispositions, and relationships to authority structures” that uphold the status quo (DeLeon, 2012, p. 8). Some even believe that such a form of education serves only “to provide capitalism with fresh slaves” (Garland, 2012, p. 32). Educational anarchism is a movement that encourages school systems that challenge the status quo and promote equality. For anarchists, the school serves dual purposes: “creating a generation of people capable of laying the basis for the future anarchist society, through a process of moral education and engagement in critical social and political activism and serving as an example to the surrounding society of how such an alternative future was possible” (Suissa, 2010, pp. 92–93). The school is not only the cradle of the younger generations but also a site of experimentation and exemplification of the functioning of an anarchist community.

In comparing and contrasting anarchist and neoliberal education, Felecia M. Briscoe (2012, p. 81) has highlighted four aspects of the anarchist framework: “the importance of joy and creativity, the relationship of the individual to society, the uniqueness of each individual, and the need for equal power relations.” With reference to real-life examples in the twentieth century, Judith Suissa (2010) has highlighted specific practices in anarchist schools, including “the absence of grades, prizes and punishments,” “no rigid timetable,” the focus on experiential and practical learning, the teachers’ “professional independence” (pp. 79–80), the combination of schoolwork with community work (p. 83), the “commitment to consensus” through discussion and compromise rather than voting (pp. 89–90) and the non-compulsory attendance of class (p. 91). Jamie Heckert, Deric Michael Shannon and Abbey Willis (2012, p. 19) also stress that “breaking down this false binary of teacher/student is a necessary aspect of anarchist education if we are committed to non-hierarchical relationships and practicing prefigurative politics.” Other scholars have recommended ways of moving towards anarchism in current classrooms by offering and discussing “model activities” of anticapitalist resistance, such as sit-ins (DeLeon, 2008, p. 135), or exploring community issues through “investigating local issues of food security perhaps in a health, social studies, English, math or science class, [students] might investigate [and] identify need present in their community and work already being done (if any) to connect those who suffer from food inaccessibility with food waste sources (like local grocery stores, bakeries, etc.)” (Love, 2012, p. 72). All these are attempts to resist the centralised managerial control and mainstream capitalist values that state-form schools perpetuate. It is worth noting that educational anarchism does not provide a blueprint of a utopia, because its essence lies in the constant scrutiny of current practices, and in producing students who are capable of doing so (Suissa, 2010, pp. 150–151).

Discipline, Surveillance, and Power Hierarchy in Hogwarts

Where, then, does Hogwarts stand on this spectrum with managerialism at one extreme and anarchism at the other? I will start by focusing on Umbridge’s reign, and then compare it with Dumbledore’s. In her article on discipline in Harry Potter, Shira Wolosky (2014, p. 289) calls the former “an architecture of Foucauldian principles.” Indeed, in Umbridge’s eyes, the school is nothing more than an institution that prepares students for exams, makes them accept authority and contains their rebellious energy. All her administrative decisions and the intensification of surveillance either help the Ministry maintain the status quo or to satiate her own desire for power. Hogwarts under Umbridge’s leadership is far on the managerialism end, and this is most clearly the version of education that the Harry Potter books deplore. Wolosky (2014, p. 294) then goes on to suggest that in contrast to the totalitarian authority represented by Umbridge, Dumbledore “acts as a role model, as a personal paradigm for ethics, values and goals, and indeed for learning and thinking itself.” She argues that it is through identification with this mentor that Harry comes to construct his own version of positive discipline, with the organisation of Dumbledore’s Army as the outcome of this self-chosen discipline that increases the protagonist’s agency. One might, however, be tempted to ask to what extent this “positive discipline” can be seen as Harry’s own decision and construction, or whether it is just another form of self-regulation, not hammered in through authoritative management but inculcated into the student in a less conspicuous manner throughout his educational experience in Hogwarts under Dumbledore’s leadership. After all, it is Dumbledore’s Army, not Potter’s.

