Professor Mark Olssen

Emeritus Professor
BA (Hons) University of Otago (1975), PhD (Political Studies) University of Otago (1985), FAcSS 2010



Richard Watermeyer, Rille Raaper, Mark Olssen, MARK EDWIN HECTOR OLSSEN (2022)Handbook on Academic Freedom Edward Elgar Publishing

"Identifying academic freedom as a major casualty of rapid and extensive reforms to the governance and practices of academic institutions worldwide, this timely Handbook considers the meaning of academic freedom, the threats it faces, and its relation to rights of critical expression, public accountability and the democratic health of open societies. An international cohort of leading scholars discuss the historical conceptualisations of academic freedom and explore the extent of its reconfiguration by neoliberalism and economic globalisation. Chapters examine the threats posed to academic freedom by interventionist government, economic fundamentalism, political conservatism and extremism. The Handbook finds that these threats endanger the intellectual ambitions at the core of academic freedom: contesting established 'truth' and holding power to account. Examining a matter of urgent social and political importance which is crucial to the future of democracy and intellectual autonomy, this Handbook is an invigorating read for students and scholars researching academic freedom, free speech and democratic governance in higher education institutions"-- Includes bibliographical references and index.

Sonal Nakar, Mark Olssen, MARK EDWIN HECTOR OLSSEN (2022)The effects of neoliberalism: Teachers’ experiences and ethical dilemmas to policy initiatives within vocational education and training in Australia, In: Policy futures in education20(8)14782103211040350pp. 986-1003 Sage

Neoliberal policy reforms have had a marked influence on nearly every aspect of education, including the enrolment practices employed by institutions, teaching and assessment practices, and even the outcomes for students and society. There is a widespread expectation that teachers should contribute to quality outcomes for students along with their moral/ethical development and character formation while at the same time behaving ethically in the currently challenging environment of the education sector, including the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector. However, this apparent pressure for maintaining quality education while simultaneously conforming to the ethicality of professional practices in the context of rapid policy changes of a neoliberal sort masks considerable controversy around the meaning of quality education with respect to both moral/ethical behaviour in education and the appropriate forms of practice that would constitute this area of education. A recent research project into the impact of the changing contemporary cultural context of VET on the creation of moral dilemmas facing VET teachers in their work has identified the VET teachers' perspectives of the ethical dilemmas experienced, by identifying the tensions between competing values and the resulting interactions. The research design for the study drew primarily on exploratory and discursive interviews with 18 VET teachers in South-East Queensland, selected from those responding to a call for participation in the study. The study pointed to the value of dilemmas as constructs through which to generate knowledge of ethical conflicts arising from contextual changes in policy. Four drivers that they attributed to causing those dilemmas were identified: changing immigration rules, changing funding requirements, changing culture and philosophy of RTOs, and inadequate teacher preparation. In each of these respects, the ambitious business expectations engendered by neoliberal restructuring and reform in recent years can be seen as articulating or presupposing values pertaining to standards of practice and performance of the RTO, which in turn can be seen to compromise traditional norms associated with teacher professionalism. It is with these values and conflicts that we are concerned in this paper.

This article presents a remarkable conversation on critical global citizenship education (GCE) between Mark Olssen, emeritus professor of political theory and higher education policy in the Department of Politics at the University of Surrey, and Emiliano Bosio, guest-editor of Citizenship Teaching & Learning . In developing the concept for this dialogue, we thought it necessary to frame GCE within a critical perspective that examines the political, economic, ideological and cultural conditions of super-complex societies, particularly in relation to notions of neo-liberal globalization and global justice. Olssen’s copious work has complemented postmodern philosophy by drawing on the work of Nietzsche, Foucault, Deleuze, and it has brought him high regard in Europe, the United Kingdom and worldwide; his insights, perspectives, concerns and outlooks bring to the centre of international educational debates on critical GCE relevant thoughts through which we can better understand the complex roots and history of global citizenship and cosmopolitanism particularly in relation to notions of democracy, equity, ethics and social responsibility.

Mark Olssen, Will Mace, MARK EDWIN HECTOR OLSSEN (2021)British Idealism, Complexity Theory and Society: The Political Usefulness of T. H. Green in a Revised Conception of Social Democracy, In: Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations20pp. 7-34 Addleton Academic Publishers

This paper seeks to rehabilitate the central political proposals of the British Idealists, with specific reference to T. H. Green, freeing their social democratic politics from their dependence on idealist philosophical assumptions, especially those embodied in the work of G. W. F. Hegel, and justifying them in relation to models and theories of complexity that developed in the twentieth century from the physical sciences. It argues that complexity theories advance a version of holism freed from the difficulties of traditional idealist theories. It claims that the affinities between these approaches enable Green's arguments for social democracy in the 19th century, to be restated on grounds that are more plausible today. This is pertinent as it gives useful insights into how social democratic principles can be retained in the 21st century, which is becoming increasingly characterized by systemic factors such as interconnectedness, interdependence, uncertainty, self-organization, and openness. Indeed, by re-visiting the political philosophy of British Idealism at this time, we will see that far from his own ideas being discrepant with the dominant and effective discourse on science of the day, as they were in his day, they are now congruent with it.

Mitja Sardoč, MARK EDWIN HECTOR OLSSEN (2021)Neoliberalism and Laissez-Faire: The Retreat from Naturalism, In: The Impacts of Neoliberal Discourse and Language in Educationpp. 48-68 Taylor & Francis Group
Mark Olssen, MARK EDWIN HECTOR OLSSEN (2021)The Rehabilitation of the Concept of Public Good: Reappraising the Attacks from Liberalism and Neo-Liberalism from a Poststructuralist Perspective, In: Review of Contemporary Philosophy20pp. 7-52 Addleton Academic Publishers

This paper starts by considering twentieth century attacks of the idea of the public good from liberal quarters: from social choice theory; public choice theory; and from political liberalism, with reference to Kenneth Arrow, James Buchanan, Joseph Schumpeter and John Rawls. Despite a prolonged attack against ideas of the good from liberal economists and political thinkers, spanning the period from the 1930s to the end of the twentieth century, I argue that the concept of public good needs rehabilitating as a political concept. The concept of self-interest that guided the liberal economists, and the ontology of individualism that underpinned Rawlss writings, have not proved adequate to understanding politics and the logic of collective action in terms of which politics necessarily operates. My answer will not seek to provide a modification or revision of the liberal views, or of utilitarianism, but will proffer a new normative theory which I will claim is necessary in the current age to guide politics. I argue that new models of science which gained ascendancy from the start of the twentieth century, as well as poststructuralist ideas can assist a reconceptualization of the idea of public good to guide politics, accommodate liberty and diversity, and overcome liberal objections.

