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Reconciling social justice with economic competitveness: the coherence of New Labour's discourse on education

Kenny, Caroline (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

According to key figures within New Labour, the advent of the knowledge-based economy has ended the “sterile” battle between social justice and economic competitiveness; this now means that it is only through the provision of opportunities for all, achieved through high quality education, that the demands of the two goals can be fulfilled. I investigate the claims made by Blair, Brown and the Education Ministers that social objectives are being reconciled with economic considerations in the Party's approach to education and, in doing so, explore the existence and content of a putative 'New Labour' discourse on education. I highlight the limitations of the existing literature in dealing with issues of discourse, agency and time. I contend that in overlooking questions of discourse and ignoring the potential for differences over time and between actors, the current literature fails to capture the dynamism and complexity of the Government's discourse leading it to reach two inaccurate conclusions about New Labour as well as prohibiting us from gaining a proper sense of whether the Party has been coherent in its discussions of education. Conversely, I set out an alternative view of coherence, proposing discourse as an equivalent unit of analysis to policy and demonstrating sensitivity to differences both over time and between agents. I show that there is not one coherent 'New Labour' discourse on education, but a shared conception that is underpinned by three discourses that appeal to arguments about the knowledge-based economy, opportunity and responsibility. Within this however, are eighteen different arguments the use, meaning and significance of which varies between Blair, Brown and the Education Ministers and, over the three terms between 1997 and 2007.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Bailey, David and Hay, Colin (1968-) and Winncott, Daniel
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
Department:Department of Political Science and International Studies
Subjects:JN101 Great Britain
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:647
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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