Neoliberalism as Nihilism?

I’ve come back to university a very different person from the one who left it. Among many other things, I’ve become more creative and artistic and I want to use these skills to help reflect the work I do in an engaging way. Academia has also become increasingly aware of the value of alternative forms of knowledge and transmission, so I’m attempting to interpret scholarly articles in a sketch-notey kind of way. Hope you enjoy.

First up:

Eve Tuck‘s “Neoliberalism as nihilism? A commentary on educational accountability, teacher education, and school reform” (2013)

This article explores the ways in which neoliberalist logic has infected influenced our eductional system with market ideals.

Tuck asserts that the neoliberalist approaches to school reform and teacher education have failed because they are market-driven and nihilist. The term “quotidian nihilism” is used to describe the regular, everyday occurrences that provide direction without meaning. The term “neoliberalist logic” is used to describe how market principles like bottom-lining, accountability, and standardization are misapplied to educational policy and teacher training.

Tuck also argues that, where before settler colonialism was concerned with erasure of the Indigenous population, neoliberalism – the institutional progeny of settler colonialism – is now concerned with the erasure of the unworthy subject. The school system provides surveillance, compliance orders, and scoring to help reach this end.

Tuck states that we ought to look to new models or axes of thought when considering education reform and teacher education, of which she provided examples.  

“[quotidian nihilism is] a nihilism that is not lived as despair; it is a nihilism that is not lived as an occasion for deep anxiety or misery about the vanishing of meaning from the human world. Instead, what neoliberalism is able to seize upon is the extent to which human beings experience a kind of directionlessness and pointlessness to life that neoliberalism in an odd way provides. It tells you what you should do: you should understand yourself as a spec of human capital, which needs to appreciate its own value by makingproper choices and investing in proper things. Those things can range from choice of a mate, to choice of an educational institution, to choice of a job, to choice of actual monetary investments – but neoliberalism without providing meaning provides direction.”

– Wendy Brown (as quoted by Tuck)

art M.Ed. Reflections

Brent Schmidt View All →

Educator. Skills: reading, coaching & shooting hoops, strumming guitars, talking to humans, gaming, consuming caffeine, scribbling and doodling, making foods.

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