Rille Raaper, Mark Olssen (2016)Education and Political Theory: Prospects and Points of View, In: Michael A. Peters (eds.), Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theorypp. 1-5 Springer, Singapore

Education, philosophy, and politics can be seen as the tripos in Western tradition, defining the canon and practices of political and educational institutions (Peters 2012). In the light of recent educational research, it could also be argued that the relationship between politics and education is gaining particular popularity. Various international journals such as Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, Journal of Education Policy, and Critical Studies in Education confirm these trends in scholarly discussions. Furthermore, many critical theorists see themselves grounded in Paulo Freire’s (1921–1997) work on the political nature of education, particularly made visible in his collection The Politics of Education: Culture, Power and Liberation (1985). However, the field of politics of education is highly diverse, often depending on a theoretical approach taken. Some go back to Plato, Aristotle, and Ancient Greek philosophies or find guidance from Enlightenment theories and the work of such scholars as John Locke (1632–1704), Jean- Jacques Rousseau (1712–1788), or Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). Others might focus on more recent economic theories of Marxism, human capital theory, meritocracy, or philosophical movements of post-structuralism and postmodernism. The theories of Michel Foucault (1926–1984) and Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002) are particularly widespread in contemporary perspectives on political nature of education. However, the differences in political research are not only limited to theoretical approaches taken, but they vary depending on the questions asked. Some educational studies explore macro-politics of education: educational politics and policy making at global and national levels. These studies tend to be interested in the ways in which political decisions and strategies are developed and how these could be improved. However, Simons et al. (2009a) also argue that educational research is increasingly shifting from macro questions related to economic and organizational theories to critical policy studies in which the focus turns to micro-politics of education inside and outside educational institutions. These researchers distance themselves from the kind of educational research that was aiming to improve existing policy mechanisms, and they rather examine policies and politics in relation to social context, power, and experiences (Simons et al. 2009a). In short, critical studies have brought educational research closer to micropolitics in which the political concepts of power, autonomy, freedom, and resistance receive increasing attention.

Mark Olssen (2016)Exploring complexity through literature: reframing foucault’s research project with hindsight, In: Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations16pp. 80-89 Addleton Academic Publishers

This article constitutes an extended review essay of Michael Foucault’s Language, Madness and Desire: On Literature, Philippe Artièries, Jean-François Bert, Mathieu Potte-Bonneville, and Judith Revel (eds.), Robert Bononno (tr.), University of Minnesota Press, 2015, 158 pp. A shorter version of this article was published as a book review in Notre Dame Philosophical Review, March 2016, Unique Identification Number 2016.03.28. In performing this review the article seeks to illuminate Foucault’s core ontological and epistemological themes that developed in these early commentaries on literature and that were to inform the philosophical orientation of his social science investigations, including madness, psychiatry, medicine, the prison, sexuality and the care of the self. The article suggests that Foucault’s early works on literature establish a thesis of philosophical materialism which articulates many of the themes of post-quantum complexity science as they affected the social and physical sciences in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Mark Olssen (2004)Neoliberalism, globalization, democracy: challenges for education, In: Globalization, Societies, Education2(2)pp. 231-275 Taylor & Francis

This article examines the role of the state and of education in relation to globalisation and argues that it is not a question of globalisation or the nation‐state, but of globalisation and the nation‐state. In order to understand how globalisation might be represented as having both positive and negative effects on states, two forms of globalisation are distinguished, one which attests to the growing interconnectedness of states, and another which relates to the neoliberal policy agenda amongst western countries since the 1970s. The final section of the paper argues for a version of cosmopolitan democracy based on Foucault’s writings, which I term ‘thin communitarianism’. It argues that if survival and security are to be possible, then strategies that preserve the openness of power structures, based on dialogical communication are necessary as a way, in Rorty’s 1998 sense, of keeping the conversation going.

Mark Olssen (2003)Totalitarianism and the Repressed Utopia of the present: Moving Beyond Hayek, Popper and Foucault, In: Policy Futures in Education1(3)pp. 526-552 Sage

This article starts by reviewing the negative account of utopian thinking in dominant liberal western political theory, through the positing of a link between utopianism and totalitarianism, as present in the writings of liberal writers like Hayek, Popper, Berlin and others. As such, this article constitutes a critique of the liberal theories of utopianism and totalitarianism as well as positing alternative conceptions. It uses Michel Foucault's views to advance beyond the liberal mind-set in order to rehabilitate the concept of utopia as both a substantive and methodological conception for both democratic and educational theory, and argues for a revival of utopian thinking as necessary for extending and deepening democracy in the world post 9/11.

MEH Olssen (2008)Foucault as Complexity Theorist: Overcoming the problems of classical philosophical analysis, In: Educational Philosophy and Theory40(1)pp. 96-117 Taylor & Francis

This article explores the affinities and parallels between Foucault's Nietzschean view of history and models of complexity developed in the physical sciences in the twentieth century. It claims that Foucault's rejection of structuralism and Marxism can be explained as a consequence of his own approach which posits a radical ontology whereby the conception of the totality or whole is reconfigured as an always open, relatively borderless system of infinite interconnections, possibilities and developments. His rejection of Hegelianism, as well as of other enlightenment philosophies, can be understood at one level as a direct response to his rejection of the mechanical atomist, and organicist epistemological world views, based upon a Newtonian conception of a closed universe operating upon the basis of a small number of invariable and universal laws, by which all could be predicted and explained. The idea of a fully determined, closed universe is replaced; and in a way parallel to complexity theories, Foucault's own approach emphasises notions such as self‐organisation and dissipative structures; time as an irreversible, existential dimension; a world of finite resources but with infinite possibilities for articulation, or re‐investment; and characterised by the principles of openness, indeterminism, unpredictability, and uncertainty. The implications of Foucault's type of approach are then explored in relation to identity, creativity, and the uniqueness of the person. The article suggests that within a complexity theory approach many of the old conundrums concerning determinism and creativity, social constructionism and uniqueness, can be overcome.

Mark Olssen (2013)Framing and Analysing Educational Research: A recent history of transactions from a Foucauldian perspective, In: AD Reid, EP Hart, MA Peters (eds.), A Companion to Research in Education(28)pp. 215-228 Springer, Dordrecht

Michel Foucault’s work has had a major impact on the social sciences and a smaller, yet growing impact on studies in education. This chapter traces the influence of his work in scholarship on the internal logics and development of psychology and sociology, to illustrate its significance for understanding the production and effects of subjectivity and modern society, governance and neoliberal forms of accountability, and power and individual freedom, and hence its implications for the framings and recent analysis of research in education on these matters.

MEH Olssen (2009)Review article on Alastair Morgan’s book ‘Adorno’s Concept of Life’ [2007], In: Empedocles: European Journal for the Philosophy of Communication1(1)pp. 138-144 Intellect Ltd
Rille Raaper, Mark Olssen (2015)Mark Olssen on neoliberalisation of higher education and academic lives: An interview, In: Policy Futures in Education14(2)pp. 147-163 SAGE Publications

This article is based on an interview conducted with Mark Olssen in October 2014, and the subsequent discussions. These conversations invited Olssen to reflect on his experiences of neoliberalism as a practising academic who has worked in the UK for some 14 years, and also to comment as a researcher and writer who is well known for his work on neoliberalism, especially in relation to higher education policy. While focusing on a question of how neoliberalism has changed the context in which academics work, following Olssen’s lead in his own research, in this interview he articulates a Foucauldian understanding of neoliberalism that can be seen as a specific mode of government rooted in economic discourses of competition (Foucault, 2008). The accentuation of the competitive forces shaping higher education, linked in Britain to periodic audits such as the RAE and the REF, have become increasingly visible within higher education institutions through techniques, such as performance indicators and targets, the increasing role of non-academic managers, the adoption of line-management authority hierarchies, linked to strategic planning, quality assurance, annual appraisals and audits that now function as a regular part of university governance (Olssen and Peters, 2005) and which discipline the way academics ‘conduct their conduct’, in Foucault’s phrase. By drawing on various examples from Olssen’s experience, it is argued that academics in neoliberalised institutions have been seriously deprofessionalised, the sources of which must be traced to complex causes ‘in the whole network of the social’ (Foucault, 1982: 345). Although this complexity of power is increasingly constraining, it is also suggested that it still offers some opportunities for academic resistance. The summary of our conversations is presented in this article, aiming to address the ways in which neoliberalism has transformed academia. We argue that the replacement of traditional liberal collegial models of governance by neoliberal technologies has diminished the academic freedom and professional self-determination of academics within the university acting to the detriment of autonomous research endeavours and propelling an escalation of the ‘dark times’ so vividly depicted by Tamboukou (2012: 860). In general terms, the article contributes to wider scholarly debate on neoliberalisation of higher education and academic work.

