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Agile bodies : a new imperative in neoliberal governance

Gillies, Donald (2011) Agile bodies : a new imperative in neoliberal governance. Journal of Education Policy, 26 (2). pp. 207-223.

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Abstract

Modern business discourse suggests that a key bulwark against market fluctuation and the threat of failure is for organizations to become 'agile', a more dynamic and proactive position than that previously afforded by mere 'flexibility'. The same idea is also directed at the personal level, it being argued that the 'agile' individual is better placed to secure employment and to maintain their economic worth within globalized, rapidly changing markets. Educational discourse, particularly relating to the tertiary sector, is also beginning to appropriate such concepts and in this paper the discourse is probed from the perspective of Foucault's notion of governmentality. The paper argues that agility can be seen to be aligned both with the neoliberal concept of the entrepreneurial self and also with the 'governance turn', whereby policy aims are achieved through the apparently autonomous actions of agents, but actions which are heavily steered by various control mechanisms. The paper suggests, however, that the 'agile' self is but one, albeit powerful, response to the current crisis of capitalism and that counter-conduct is possible by focusing on alternative ethical and political stances