Hogwarts is already a surveillance school and a school under surveillance before Umbridge’s arrival. In fact, a range of surveillance technologies are regularly employed as structural components of the school. First of all, like all teachers in all schools, Hogwarts teachers are there not just to instruct their students but also to maintain discipline. They all have their own classroom rules and differ in their degree of strictness and leniency. Second, the House Masters and Mistresses set the penalty for misbehaving students in their houses. With the house point system teachers can award or dock points for students’ behaviour. Such a system also encourages peer surveillance as it incurs collective responsibility for individuals’ acts, as indicated in The Philosopher’s Stone when Hermione reprimands Harry and Ron for sneaking out for a midnight duel (Rowling, 1997, pp. 115–116) and when Neville tries to prevent Harry, Ron and Hermione from leaving the dormitory on the night when Quirrell attempts to seize the philosopher’s stone (p. 198). Third, the caretaker, Argus Filch, is in charge of school security, but much more eager to detect student misconduct. Fourth, as a legacy of the nineteenth-century British public school, Hogwarts has a prefect system. Prefects patrol on the Hogwarts Express and keep an eye on any violent conflicts or suspicious activities in the school. They have the power to confiscate dangerous items (Rowling, 2005, p. 164) and, if Ron is earnest when he warns Seamus in The Order of the Phoenix, to send fellow students to detention (Rowling, 2003, p. 197). Prefects also enjoy the privilege of special bathrooms, symbolising their superiority to other students. Although all these systems do not guarantee omnipresent surveillance, they depend on the “possibility of observation that encourages students to engage in self-surveillance” (Hope, 2013, p. 42). The school itself is also subject to the surveillance of the Ministry of Magic, which devises the curricula of the subjects that students study for centralised examinations set by the Wizarding Examinations Authority, and thereby governs to a certain extent what is taught at school. The Ministry also has the power to close down the school when it is deemed unsafe (Rowling, 1998, p. 191).

The results of the surveillance in Hogwarts are not dissimilar to those reported in the study of real-life schools, successfully creating docile bodies in some cases and generating resistance in other. As Foucault (1982, p. 787) recognises, the school is a space where power is exercised and discipline ensured

by means of a whole ensemble of regulated communications (lessons, questions and answers, orders, exhortations, coded signs of obedience, differentiation marks of the ‘value’ of each person and of the levels of knowledge) and by the means of a whole series of power processes (enclosure, surveillance, reward and punishment, the pyramidal hierarchy).

It is also no coincidence that the Harry Potter books repeatedly remind readers that Apparition and Disapparition are not possible within the Hogwarts grounds (as everyone who has read Hogwarts: A History would know), emphasising its enclosed nature, providing a “protected place of disciplinary monotony” (Foucault, 1977, p. 141). Students are trained into docile bodies, internalising and adhering to rules, since the geometries of discipline are “so fully integrated into school design, curriculum, and culture that they are normalized and easily taken for granted” (Simmons, 2010, p. 57). Until the troll incident, Hermione is the prototype of a student whose individuality has been moulded in accordance to the school agenda. Other students have also to different extents been conditioned and manipulated by the authority, observing and helping to enforce curfew, competing in Quidditch matches and studying for exams. They develop their obedience to rules, competitive spirits and faith in the academic system. The fear of being caught makes them police their own actions. Even though the Harry Potter books rarely penetrate into the minds of the rule-abiding students, this effect can be inferred from the state of mind of Harry, Ron and Hermione when they sneak out to the forbidden corridor in The Philosopher’s Stone: “In their nervous state, every statue’s shadow looked like Filch, every distant breath of wind sounded like Peeves swooping down on them” (Rowling, 1997, p. 199).

In short, the difference between Hogwarts under Umbridge’s reign and that under Dumbledore’s leadership is only a matter of extent to which discipline is regulated and surveillance is in operation, and both principals insist on the maintenance of a hierarchical power structure within the school. Before The Order of the Phoenix was out, Farah Mendlesohn (2002, p. 181) had already noted that

[t]he structure of J.K. Rowling’s books is predicated upon a status quo and a formal understanding of authority in which hierarchical structures are a given. What is at stake, and potentially vulnerable, is never the hierarchy itself, but only he who occupies its upper reach.

Roberta Seelinger Trites (2001, p. 477) also argues that while Harry “is able to confront authority, he never completely overthrows it. He is never an agent of anarchy.” Drawing a comparison between Tom Brown and Harry Potter, Elizabeth Galway (2012, p. 82) even suggests that

[w]hile both protagonists break the rules of their schools and defy authority at times, this testing of boundaries is a step toward their becoming fully appreciative of, and participating in, the value system of their institutions, rather than a serious attempt to challenge or reform this system. […] Underneath its magical façade, Hogwarts, like Rugby, ultimately serves to mold the hero into a member of the ruling elite and an ideal masculine citizen, ready to defend and uphold the values of his school and the community to which it belongs.