Richard Watermeyer, Mark Olssen (2016)‘Excellence’ and Exclusion: The Individual Costs of Institutional Competitiveness, In: Minerva54(2)pp. 201-218

A performance-based funding system like the United Kingdom’s ‘Research Excellence Framework’ (REF) symbolizes the re-rationalization of higher education according to neoliberal ideology and New Public Management technologies. The REF is also significant for disclosing the kinds of behaviour that characterize universities’ response to government demands for research auditability. In this paper, we consider the casualties of what Henry Giroux (2014) calls “neoliberalism’s war on higher education” or more precisely the deleterious consequences of non-participation in the REF. We also discuss the ways with which higher education’s competition fetish, embodied within the REF, affects the instrumentalization of academic research and the diminution of academic freedom, autonomy and criticality.

Rille Raaper, Mark Olssen (2017)In conversation with Mark Olssen: on Foucault with Marx and Hegel, In: Open Review of Educational Research4(1)pp. 96-117 Taylor & Francis

It is challenging to define who Michel Foucault was, whether he was a theorist, a philosopher, a historian, or a critic. In many of his books, and essays, Foucault denied being a philosopher or a theorist, nor did he want to be called a writer or a prophet. He described himself as an experimenter by saying that his work simply consists of ‘philosophical fragments put to work in a historical field of problems’. Like Ball [2013. Foucault, power, and education. New York: Routledge, p. 2], we believe that Foucault tried hard not to be ‘a something’, opening up opportunities to develop and practise theory. Emeritus Professor Mark Olssen has written widely on Foucault’s theoretical underpinnings and legacy. This conversation aims to revisit Olssen’s work, as well as Foucault’s own writings in order to engage with Foucault’s philosophical background and the methods he developed. By exploring Foucault’s theoretical and methodological approaches, the conversation situates his work within broader traditions of social theory, particularly within the works of Marx and Hegel. Our conversation starts by discussing Foucault’s relationship with Marx and Hegel and moves towards his approach to history and his wider contribution to poststructuralist school of thought.

Mark Olssen (2017)Neoliberalism and Beyond: The Possibilities of a Social Justice Agenda?, In: Stephen Parker, Kalervo N. Gulson, Trevor Gale (eds.), Policy and Inequality in Education(1)pp. 41-71 Springer, Singapore

The paper will start with a short account of neoliberalism where I will survey the arguments offered in support of neoliberal reforms made initially by James Buchanan and the Public Choice School. Many scholars, especially those coming from a poststructuralist or post-Marxist position, see neoliberalism, as Troeger (2014, p. 1) has put it, “as a kind of bogeyman-placeholder for all that is wrong with the predominant political and economic system in the West”. In this paper I intend to ask whether some of the criticisms made of the old welfare state by neoliberals like Buchanan were not justified, and then seek to offer a more nuanced account assessing both the costs and benefits of neoliberal policies and strategies as they affect both higher education and society. Specifically, I will ask to what extent neoliberal orthodoxies are compatible with policies promoting equity and social justice? And what sort of social justice might this be? The extent to which neoliberal strategies are themselves adaptable, are undergoing change, have differential effects in relation to different policy arenas, or can be rendered congruent with social justice agendas, are the broader general questions I will then seek to address. In order to do this, I will initially present a survey of a number of key policy domains within the higher education field to be able to ascertain which specific policy areas contribute to increased inequality and frustrate social equity. This will underscore an important point that while at one level neoliberalism constitutes a general policy framework, its individual technologies must be seen to act variably and with different effects, not all of which are necessarily negative, in relation to different issues and domains. Indeed, I will argue that it is at least conceivable that a progressively orientated social democratic government could utilise some supply-side policy agendas and technologies to good effect. As an overarching policy framework, however, I will argue that neoliberalism as the agenda of free market economics is not likely to survive due to the very shortcomings that are now in the second decade of the twenty-first century becoming evident. By way of conclusion then, I will ask briefly what lies beyond neoliberalism as a broad policy framework? Is there a new settlement on the horizon?

Mark Olssen (2016)Neoliberal competition in higher education today: research, accountability and impact, In: British Journal of Sociology of Education37(1)pp. 129-148 Taylor & Francis

Drawing on Foucault’s elaboration of neoliberalism as a positive form of state power, the ascendancy of neoliberalism in higher education in Britain is examined in terms of the displacement of public good models of governance, and their replacement with individualised incentives and performance targets, heralding new and more stringent conceptions of accountability and monitoring across the higher education sector. After surveying the defeat of the public good models, the article seeks to better understand the deployment of neoliberal strategies of accountability and then assess the role that these changes entail for the university sector in general. Impact assessment, I claim, represents a new, more sinister phase of neoliberal control. In the concluding section it is suggested that such accountability models are not incompatible with the idea of the public good and, as a consequence, a meaningful notion of accountability can be accepted and yet prized apart from its neoliberal rationale.

M Simons, MEH Olssen, MA Peters (2009)Introduction and Overview, In: M Simons, M Olssen, MA Peters (eds.), Re-Reading Education Policies: A Handbook Studying the Policy Agenda of the 21st Century Sense Publishers

This book is a collection of papers that study and discuss current education policy challenges from a variety of perspectives. Although the term is clearly too broad and needs some elaboration, these papers are part of the field, or genre of study, that is commonly referred to as ‘critical education policy studies’. Perhaps today the term ‘critical’ has become devoid of meaning – and there are probably no researchers who wouldn’t call themselves, or their research, critical. Notwithstanding this trivialisation, we do want to maintain the term ‘critical’ here. However, critical does not refer to how the researcher of education policy relates to her research (methodology, data, results, peers…). Indeed, in that sense, all research is expected to be critical. Neither is the term ‘critical’ used here to characterise the kind of analytical framework that informs the research usually thought of as ‘critical social or political theory’.

Mark Olssen (2006)Totalitarianism and the Repressed Utopia of the present: Moving Beyond Hayek, Popper and Foucault, In: MAF Peters (eds.), Edutopias: New Utopian Thinking in Education Sense Publishers

Education has always been part of the search for the ideal society and, therefore, an important part of the utopian tradition in Western culture, politics and literature. Education has often served to define the ideal society or to provide the principal means of creating it. This unique collection of essays by well known scholars from around the world examines the role of edutopias in the utopian tradition, examining its sources and sites as a means for understanding the aims and purposes of education, for realizing its societal value, and for criticizing its present economic, technological and organizational modes. These essays will stimulate new thinking in ways that impinge on both theoretical and practical questions, as well as offering the reader a series of reminders of the ethical and political dimensions of education and its place in helping to build good and just societies. The collection is aimed at an audience of teachers and graduate students.

MEH Olssen (2010)Social democracy, complexity and education: Sociological perspectives from welfare liberalism, In: MW Apple, SJ Ball, LA Gandin (eds.), The Routledge international handbook of the sociology of education Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group

This collection brings together many of the world's leading sociologists ofeducation to explore and address key issues and concerns within the discipline.

