Professor Mark Olssen

Emeritus Professor

Qualifications: BA (Hons) University of Otago (1975), PhD (Political Studies) University of Otago (1985), AcSS 2010


Office hours

Wednesday and Thursday afternoon 1:00 - 5.00pm

Further information


MARK OLSSEN is Professor of Political Theory and Education Policy in the Department of Politics at the University of Surrey. His most recent books are Liberalism, Neoliberalism, Social Democracy: thin communitarian perspectives on political philosophy and education, Routledge, New York and London, 2010; Toward A Global Thin Community: Nietzsche, Foucault, and the Cosmopolitan Commitment, Paradigm Press, Boulder and London, published 2009.  He is also co-author (with John Codd and Anne-Marie O’Neill ) of Education Policy: Globalisation, Citizenship, Democracy, (Sage, London, 2004 and  author of Michel Foucault: Materialism and Education, Greenwood Press, New York, 1999/Paradigm Press, Boulder, 2006. He has also published many book chapters and articles in academic journals in Britain, America and in Australasia

Research Interests

  • Higher Education Policy
  • Normative Political Theory and Philosophy
  • Continental Philosophy
  • Political Economy
  • Michel Foucault

Research Collaborations

Access: Critical Perspectives on Communication, Cultural and Policy Studies (Elizabeth Grieson). Consultant editor 1996-2002. Editorial board member from 2002.

Journal of Education and Work, Editor, Professor Hugh Lauder, University of Bath (Taylor Francis), Editorial Board from 2007.

Educational Philosophy and Theory (Michael Peters) (Blackwells). Editorial board member since 1998. Associate editor from 2004.

International Journal of Lifelong Education (Peter Jarvis and Stella Parker). (Taylor Francis) Editorial board member from October 2003.

Journal of Education Policy (Stephen Ball and Ivar Goodson). (Taylor Francis) Editorial board member from October 2003.

Policy Futures in Education (Michael Peters and Walter Humes) (Trident) Editorial board member from 2002.


My publications are listed on a separate page, please see Mark Olssen - Publications.

My recent work has been in supplementing post-modern philosophy with a normative theoretical architecture by drawing and adapting the work of thinkers like Nietzsche, Foucault, Deleuze and others with the aim of surpassing the problems of skepticism frequently recognized within this approach. What has resulted is a normative political philosophy of life which resurrects a theory of the good and its ultimate priority over , but reconciliation with, the right, as a relatively autonomous ethical field.  Such an approach surpasses  all other traditional normative approaches, including forms of liberal philosophy, from Descartes to Kant, as well as the philosophies of Hegel, Marx, and pre-Enlightenment theories as well.

A second interest has been to critique twentieth century liberal political theory in terms of its libertarian unconscious and to develop a more communitarian political theory relevant to the global twenty first century. A third aspect of my work has been to reconceptualise the way systems interact in relation to part and whole, individual and collective, structure and agency, in terms of complexity theory, thus resolving traditional conundrums around determinism and free will, structure and agency, and individual and collective.

Departmental Duties

  • Postgraduate Coordinator (School of Politics)
  • Deputy Chair, Academic Assembly
  • REF Adviser, UCU
  • Chair, Political Studies Association Higher Education Policy Action Group (HEPAG)

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