In spite of the resistance against Umbridge’s control, the Harry Potter books in the end only reify the hierarchical society and institutional authority—an order upheld by Dumbledore and perpetuated through Hogwarts education. A friendly old wizard as he is most of the time, Dumbledore as the headmaster never relinquishes his almighty authority over students and other teachers. There is no evidence of democratic decision-making among the staff members, let alone other stakeholders such as students and parents. Given his singular style of working, his governance of the school is likely to be autocratic in spite of the laissez-faire attitude he adopts. The teacher-student hierarchy is also unchallenged. As Megan L. Birch (2009, p. 116) argues, the series “does not provide a substantial alternate vision of how school can be.” Dumbledore the adult headmaster, who throughout all seven books assumes the mentor role, and Harry the student in his adolescence, who at the final battle against Voldemort still fights under the shadowy guidance of the dead Dumbledore, never attain an equal footing. Behind the triumph of the child hero, what is celebrated is “adult supremacy” (Nikolajeva, 2010, p. 13).

The denial of libertarian possibilities is also reflected in the teaching and learning style in Hogwarts, which reeks of conservatism. Classes have always been arranged into timetables which dictate that teachers and students allocate a designated amount of time at a particular point in the week to a given subject at a certain place. The choices of subjects and allocation of teaching time are primarily governed by the public exam system—the interest of students is never a factor of consideration.Footnote 3 Teaching at Hogwarts is done in a traditional way, with limited student contribution. Most of the time students follow instructions through a lesson solely prepared by the teachers. The teacher’s authority in the classroom is not to be challenged. Even Professor Binns, the remarkably boring ghost teacher of the History of Magic, is highly reluctant to digress and answer students’ questions about the Chamber of Secrets. Curiously enough, even though Binns’ lessons are extremely dull and he is unlikely to punish or even notice anyone misbehaving, students do not seem to be doing anything else (except falling asleep perhaps) or skiving his lessons. In this regard, Hogwarts students are more submissive than those in our world. Rather than encouraging an anarchist reconceptualization of schooling and the social order and cultivating students’ ability to do so, Hogwarts education does not engage with the critical evaluation of social issues. Most subjects are technical in nature and have little to do with the community. History of Magic does not seem to consider the implications of historical events on the present. Muggle Studies may be an exception, but since we do not follow Hermione into her class we can only surmise. The most libertarian moment in the whole series is perhaps when Fred and George fly out of Hogwarts and start their own business without completing school. This symbolically subversive act scorns the institutional education system.

Dumbledore: School Leadership in an Era of Managerialism

If Dumbledore does not encourage educational anarchism, and represents perhaps only a lesser version of Umbridge’s degree of surveillance, what views on school leadership are the Harry Potter books sending out by condemning the evil Umbridge and celebrating Dumbledore as the ideal headmaster? The main message, I believe, is the ideal of moderation. Dumbledore’s principalship overlaps to some extent with the temperate leadership advocated by Eric Hoyle and Mike Wallace (2005, p. 185) in response to the growingly managerial tendency in education:

Moderation is our prescription for what we regard as the excesses of managerialism. Of course, we recognize that moderation is hardly a rousing slogan. It clearly lacks the ‘can do’ appeal of many of the current texts on leadership and management. Our advocacy of compromise, tolerance, negotiation, contingency and balance is a far cry from the popular transformational rhetoric, and it would surely be ironic to unfurl a banner that read: ‘Moderates of the world unite!’

In the course of the Harry Potter series, Hogwarts is subject to an increasingly managerial atmosphere, as the Ministry’s interference with the school is intensifying. Dumbledore represents the type of school leadership that strives to counter managerialism, the extreme form of which is incarnated by Umbridge. Although Dumbledore does not fulfil all the characteristics of an ideal temperate leader listed by Hoyle and Wallace (2005, pp. 187–188), two of them are particularly prominent in his style: first, reducing leadership and management, and second, developing trust and accepting risk.Footnote 4 Hoyle and Wallace (2005, p. 188) maintain that

[t]he key function of temperate leadership and management is to take the strain and absorb the stress. They take the strain through structures and routines that relieve teachers of non-teaching tasks and create spaces in which teachers can maximize their professional contribution. Temperate leadership and management also absorb stress. There is ample evidence that much teacher stress arises from a required participation in accountability procedures, particularly those that include completing paperwork and attending meetings. The reduction of these activities is likely to reduce stress, increase satisfaction and thereby enhance the quality of teaching.