MEH Olssen (2009)Michel Foucault: materialisme I educacio17 Edicions del CRec

En el cada vegada més extens univers dels estudis elaborats en educaciù sota la influéncia de l'obra de Michel Foucault, el llibre de Mark Olssen conté una diferéncia digna de ser apreciada. No intenta traìar una aproximaciù més a la instituciù escolar com a dispositiu . Tampoc pretén obrir un nou domini on aplicar l'análisi genealógica. El llibre que es presenta no se situa en estos honrosos filons foucaultians. El que oferix Olssen és un exemplar desplegament del mode de recepciù de l'obra de Foucault que opera en eixa difusa i plural fracciù del medi educatiu anglosaxù (Cleo Cherryholmes, Henry Giroux, Jennifer Gore, Michael Peters, James Marshall...) que, amb saludable actitud de reflexivitat indisciplinada, s'ha conformat davall el propósit d'obrir la tradiciù de la teoria crítica de l'educaciù i la societat a les noves ferramentes conceptuals, les preguntes i les troballes proporcionades per la línia de pensament que académicament identifica amb l'etiqueta de postestructuralisme.

MEH Olssen (2010)Discourse, Complexity, Life: Elaborating the Possibilities of Foucault’s Materialist Concept of Discourse, In: CB Grant (eds.), Beyond Universal Pragmatics4pp. 25-58 Peter Lang Pub Inc

I want to suggest in this article that it is through the elaboration of the concept of discourse that the differences between Foucault and thinkers like Habermas, Hegel and Marx can best be understood. Foucault progressively develops a conception of discourse as a purely historical category that resists all reference to transcendental principles of unity – whether of substance or form – but sees the emergence of discursive frameworks as precarious and contested assemblages characterised by indeterminacy, complexity, openness, uncertainty and contingency. His approach thus enables a reconciliation of difference and commonality, or the particular and the general, in a distinctive and viable way.

M Simons, MEH Olssen, MA Peters (2009)Re-Reading Educational Policies, Part 2:Challenges, Horizons, Approaches, Tools, Styles, In: M Simons, M Olssen, MA Peters (eds.), Re-Reading Education Policies: A Handbook Studying the Policy Agenda of the 21st Centurypp. 36-95 Sense Publisher

The first part of the introduction chapter explored the emergence of the so-called critical education policy orientation, and explored three features of this orientation: acknowledgement of the educational, moral and social concerns in debates on education, the focus on power, politics and regulation in education (except for specific policies), and the adoption of a specific form of critical advocacy towards society. This part of the introduction explores the current state of affairs, and aims both at giving access to theoretical discussions and analytical frameworks and offering some overviews of specific and hopefully useful tools and approaches. The first section explores some of the challenges the critical education policy orientation is facing today in view of the challenges of contemporary society and regarding theory and methodology. We will clarify that in confrontation with these challenges the critical orientation is in need of “de-parochialisation” (Dale, 1994; Lingard, 2006) and a “recalibration of critical lenses” (Robertson & Dale, 2008). The second section sketches the (meta-)theoretical horizons of critical policy research in order to discuss the main approaches adopted by critical education policy scholars (and in the contributions of this book): cultural political economy, critical discourse analysis, policy field analysis, governmentality study, micropolitical analysis, feminist theory, post-colonial theory and hermeneutics. The third section lists and discusses some of the old and new classifications and analytical tools that have been and are being used to critically examine education policy. In the concluding section of the chapter, different styles of critical education policy research are distinguished in order to emphasise the idea that when policy makers become critical there is perhaps an urgent need for critical scholars to become concerned.

MEH Olssen (2011)Social Democracy, Complexity and Education: Sociological Perspectives From Welfare Liberalism, In: MW Apple, SJ Ball, LA Gandin (eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of the Sociology of Education(7) Routledge

In the second half of the nineteenth century, in the period after John Stuart Mill, and into and including the first third of the twentieth century, a group of philosophers, sociologists, economists and journalists, systematically adapted classical liberal arguments to make them relevant to the appalling social conditions generated by the development of capitalism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Their writings contained distinctive models of society, of human nature, and of change, that are relevant to sociologists studying education in the twenty-first century. My aim throughout this paper will be to work through the arguments of the new liberals accepting those that meet the tests of a critical interrogation as being relevant to twenty-first century global capitalism, and adapting or rejecting them as is appropriate. Although some of their arguments will be found wanting, I will argue that their original ideas in defence of social democracy can be restated in terms of developments in science and philosophy over a century since they wrote. Developments in post-quantum complexity theory, within both the physical and social sciences, will enable us to re-ground social democratic arguments and state them in a more plausible way for the twenty-first century.

MEH Olssen, M Peters (2007)Marx, Education and the Possibilities for a Fairer World: Reviving Radical Political Economy through Foucault’, In: A Green, G Rikowski, H Radnutz (eds.), Renewing Dialogues in Critical Theory, Politics and Education: Volume 1: Openings.pp. 151-179 Palgrave/Macmillan

Marxism, we are told by politicians and the popular press is dead. The Left, as a historical movement tied to the labor movement, is frozen over, caught between the collapse of actually existing communism in Eastern Europe and the triumph of global market forces. Union membership in the traditional industrial economy in the United Kingdom is dwindling as multinationals relocate offshore; even insurance, information, banking and call-centre jobs of the ‘new economy’ are increasingly outsourced to India and other emergent economies literate in information and computing technology and English. China has joined the World Trade Organization and committed itself to a post-socialist market economy. At a time of an intensification of inequalities between regions and, perhaps more significantly, between North and South – between the developed world and the developing world – the Left in Britain, the USA and most of Europe seems ideologically gutted by the Third Way preoccupation with the social market and with citizenship ‘responsibilities’ rather than with traditional concerns of equality and advancing rights. The best offer on hand seems to be a socialization of the market and an acknowledgement of its moral limits. Neoliberalism, in the age of privatization reduces the state’s role more and more to one of regulation, rather than provision or funding of public services. The US–UK neoliberal model of globalization has dominated the world economy and world politics for the last 20 years, defining the present crisis of fundamentalisms and restyling imperialism as a new age of barbarism. In this age, American-style democracy is exported alongside the ideology of ‘free trade’. Yet many Americans have shifted their view since the Vietnam War on whether the USA is a force for good in the world or an imperialist power, and this is so despite Bush’s recent election victory. Even the philosophers of ‘68 have given way to a new breed of fashion-conscious savants, who now turn their attention to extolling the virtues of liberal individualism or sneer at the last great generation of Left-Nietzscheans, such as Foucault and Derrida.

Toward a Global ‘Thin’ Community re-examines aspects of the liberal-communitarian debate. While critical of both traditions, this book argues that a coherent form of communitarianism is the only plausible option for citizens today. Using the theories of Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault, Olssen shows how we can overcome traditional problems with communitarianism by using an ethic of survival that he identifies in the writings of Nietzsche and others to provide a normative framework for twenty-first century politics at both national and global levels. “Thin” communitarianism seeks to surmount traditional objections associated with Hegel and Marx, and to safeguard liberty and difference by applying a robust idea of democracy.

MEH Olssen (2013)Governmentality, Liberalism, Neoliberalism. Assessing Foucault's Legacy, In: E Sembou (eds.), Political Theory. The State of the Discipline(7)pp. 139-160 Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Foucault developed the concept of governmentality to understand the emergence and changes in the forms of political reason, as part of a critique of liberalism. For Foucault, both liberalism and neo-liberalism represent arts of government and forms of political reason. A political rationality is not simply an ideology but a worked-out discourse containing theories and ideas that emerge in response to concrete problems within a determinate historical period. Foucault's concept of governmentality is relevant to how governmental technologies insert themselves into practical policy development and implementation at a particular historical juncture. In this article I will seek to demonstrate the applicability of Foucault concept of governmentality to theorising the emergence of neoliberal forms of state reason which have emerged in the second half of the twentieth century and which have underpinned the application of free market economics to restructuring the public sectors of advanced western capitalist societies. The paper concludes by briefly examining recent developments in higher education policy as they have developed in Britain since the 1980s, with specific reference to the Research Excellence Framework, Political Studies, and the fate of Political Theory. as they have been affected over the last decade.

