Economism is a form of ethnocentrism. Economism recognises no other form of interest than that which capitalism has produced, through a kind of real operation of abstraction, by setting up a universe of relations between man and man [sic] based, as Marx says, on 'callous cash payment' and more generally by favouring the creation of relatively autonomous fields, capable of establishing their own axiomatics (through the fundamental tautology 'business is business', on which 'the economy' is based). (Bourdieu, 1990, pp. 112-13)
'Economism' in education is more than a plethora of governmental and bureaucratic imperatives. Rather, it marks out a host of normative assumptions and prescriptions about: the kind of 'culture' the school is and should be; its 'intercultural relations with affiliated governmental systems and communities; and which of its many and varied cultural representations and productions can be used to evaluate it. In current debates over the drift of schooling and education towards economic rationalism, Bourdieu's comments remind us again what we should have recalled from our introductory educational evaluation textbooks, but tend to forget in everyday practice: that there are no trans-cultural, neutral or universal indicators of 'value', whether that value is conceived of in terms of 'performance', 'efficiency', 'effectiveness' or 'outcomes'. But they also suggest that 'economic rationalism', the 'new economism', and 'managerialism' are not simply 'wrong' in any absolute political or moral sense. They are in and of themselves articulations of a particular cultural standpoint, a now dominant set of assumptions, discourses and beliefs. In this light, perhaps our argument with economic rationalism in education is a matter of, among other things, cultural politics, a matter of disputed epistemic standpoints about what might count as an educational culture, who should participate in and benefit from that culture, and what the signs, indicators, and markings of such a culture might be.
In this chapter, we argue that any substantive rethinking of school effectiveness needs to take into consideration emergent conditions of New Times (Morley and Chen, 1996), and will require a reframing of how we conceptualize the 'effects', 'outcomes', 'products' and 'functions' of schooling-the terms themselves artefacts of an industrial era. In order to understand the socio-political significance and utility