Compared to Umbridge’s micromanagement, Dumbledore definitely adopts a laissez-faire policy in regard to administering teachers. As far as readers can see, he grants teachers free reign within their classrooms without management procedures, such as lesson inspection and appraisal. Whether Dumbledore’s policy enhances the quality of teaching is doubtful. While some teachers (McGonagall, Flitwick, Lupin, Sprout) are capable, others are incompetent (Lockhart, Trelawney, Hagrid). Yet, Dumbledore’s non-interference does not result from irresponsibility, but rather from a deliberate strategy to display trust in the teaching team, which is another quality of a temperate leader, even if it implies taking risks. As Hoyle and Wallace (2005, p. 193) note, such risks “can take many forms, including career risks for the headteacher,” which indeed applies to Dumbledore.

Researchers on school leadership also speak of a structure-consideration binary, where “structure” refers to “the extent administrators provided staff and materials necessary for effective instruction and student learning” and “consideration” to “the extent administrators developed mutual trust and respect, and shared norms and values among school staff necessary for positive and productive social relations” (Griffith, 2004, p. 333). While some may advocate a combination of the two and regard a distinction as unnecessary (Finnigan, 2010, p. 180), I argue that the Harry Potter books celebrate in particular the consideration aspect of principalship in presenting a headmaster who is able to acquire the teachers’ loyalty by respecting their individualities instead of evaluating them according to standardised specifications. Although Dumbledore could have strived for a better balance by paying more attention to teaching quality, Rowling has chosen to leave no ambiguity about the desirable qualities of a school leader. According to John Lambersky’s study, one of the factors that affect teachers’ morale is whether the principal would defend them (2016, p. 398). The good rapport between Dumbledore and the Hogwarts teachers is best exemplified when Umbridge dismisses Trelawney in The Order of the Phoenix. Although Dumbledore cannot reverse Umbridge’s decision, he does not shy away from protecting Trelawney by keeping her within the Hogwarts grounds and appoints Firenze the centaur to take up her post so that Umbridge cannot evict Trelawney under the pretext of having to spare her lodgings for a new teacher. Other colleagues also show their support by escorting Trelawney back to her tower against Umbridge’s will.

In contrast, Umbridge’s extensive surveillance over the teachers and the imposition of “accountability measures that are predicated on low trust” (Hoyle and Wallace, 2005, p. 193) do not bring about smooth and effective administration. Although most of the teaching staff do not dare to directly confront Umbridge or contravene her administration, they adopt a strategy of “passive noncompliance, as they grow increasingly ‘helpless’ to assist Umbridge in managing the chaos that we are led to suspect they are helping to cause” (Barratt, 2012, p. 91). Her leadership is in discord with what they believe to be good education. Ironically, Umbridge has pronounced that “progress for progress’s sake must be discouraged” (Rowling, 2003, p. 192), and yet the teaching staff must deem all the new Educational Decrees and modifications she makes to be “changes for change’s sake.” As Bruce Johnson argues, promoters of change in schools should “[appeal] to teachers’ sense of moral purpose” (2004, p. 276). There is no reason why the other teachers would want to cooperate when they do not see any moral purpose in Umbridge’s administration.

The two aforementioned characteristics of a temperate leader embodied by Dumbledore (reducing leadership and management, and developing trust and accepting risk) can also be seen in his treatment of students. Although school rules are retained as necessary guidelines of behaviour, Dumbledore often exercises discretion in their execution. Rules, as part of the surveillance system, require the active enforcement of those who hold power if disciplinary effects are to be achieved. At Hogwarts, however, the headmaster acknowledges that “even the best of us must sometimes eat our words” (Rowling, 1998, p. 243) when he decides that Harry and Ron do not have to be expelled, and should even earn 200 house points apiece for their heroic deeds in the battle against Tom Riddle in the Chamber of Secrets, in spite of the countless school rules they have broken. The fact that Filch has to ask Dumbledore to remind the students that magic is prohibited in corridors for “the four hundred and sixty-second time” suggests that the headmaster is not really serious about the rules (Rowling, 2003, p. 190). Given his magical prowess, Dumbledore could strictly enforce the rules if he wished. In fact, his delivery of the Invisibility Cloak to Harry in The Philosopher’s Stone already symbolises his approval of necessary covert actions and also implies his demurral of rigidly enforced school rules. The act also displays his trust in the student, which he well knows entails risks. He wants Harry to take risks too—and this is one of the character traits that Dumbledore helps his students develop.