M Simons, MEH Olssen, MA Peters (2009)Re-Reading Education Policies, Part 1: The Critical Education Policy Orientation, In: M Simons, M Olssen, MA Peters (eds.), Re-Reading Education Policies: A Handbook Studying the Policy Agenda of the 21st Centurypp. 1-35 Sense Publisher

The aim of this first part of two introduction chapters is to discuss features of critical studies of educational policy within the broader field of policy studies and in relation to sociological, political and philosophical research on education. The point of departure is the so-called “policy orientation” in social research, and the emergence of policy analysis and its concern within the welfare state. The sphere and genre of critical educational policy studies at the beginning of the 1980s was mainly rooted in sociological, historical, and political research on education, that is, the research tradition interested in the power, politics and (social) regulation in and around schools. Echoing the term “policy orientation”, we want to introduce the notion critical education policy orientation to describe the distinctive scope of critical education policy studies. In this chapter we will not present either detailed definitions of and illuminating linkages between the main concepts in research traditions nor exhaustive overviews and final accounts of perspectives, theories and methods. The aim instead is to offer some general overviews of approaches and discussions for the purpose of bringing some matters of concern in the diversity of studies critically oriented towards educational policy to the foreground.

Mark Olssen (2018)Neoliberalism and Democracy: A Foucauldian Perspective on Public Choice Theory, Ordoliberalism, and the Concept of the Public Good, In: Damien Cahill, Melinda Cooper, Martijn Konings, David Primrose (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Neoliberalismpp. 384-396 SAGE Publications

One of the main effects of neoliberal governmentality has been a displacement and privatisation of the domain of the public which has, in turn, contributed to an undermining of the communitycentredness of nation-states and ideals of collective responsibility and democratic participation with regards to public provision. I will argue in this chapter that neoliberalism, as the discourse of global political and economic elites, has resulted in an eclipsing of the space of democratic control by citizens both in civil society within nationstates and specific national institutional sectors, thereby rendering democratic institutions less effective in the face of the powers of the state and global capital. One effect of this is that neoliberal rationality conflicts with and undermines democratic models of good governance (as can be seen in the state, or in specific institutional sectors, such as health or higher education, where the logic of the market trumps and competes with good pedagogical processes or methods and erodes traditional liberal models of professionalism and self-management). In another sense, neoliberal logic fails to respond to the mass of citizens’ democratic preferences (as can be evidenced in 2015/16 by the EU’s insensitivity to the anti-austerity preferences of the majority of Greek people). At the root of these conflicts, I will argue, resides the neoliberal dismantlement and attack upon the public good which was central to the rise of the welfare state era of government. This attack was developed by certain early neoliberals and yet is often neglected in surveys of the topic. In the second part of the chapter I trace how neoliberalism advanced beyond liberalism in seeking to extend market rationality to all areas of life and reconfigure both cultures and subjects as responsible self-managing individuals within an enterprise society based upon norms of competition. Here I utilise insights from the analysis of Foucault (2008) and extend his analysis of the ordoliberals by drawing upon the later works of the German economist Wilhelm Röpke, who characterises neoliberal rationality as a top-down, state supported discourse, one where competition replaces laissez-faire, and which constitutes the context, or foundation, through which democratic will formation should take root. In the final section of the chapter, I explore the implications of the neoliberal vision for democracy during its ascendancy from the 1980s until the present, as well as for the future, where the final outcome is not assured. To date, I argue that neoliberalism has had the effect of redefining and constricting democracy, eroding the real freedom of citizens through enforced austerity programmes, as well as weakening the validity attached to democratic forms of collective politics through both a circumscription of the agenda with which democratic will formation should be concerned, as well as through a ‘hollowing out’ of the public sphere, rendering it subservient to the rules of the market. In this final section of the chapter, I will also introduce some recent empirical illustrations to lend further support to the thesis that neoliberalism conflicts with democracy. This will be demonstrated, first, in relation to the neoliberal appropriation of public education, whereby education is removed as a democratic citizen right integral to the concept of public good, on the basis of which democratic practices and aspirations can take root; and, second, in terms of the impositions of the EU over the Syriza government in Greece during 2014/15, in which the democratic aspirations of a given people against austerity failed to be acknowledged.

MEH Olssen (2010)Why Marta Nussbaum should become a Foucauldian?, In: O Hans-Uwe, H Ziegler (eds.), Education, Welfare and the Capabilities Approach: A European Perspectivepp. 15-50 Barbara Budrich Esser

Throughout Nussbaum’s many articles and books two ultimately incompatible strategies are apparent: one is a defence of Aristotelianism with its commitment to an objective theory of the good; the other is a commitment to Rawlsian deontological liberalism, which abolishes the good in preference for the right. In the first section of this paper I argue that this dual commitment concerning ontological assumptions represents a serious unresolved tension in her writing, and assists also to undermine her professed interest in developing an approach which is non-metaphysical and non-foundational. In the second section of the paper, I suggest that these problems could be more easily overcome, or at least addressed, by adopting an approach based on the philosophy of life, drawing on the writings of Nietzsche and Foucault.

MEH Olssen (2004)Foucault and Marxism: Rewriting the theory of historical materialism, In: Policy Futures in Education2(3)pp. 454-482
M Olssen (2004)Globalization, the third way and education post 9/11: building democratic citizenship, In: M Peters (eds.), Education, Globalization and the State in the Age of Terrorism Paradigm Publishers
Mark Olssen (2012)Learning in a Complex World, In: P Jarvis, MH Watts (eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Learning(39)pp. 376-392 Routledge

Central to representing the world as a complex dynamical system is to understand it as pertaining to an interdisciplinary approach to non-linear processes of change in both nature and society. Although complexity research takes its origins from its applications in physics, chemistry and mathematics and the ‘hard’ sciences, undergoing its formative development in the early and mid twentieth century, during the second half of the twentieth century it has exerted an effect on the social sciences as well. Today while there exists a multitude of different approaches and research centres, across the globe, complexity research is generating a quiet revolution in both the physical and social sciences. One interest in the approach is that it liberates philosophy and social science from the prison-house of a constraining scientific past based on linear determinism, reductionism and methodological individualism. Another is that it presents a view of science that supports the social sciences claims that history and culture are important. Arguably, it permits an approach in the social sciences and philosophy that heralds the rise of a ‘third-way’ between the stark individualism of liberal philosophy, and what many consider to be the (equally) oppressive sociologicism of ‘thick’ communitarianism . As an offshoot of this, complexivists also claim their new approach reinstates, and possibly elevates, a previously marginalised cadre of scholars within the western intellectual tradition . In this paper my purpose is to elaborate the normative possibilities of complexity theory, firstly for learning theory and education, and secondly for a futuristic global ethics which can ground the project of life in the present horizon. Before turning to these tasks it is necessary to introduce complexity theory in order to familiarise the reader with its common features .

