Corporatism and Identity

  • Philip Wexler


There is little analytical description of the social movement in education I call ‘corporatist reorganization’. Emphasis on privatization and moral attacks on ‘secular humanism’ captured only the most salient aspects of education’s social reorganization. The ‘progressive’, liberal platform of educational reform and ‘restructuring’ represents a ‘partnership’ of state, business, and educational professionals to change education’s infrastructure and meaning.

When a new corporatist structural reorganization and redefinition of education occurs, ‘workers of the school’ struggle for a socially differentiated identity. Youths’ everyday social existence in school is an example of decentering, lack, and absence in postmodern discourse. Socially oriented postmodernism is about macrosocial trends like ‘implosion’, rather than the meaning of either poststructuralism as a theory or postmodernism as a form of life where ‘the subject’ acts, disappears, or is ‘decentered’.

Articulations of identity in a postmodern world presume that consumption is the leading social activity. Instead, we studied everyday school life in different social strata and described an institutional postmodernism with socially differentiated ‘lacks’. Youth struggle with and against these absences, trying to establish distinguishable identities, ‘to become somebody’.

The long-term effect of social reorganization and institutional emptying may realize postmodern predictions about reducing autonomous spheres of social life to one dimension. ‘Restructuring’ will likely combine ‘microflexibility’ of classroom production, macrointegration of social regulation, and interlocking networks of control for discipline and legitimation.

Moral conservatism is less usable for ‘jet-age’ education. The need for remoralization reopens questions of meaning against the current of corporatist, performance-driven ‘techniflattening’ and institutional emptying and de-socialization. This contradiction between ‘techniperformance’ cultural destruction and the need for culture is the transformative site in education.


Social Relation Educational Reform Flexible Accumulation Cultural Creation School Case Study 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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  • Philip Wexler

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