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Professional Life and Work

Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives: studies in education and change

Educational Research as a Public Intellectual

Win Breines distinction between pre-figurative and strategic politics is relevant here.  "Pre-figurative politics seeks to create and sustain within the lived practice of the movement relationships and political forms that ‘prefigure’ and embody the desired society" (Breines, 1980, p. 421). Work in National Health Service hospitals or in pioneering comprehensive schools might be such pre-figurative sites.  Here involvement in policy and practice and the pursuit of ideals of social justice might all be pursued in tandem.

In the past 20 years many of this pre-figurative sites have been subject to severe disruption if not to dissolution.  In these circumstances pre-figurative practice and policy are to say the least, difficult.  A kind of piecemeal pragmatism becomes the norm but without any energising or inspiring overall visions.  We are left working on bits of the mosaic but with no sense of what it might finally look like or even if we will like the overall plan that emerges.  Under piecemeal pragmatism our public intellectual work often falls into the category of micro-political contestation when we get involved in seeking to defend pre-figurative practices or support those who are working to engender or maintain these practices and policies.  Alternatively, we involve ourselves in more traditional adversarial academic work developing critiques of the rationales and routes of contemporary public driven by imperatives of the market.

This draws us back to Breines second category of work - strategic politics.  "Strategic politics is concerned with building organisations in order to achieve power so that structural change in the political economic and social order might be achieved" (Breines, 1980, p. 422). This work is now pressing if new conceptions of service and education for social justice are to emerge - in that if new pre-figurative activities and sites are to be created.  For this to happen, our work must develop from past collective memory to defuse new visions and structures of education for achieving social justice.  There are a number of places that we might begin.

In terms of strategic politics why might there be a chance of a new period for educational research.  What are the grounds for hope?  Well, just as I have argued, that was progressive overreach in the early 1970s so I think there has been substantial New Right overreach in the past two decades.

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Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives
  • Date of publication: 01/09/2003
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 160
  • Publisher: Open University Press
  • Co-author: NAN
  • Subject:
    Professional Life and Work
  • Available in:
    English
  • Appears in:
    Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives: studies in education and change
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £23.99
  • ISBN: 9780335204113
  • Purchase this book:
    Open University Press
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