Mark Olssen (2008)Education Policy, In: G McCulloch, D Crook (eds.), The Routledge International Encyclopedia of Educationpp. 198-199 Routledge

In contrast to traditional pluralist or functionalist analyses, the last thirty years has seen the emergence of what is now referred to as a critical policy analysis. While much of the early work in this tradition took its impetus from radical versions of sociology, in the last decade a growing number have utilised the works of the French post-structuralist writer Michel Foucault. My own work in policy analysis, as well as my recent book with John Codd and Anne Marie O’Neill (Olssen, et al., 2004, Sage) presents the outlines of a Foucauldian to the analysis of educational policy and the politics of education. Although there are some aspects of Foucault’s work that are not accepted. – his neutralism over ends and values - there is within Foucault’s work the basis for a broad commitment to a democratic and ethical vision of a new welfare community. Rather than employ him in a one-sided negative way that can be found in some readings of his work, Education Policy seeks to utilise Foucault as an ally, sometimes going beyond the literal canon of his texts, but keeping within his general conception of critique in order to re-articulate and re-theorise a new understanding of a social-democratic polity.

M Olssen (2004)Culture and Learning: Access and Opportunity in the Classroom Information Age Publishing
MEH Olssen (2008)Globalisation, the Third Way and Education Post 9/11: Building Democratic Citizenship, In: MA Peters, A Britton, H Blee (eds.), Global Citizenship Educationpp. 261-283 Sense Publishers

The possibility of acts of terror, whether committed by rogue states, or transnational groups, forces a new consideration of the themes of democracy, community and individual rights. And there must also, I believe, be a new understanding of what citizenship entails, and what the role of education is in relation to creating citizens. The new realisation that the world is full of dangers is leading to a reappraisal of the relations between the state and the individual and between collective interests and individual rights. What confronts us now, more than at any time since the 17th century, is the prospect of a new political settlement that involves a radical revision and restriction of traditional rights and liberties given to individuals. At the same time as states are encouraged to adhere to the ‘steer-but-not-row’ philosophy of neo-liberalism in economic affairs, in the political sphere the state’s need to know, involving increased surveillance and data gathering for the purposes of fighting crime, fraud and preventing acts of terror, has now become an explicit agenda of states. What is being ushered in, indeed, is a new post-liberal political settlement. Within this scenario there are possibilities, openings and dangers. In this paper I will seek to reassess the significance of globalisation, neoliberalism, human rights, community, democracy and the role of education, taking the events of 9/11 into account.

MA Peters, M Olssen, C Lankshear (2003)Futures of Critical Theory Rowman & Littlefield

Written by internationally acclaimed scholars on futures of critical theory, this book attempts to renew and reinvigorate critical theory by extending its range and its intellectual trajectories through strategies of inclusiveness that ...

M Olssen (2002)Citizenship, difference and education, In: DSAH Lawson (eds.), Curriculum and Assessmentpp. 7-26 Greenwood Press
M Peters, M Olssen (2005)Teaching, Scholarship and Research in the New Knowledge Economy, In: R Barnett (eds.), Reshaping Universities: New Relationships between research, scholarship and teaching McGraw-Hill/Open University Press (SRHE imprint)
M Olssen (2001)Academic Freedom in New Zealand: Surely more than just another word for expertise, In: New Zealand Educational Review(March)pp. 11-?
M Olssen (2000)Ethical Liberalism, Education and the 'New Right', In: Journal of Education Policy15(5)pp. 481-508
Mark Olssen (2011)'Learning in a Complex World', In: Access: Critical Perspectives on Communication, Cultural & Policy Studies30(1)pp. 11-24 Taylor & Francis

Today while there exists a multitude of different approaches and research centres across the globe, complexity research is generating a quiet revolution in both the physical and social sciences. One interest in the approach is that it liberates philosophy and social science from the prison-house of a constraining scientific past based on linear determinism, reductionism and methodological individualism. Another is that it presents a view of science that supports the social sciences claims that history and culture are important. This paper will endeavour to introduce complexity as an approach to both the physical and social sciences, presenting its main common features, and having done so, outline and critically assess the implications for learning and education. It will conclude by assessing the implications of complexity perspective for a normative global ethics of education.

M Olssen (2006)Foucault, Education Research and the Issue of Autonomy, In: PAP Smeyers (eds.), Postfoundationalist Themes in the Philosophy of Education Blackwell Publishing
MEH Olssen (2006)Michel Foucault: Materialism and Education Paradigm Press

Michel Foucault is arguably one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century and his works are some of the most difficult to grasp. In Michel Foucault: Materialism and Education, Mark Olssen offers one of the most accessible overviews of Foucault's thought available to educators and general readers, putting into context the relevance of Foucault's thought (which is significant) to contemporary educational philosophy and theory. Olssen adds important new insights to Foucault scholarship by bringing to light the influences of other thinkers such as Marx, Nietzsche, Gramsci, Habermas, and others on Foucault's development as a thinker and their influence on the deep historical materialist strand that grounds and uniquely characterizes so much of Foucault's thought.

M Olssen (2006)Foucault and the Imperatives of Education: Critique and Self Creation in a Non-Foundational World, In: Studies in Philosophy and Education25(3)pp. 245-271
M Olssen (2002)Foucault and Genealogy
M Olssen (2003)Structuralism, post-structuralism, neoliberalism: assessing Foucault's legacy, In: Journal of Education Policy18(2)pp. 189-202
MEH Olssen (2008)Critical Theory, In: G McCulloch, D Crook (eds.), The Routledge international encyclopedia of educationpp. 145-146 Routledge

Critical theory emerged in Germany in the 1920s with the establishment of the Institute for Social Research at Frankfurt-am Main in 1923. The term ‘critical theory’ was originally coined and used by Max Horkheimer in 1937 to describe the theoretical programme of the school. Known as the ‘Frankfurt School’ the group became exiled to France then to the United States in the early 1930s until 1941 when it closed down. According to Löwenthal (1989: 141) the decision to emigrate from Germany was made as early as 1930 as a consequence of the rise of the Nazi’s to political power and the increasingly difficult situation faced by a group of intellectuals that was predominantly Jewish. Amongst its members were Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Frederich Pollock, Franz Neumann, Leo Löwenthal and Erih Fromm. In 1934 the group were given permission to establish their Institute at Columbia University in New York. After the war, in 1950, it was reestablished in Frankfurt where it attracted new members such as Jürgen Habermas and Alfred Schmidt.

M Olssen (2003)Inhibiting brokerage: the New Right Revolution in New Zealand, In: N Jackson (eds.), Engaging and changing higher education through brokeragepp. 230-233 Ashgate
MEH Olssen (2009)Neoliberalism, Education, and the Rise of the Global Common Good’, In: M Simons, M Olssen, MA Peters (eds.), Re-Reading Education Policies: A Handbook Studying the Policy Agenda of the 21st Centurypp. 433-477 Sense Publisher

This book collects studies with a 'critical education policy orientation', andpresents itself as a handbook of matters of public concern.

M Olssen (2002)Review of Carmel Borg, Joseph Buttigrieg and Peter Mayo's Gramsci and Education, In: Studies on the Education of Adults
MEH Olssen (2011)The Strange Death of the Liberal University: Research Assessments and the Impact of Research, In: R King, S Marginson, R Naidoo (eds.), Handbook on Globalization and Higher Education(21)pp. 360-383 Edward Elgar Publishing

The changes to higher education inaugurated in Britain in the early 1980s as a result of the election of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, ushered in a sea-change in how the public sector was to be managed and of the role of government in relation to public spending. This paper outlines the rise of market-driven higher education, and then examines the changes in the way accountability has been administered with regards to research assessment. Although it focuses largely on Britain, comparisons are made to Australia and New Zealand. It argues that in the shift from the RAE to the REF, there is a shift from accountability to control, with the increased de-professionalization for academics that this implies. Academics and universities’ autonomy are being eroded by the centralised organisation of accountability and its tie to financial provision, from the central state agencies at the centre of the state apparatus. What is recommended is a more devolved model whereby universities administer their own accountability regimes through a committee of the vice-chancellors.

