Making Space: Merging Theory and Practice in Adult Education

By Vanessa Sheared; Peggy A. Sissel et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 21

Technologies of Learning at Work: Disciplining the Self

John Garrick and Nicky Solomon

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, adult education, and more recently, workplace learning and training, have been framed by political projects that promote inclusive representation of marginalized groups and/or seek to enhance the skills of learners so that they can be made more employable. People who have been disadvantaged or disenfranchised, historically, have been simultaneously “educated” in the interests of social justice and through the imperatives of labor market requirements. We contend that these dual interests have been shaped by beliefs about learner “autonomy,” the importance of “self-direction,” emancipation, and “empowerment.” In this chapter we problematize the assumptions that accompany these beliefs by arguing that education processes in contemporary times need to be understood by their relations to disciplinary power and what Foucault refers to as “technologies of the self.” Furthermore, by revealing these forms of control over workers and within workplace learning, we then suggest ways of resisting against these mechanisms.


To make our argument, we draw on two interrelated aspects of Foucault’s work: theorizations of technologies of power and technologies of the self. The term “technology,” as Foucault uses it, helps us make sense of the ways Foucault theorizes subjectivity. Foucault (1982) viewed the individual as constituted by power, and the relations of power cannot be established, consolidated, nor implemented without the production and functioning of a discourse. According to Hutton (1988, 135), the self that Foucault describes is “an abstract construction, continually being redesigned in an on-going discourse generated by the imperatives of the policing process.” In this theory, the self is a kind of currency


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Making Space: Merging Theory and Practice in Adult Education
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