The discipline that Dumbledore hopes to foster in his students is not based on external behaviour (as in the Foucauldian docile body) but on internal values. As Torbjørn L. Knutsen (2006, p. 204) notes, Dumbledore “does not cultivate the rules as much as the values that inform the rules. He cultivates in each student the spirit of the law, even if this means that the letter of the law sometimes must be broken.” Richard F. Bowman (2016, p. 103) approves of this kind of education and argues that “[c]ultures characterized by blind obedience or a system of rewards and punishments place governance outside the individual through sets of rules. In contrast, inspiring values-based self-governance places the structures of governance in students’ and colleagues’ hands.” Values-based self-governance differs from the regulation of the minutest details as Umbridge intends, but it is not “self-chosen” as Wolosky (2014, p. 296) believes it to be. It is still incorporated within a reward-and-punish system of schooling where the ideal headmaster is the standard of judgment. At the end of the first two books, for instance, Dumbledore actually dishes out a great number of house points to reward Harry and his friends for their actions, as well as the values behind them, which the headmaster approves of. Many school rules still apply and are maintained by surveillance technologies such as house points and the prefect system, and they can only be broken when they contravene some higher values that are at the heart of Dumbledore’s discipline.

In addition, Dumbledore further justifies surveillance by drawing on the discourse of safety. In The Half-Blood Prince he actually orders that, in light of imminent threats from Voldemort and his Death Eaters, Secrecy Sensors be used to scan students entering Hogwarts, not unlike the metal detectors installed in some schools in our world. Researchers of surveillance in schools have noted that the discourse of safety, propagated by school shootings and terrorist attacks, is an influential force behind the surging demand for techno-surveillance (Hope, 2015; Taylor, 2012).

The deciding factor accounting for the success of Dumbledore’s discipline and the failure of Umbridge’s, then, is really the degree to which surveillance is extended. Students do resist surveillance under Dumbledore’s leadership. For example, Draco Malfoy and his gang regularly taunt Harry and his friends whenever they escape the teacher’s gaze. In The Philosopher’s Stone, Malfoy even uses the surveillance system to his own advantage when he challenges Harry and Ron to a midnight duel and then tips off Filch to trap them. As Hope (2010a, p. 239) has suggested, “[i]nsofar as surveillance technologies add to the risk of apprehension, they are not only tools of social control but also devices that might heighten the excitement of performing illicit acts.” Resistance and deviance are inevitable, and Dumbledore does not attempt to curb the inevitable, or else he would have severely punished Fred and George for all their mischiefs.

Umbridge, in contrast, does not tolerate deviance. Her managerialism in school is comparable to Japanese corporatism, and “like the concept of kaisha this requires loyalty and compliance, with heavy penalties for dissent” (Morley and Rassool, 2000, p. 180). The intensification of surveillance is then met with an unprecedented amount of resistance, the climax of which is signalled by the mayhem engineered by Fred and George, with sparks and exploding firecrackers flying everywhere in the school. This is proportionate to the extent to which “technologies of control are perceived by students to be overly restrictive, educationally limiting, and inherently unfair” (Hope, 2010a, p. 241). Umbridge fails because she does not master the art of moderate control.


The Harry Potter books recognise and criticise the growingly managerial operation of schools as a result of centralised governmental intervention, but at the same time do not wish to destabilise the status quo, a very safe position to take which accounts for the popularity of the series. The books celebrate micro-level autonomy in executing centralised guidelines (Maguire et al., 2010, p. 168). At the school management level, leaders and administrators exercise autonomy in translating the general guidelines laid down by the government in accordance with the school’s needs and climate. At the classroom level, individual teachers are allowed the autonomy to decide what is best suited for their students, even though this inevitably comes with risks. Dumbledore could have been more democratic and provided more assistance to improve the teaching quality of certain staff members. Yet the Harry Potter books do suggest that a temperate leader is desirable in an era of increasing managerialism over school administration.

As far as surveillance in the school is concerned, the series suggests that the gaze of the authority should operate with moderation. Neither a panoptic gaze of discipline and management nor the absence of surveillance is desirable. Ideal institutional education in Harry Potter is not, as Umbridge maintains, only about studying for exams and learning compliance, nor does it aim to contest the existing authority structure. Rather, it is the process of cultivating in students a version of discipline that is based not on external behaviour but on the internal values which are represented by the four Hogwarts Houses: courage and righteousness (Gryffindor), intellectual inquiry and industry (Ravenclaw), loyalty and benevolence (Hufflepuff), and resourcefulness and determination (Slytherin). For this to be successful, the school leader needs to be able to perform a balancing act between managerialism and anarchism. Dumbledore represents this moderation and is celebrated as the ideal headmaster throughout the series. His death does not represent his downfall, as his spirit (and his portrait in the headmaster’s chamber) continue to provide guidance for the heroes and the school.