M Olssen (2005)Foucault, Educational Research and the Issue of Autonomy, In: Educational Philosophy and Theory37(3)pp. 365-380

This book collects studies with a ‘critical education policy orientation’, and presents itself as a handbook of matters of public concern. The term ‘critical’ does not refer to the adoption of a particular theoretical framework or methodology, but rather it refers to a very specific ethos or way of relating to the present and the belief that the future should not be the repetition of the past. This implies a concern about what is happening in our societies today and what could or should be happening in the future. As a consequence, the contributors to the book rely on a general notion of public policy that takes on board processes, practices, and discourses at a variety of levels, in diverse governmental and non-governmental contexts, and considers the relation of policy to power, to politics and to social regulation. Following the detailed introduction that aims at picturing the landscape of studies with a ‘critical education policy orientation’, the book presents re-readings of six policy challenges; globalization, knowledge society, lifelong learning, equality/democracy/social inclusion, accountability/control/efficiency and teacher professionalism. It seeks to contextualise these in relation to issues of current global concern at the start of the 21st century. Despite the diversity of approaches, this collection of critical education policy studies shares a concern with what could be called ‘the public, and its education,’ and represents a snapshot of education policy research at a particular time.

M Olssen (2003)Radical Constructivism and Its Failings: Anti-Realism and Individualiam., In: D Scott (eds.), Curriculum Studies: Major Themes - volume 3pp. 32-51 Routledge
MEH Olssen (2010)Politics and the Philosophy of Life: Toward a Normative Framework, In: J Yorke (eds.), The right to life and the value of lifepp. 39-64 Ashgate Publishing

This paper argues that a philosophy of life can provide a new conception of the good which can provide a useful framework for the resolution of political and ethical disputes. Building off Nietzsche, Spinoza, Bergson, Foucault and Deleuze, it outlines what is central to life philosophy and how these thinkers can be represented as providing a new basis for normative political philosophy which avoids both mechanistic atomism and teleological organicism. It goes on to explain how such an approach was developed by economists such as J.A. Hobson in the welfare state liberal tradition in the early twentieth century and how life philosophy can be utilised to support a revised welfare liberalism today, re-establishing a revised post-Keynesianism as the basis of a global institutionalism for the twenty-first century.

M Olssen (2017)Democracy and Education, In: The 'Thin' Community: A Critique and Revision of Liberal Politics and Education Paradigm Press
M Olssen (2006)Understanding the mechanisms of neoliberal control: lifelong learning, flexibility and knowledge capitalism, In: International Journal of Lifelong Education25(3)pp. 213-230
MEH Olssen (2012)'Education Policy in the Work of John A. Codd', In: R Openshaw, J Clark (eds.), Critic and Consciencepp. 29-45 New Zealand Council for Educational Research

The 1980s were a watershed for education policy. Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan was el3ected President of the United States. Both leaders were instrumental in applying neoliberal prescriptions to economic and social policy, including education. The latter was now to be exposed to the concept of the free market regulation, justified in terms of greater consumer choice and competition between education institutions. In New Zealand, the same decade was to see the advent of radical education reform ushered in by the Picot Report and Tomorrow’s Schools. All this was to provide a context, and indeed the spur for a fresh approach to the study of education policy across the globe: a vital project in which John Codd was to play a leading role.

MEH Olssen (2008)Understanding the mechanisms of neoliberal control: Lifelong learning, flexibility and knowledge capitalism’, In: A Fejes, K Nicoll (eds.), Foucault and lifelong learning Routledge

This book therefore offers new insights into lifelong learning and makes a significant contribution to its study and to the wider use of Foucault within ...

MEH Olssen (2009)Governmentality and Subjectivity: Practices of Self as Arts of Self-Government, In: MA Peters, AC Besley, M Olssen, S Maurer, S Weber (eds.), Governmentality Studies in Education Sense Publishers

Although the self is constituted by practices, it is always possible to make something out of what it has been made into, once it learns how to pull the strings. This is the basis of ethical work. Ethical work, says Foucault, is the work one performs in the attempt to transform oneself into an ethical subject of one's own behaviour, the means by which we change ourselves in order to become ethical subjects. Such a history of ethics is a history of ascetics. In his interview `On the Genealogy of Ethics' Foucault says that there is "another side to these moral prescriptions which most of the time is not isolated as such but is, I think, very important: the kind of relationship you ought to have with yourself, rapport à soi, which I call ethics, and which determines how the individual is supposed to constitute himself as a moral subject of his own actions" (1997a: 263). The question of how to conceptualise ethics and how to write its history lead Foucault to a study of ancient cultures in the tradition of historians of ancient thought such as Paul Veyne, Georges Dumézil, Pierre Hadot, and Jean-Pierre Vernant (Davidson, 1994: 64). His concern with ethics is the last two volumes of The History of Sexuality, constituted a reconceptualisation and reorientation of his original project on sex in The History of Sexuality, Volume 1 (Davidson, 1994: 64). Now, sex would be conceptualised in relation to ethics, and ethics was to become, in his latter works, specifically the framework for interpreting Greek and Roman problematisations of sex. Ethics, as such, was a part of morality, but, rather than focus exclusively on codes of moral behaviour, it focussed on the self's relationship to the self, for the way we relate to ourselves contributes to the way that we construct ourselves and form our identities as well as the ways we lead our lives and govern our conduct.

Mark Olssen (2015)Ascertaining the Normative Implications of Complexity Thinking for Politics, In: Emilian Kavalski (eds.), World Politics at the Edge of Chaos: Reflections on Complexity and Global Lifepp. 139-166 State University of New York Press

Central to representing the world as a complex dynamical system is understanding it as pertaining to an interdisciplinary approach to nonlinear processes of change in both nature and society. Although complexity research takes its origins from its applications in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and the “hard” sciences, undergoing its formative development in the 1970s, during the last two decades it has exerted an effect on the social sciences as well. Today complexity research is generating what Stuart Kauffman (2008, Preface) calls a “quiet revolution” in both the physical and social sciences.

The Credit Crunch of 2008 has exposed the fallacies of neoliberalism and its thesis of the self-regulating market, which has been ascendant in both economic theory and policy over the last 30 years. In moving beyond neoliberalism, social democratic arguments are once again coming to the fore; however, in the context of the 21st century, they will need to be theorized in relation to new global concerns. This book critically revisits the core theses of liberalism and neoliberalism that have provided philosophical support to free market economics - as enunciated in the writings of liberal political philosophers such as Friedrich von Hayek, Karl Popper and Isaiah Berlin - and seeks to expose the deficiencies of their beliefs that became hegemonic from the 1970s until the first decades of the present century. In moving beyond the formulas and mantras of liberalism, the book seeks to re-theorize social democracy and articulate a new vision of the political arrangements needed for the 21st century by reconsidering issues such as liberty, autonomy, social dependence and multiculturalism.

