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Narrative Theory

Life Politics: conversations about education and culture

Mediation is the Message

QUESTION: And what is, or was, the role of academic personnel in face of that kind of cyclical pattern of activity and analysis?

IVOR: I think, certainly in my own country, England, intellectuals were accepted and expected to play a role in the higher grounds of that spectrum, up into the areas of policy analysis and even government. They were clearly seen as architects of policies. And they weren’t just legitimized as to read policies, but were actually active in the frame of the policy –that can be important to prove-. So in periods of liberal govern­ments, expansion, inclusionist politics, it’s clear that the intellectual can play a public role in the definition of some of those middle ground mezzo level policies and practices. That happened I believe in the 60’s and 70’s. The kind of social contract, if you will, between the intellectual classes and the government classes, seemed to me to rupture in 1979, when Margaret Thatcher was elected. So at that point, the intellectuals - if you will - returned to the micro cosmic habitus, and were disinfunctionised from many of the middle ground discussions about new reforms or new national curriculum. In a whole range of very important moments of domina­tion, moments of boundary definition, the intellectuals were not active, and not even close enough to evolve themselves in analysis. Now this is one of the great rediscoveries of power, which is that you can actually evacuate a whole milieu of policy making and structural renegotiation. Which mean that in a sense you silence theory, (whatever) it is subversive or not, because you can’t get inside the room to see what is going on. And of course, as globalization takes place, that closing of the door to both, action and analysis, has become a world-wide movement. Now where that leaves us as, would be, organic intellectuals, global organic intellectuals in a very difficult position, because we’re trying to read the signs of structural renegotiation or structural readjustment - I believe is the phrase - from outside the room. So we’re back trying to read trajectories, patterns, global incidences which give us, I think, fairly clear clues as to what’s going on. It means we have less detailed empirical kind of understandings than we once did. And this brings me back to the kind of sequence of theory I was arguing for, which is that the kind of patterns I was arguing for are more difficult at this time than they were. In some ways, I mean, they argue for the kind of grand panoptical theories of the old grand narratives because if you’re not allowed inside the room and you can’t see things in correctly maybe all you’ve got is theory. But I believe it’s not all as black and white as that. I believe you can get a fair bit of evidence from inside the room. Most people, the political parties particularly, are quite keen to talk about their own kind of manoeuvrings and their own power. So a good deal of work can be done in spite of this closure, to understand, to analyse, and indeed to act. And my sense is that we’re probably moving to go back to that point we’ve gone through, a huge moment of triumphalism. You know,
a new world order is established, and now is put in place. And at that moment, of course, you’re outside the room. But if my domination-mediation cycle is correct, we are now likely to be moving into a period of mediation. Where the professional classes are to some extent allowed back into the room. Where people that were in the room go back to their original business. And so, once again, we move into that mezzo mediating level.

QUESTION: Which clues lead you to that impression? Why can we say that we are going into a new period of mediation?

IVOR: Because I think what becomes very clear with the marketisation of education in England is that there are severe limits to how far, for example, business will want to go in running schooling. I think business will probably want to build the buildings and make the profits from leasing out the buildings. So it will manage the buildings possibly in public education. I don’t think it will want to involve itself in the hugely contestive area of education, in the distribution of education. It would be just a too dangerous front line to get into. So my own sense is there will be limits to how far education is actually marketised. And once those limits are realized, the professional groups will have to be brought back in, and allowed back into the room, because after all, they are the ones who know best how to do this. So I think the moment of overreach where such groups thought they could do everything, they could do not just business but culture, that moment of overreach is over. And in terms of culture, much of cultural production, I believe, or some of it anyhow, will be handed back to the professional groups, who will have more degrees of autonomy than they (...). Again, this statement is driven by desire as much as any empirical proof, but I think I sense that happening. Domination doesn’t normally go on, on an everyday basis, that would be very hard to stand. And only works in these moments of triumphalism, and it has clearly been a huge moment of history triumphalism. That’s passing away now. So I think we’re moving into a mediation period, where all of the things I’ve talked about become possible. 

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  • Date of publication: 01/05/2012
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 154
  • Publisher: Sense publishers
  • Subject:
    Narrative Theory
  • Available in:
  • Appears in:
    Life Politics: conversations about education and culture
  • Number of editions: 1
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: $39
  • ISBN: 978-94-6091-538-3
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