MEH Olssen (2003)Foucault and Critique: Kant, Humanism and the Human Sciences, In: MA Peters, M Olssen, C Lankshear (eds.), Futures of Critical Theorypp. 73-102 Rowman & Littlefield

This article outlines Foucault's conception of critique in relation to his writings on Kant. In that Kant saw enlightenment as a process of release from the status of immaturity in that we accept someone else's authority to lead us in areas where the use of reason is called for, it is claimed in this article that Foucult's notion of critique reveals his own conception of maturity. Whereas Kant sees maturity as the rule of self by self through reason, Foucault sees it as an attitude towards ourselves and the present through an historical analysis of the limits, and the possibility of transgression, of going beyond. Critique is thus a permanent interrogation of the limits, an escape from normalization, and a facing-up to the challenges of self-creation while seeking to effect changes in social structures on specific regional issues of concern. The article concludes by suggesting that the problem of historical and epistemological relativism, which a conception of total critique gives rise to, may not be as insurmountable as some critics of Foucault have claimed.

M Olssen (2002)Terrorism, globalisation and democracy: on reading Michael Peters Post 9/11, In: Access: Critical Perspectives on Communication, Cultural and Policy Studies21(1)pp. 75-90
Michael A. Peters, Mark Olssen (2015)Marx, education and the possibilities of A fairer world: reviving radical political economy through foucault, In: Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations14pp. 39-69 Addleton Academic Publishers

Although this paper constitutes a revision of a paper originally published in 2007 (see note 1), the editors are pleased to republish this paper due to its theoretical importance for the critique of Marxism as well the interest it creates for establishing the possibility of a new political economy based upon the work of Michel Foucault. The paper documents and interrogates the contradictions between postmodernism and poststructuralism with Marxism. Starting by documenting the crisis of the Left at the start of the twenty-first century, an attempt is made to radically critique and reappraise Marxism in a direction set out by Foucault. The paper is not so much an attempt to meld Marxism and poststructuralism but rather to generate a new poststructuralist historical materialism which still has equality and fairness as its central concerns, but which goes beyond the traditional problems of Marxism based on its adherence to outmoded methodologies and theoretical modes of analysis. Echoing well known critiques of Marxist historical materialism, the paper focuses on forms of articulation drawn from the revolution in language influenced by post-modernism and by historically more recent post-quantum complexity theories.

M Olssen (2001)Citizenship and education: from Alfred Marshall to Iris Marion Young, In: Educational Philosophy and Theory33(1)pp. 77-94
M Olssen (2003)Foucault's Conception of Critique: Kant, Humanism and the Human Sciences, In: Futures of Critical Theory: Dreams of Differencepp. 73-102 Rowman and Littlefield
M Olssen, J Codd, A O'Neill (2004)Education Policy: Globalization, Citizenship, Democracy Sage
M Olssen (2002)Symposium review on Martin Thrupp and Rob Willmott's Education Management in Managerial Times, In: British Journal of the Sociology of Education
M Olssen (2004)The School as the microscope of conduct: On doing Foucauldian research in education, In: J Marshall (eds.), Poststructuralism, Philosopy, Pedagogypp. 57-84 Kluwer Academic Publishers
M Olssen (2002)Michel Foucault as "Thin" Communitarian: Difference, Community, Democracy, In: Cultural Studies - Critical Methodologies2(4)pp. 483-514
M Olssen, MA Peters (2005)Neoliberalism, higher education and the knowledge economy: from the free market to knowledge capitalism, In: Journal of Education Policy20(3)pp. 313-345

The ascendancy of neoliberalism and the associated discourses of ‘new public management’, during the 1980s and 1990s has produced a fundamental shift in the way universities and other institutions of higher education have defined and justified their institutional existence. The traditional professional culture of open intellectual enquiry and debate has been replaced with a institutional stress on performativity, as evidenced by the emergence of an emphasis on measured outputs: on strategic planning, performance indicators, quality assurance measures and academic audits. This paper traces the links between neoliberalism and globalization on the one hand, and neoliberalism and the knowledge economy on the other. It maintains that in a global neoliberal environment, the role of higher education for the economy is seen by governments as having greater importance to the extent that higher education has become the new star ship in the policy fleet for governments around the world. Universities are seen as a key driver in the knowledge economy and as a consequence higher education institutions have been encouraged to develop links with industry and business in a series of new venture partnerships. The recognition of economic importance of higher education and the necessity for economic viability has seen initiatives to promote greater entrepreneurial skills as well as the development of new performative measures to enhance output and to establish and achieve targets. This paper attempts to document these trends at the level of both political philosophy and economic theory.

MA Peters, AC Besley, MEH Olssen, S Maurer, S Weber (2009)Governmentality Studies in Education3 Sense Publishers

Michel Foucault’s concept of governmentality originated in a lecture series in the late 1970s at the Collège de France and soon became the basis for a range of historical and contemporary studies across the social sciences and humanities. The concept in part rests on a simple but powerful idea that links government to the freedom of the subject in a novel understanding of liberal politics. It also provides an analytics of power based on the examination of actual practices. This is the first collection to use Foucault’s concept in relation to the field of education where it has a natural home given that much educational theory and practice in the liberal tradition at least since Kant has been directed at the goals of autonomy and self-government. The volume has three sections: a general section on Foucault and governmentality with contributions from some of the world’s leading scholars in the area, including Colin Gordon, Jacques Donzelot, and Thomas Lemke; and two sections devoted to governmentality and education, the first outlining Anglo-American perspectives, the second, focusing on European perspectives, with contributions from leading scholars such as Tom Popkewitz, James Marshall, Tom Osborne, Michael Peters, Mark Olssen, Tina Besley, Hermann J. Forneck, Bernadette Baker, Susan Weber, Susanne Maurer, Linda Graham, and Maarten Simons and Jan Masschelein, among many others.

M Olssen (2006)Invoking Democracy: Foucault's Conception (with insights from Hobbes), In: MAB Peters (eds.), Why Foucault? New Directions in Educational Research Peter Lang

Nietzsche is definitely advocating a system. The key to understanding him to understand the nature of this system, and those whom it is directed against. This paper will attempt to enunciate Nietzsche’s system comparing it to traditional interpretations from both the analytic and continental tradition. It will start off by drawing a contrast between the Anglo-American and the Continental representations of Nietzsche. I would start with Rawls's view of Nietzsche, and of some other views which saw him as an elitist, and contrast these with the views proffered by writers like Georges Bataille and Gilles Deleuze. I will take a tentative look at the evidence for each set of views, and would then proceed to a partisan affirmation of the 'new' Nietzsche, as represented in Deleuze's work. By way of proceeding I will seek additional support for this view by examining Nietzsche's acknowledgements to Spinoza as in his correspondence with Overbeck and in his identification of common themes - of making knowledge a powerful affect; the denial of freedom of the will; the denial of teleology, the denial of a moral world order; the denial of evil, etc. The affinities between Spinoza and Nietzsche are, I will argue, of significance for an understanding of Nietzsche's purposes, which lead one to caste serious doubt on the Anglo-American view. Having done this I will review briefly Heidegger's criticisms of Nietzsche in his four part study. I will also briefly examine various right wing political and moral attacks on Nietzsche and review the representations that attempt to characterise Nietzsche as an ‘elitist’, or a ‘Nazi’. Hopefully, at the end, it will become clear on what basis, and at what cost, Nietzsche can be rehabilitated. The specific nature of Nietzsche’s system will be claimed to revolve a certain conception of survival, and a new way of proceeding philosophically.

Mark Olssen (2006)Neoliberalism, globalization, democracy: challenges for education, In: A Halsey, H Lauder, P Brown, A Wells (eds.), Education, Culture, Economy, Society (revised edition July 06) OUP
M Peters, M Olssen, C Lankshear (2003)Futures of Critical Theory: Dreams of Difference Rowman and Littlefield
M Peters, C Lankshear, M Olssen (2003)Critical Theory and the Human Condition: Founders and Praxis Peter Lang

Additional publications