Using Governmentality as a Conceptual Tool in Education Policy Research

Olena Fimyar


This paper analyses how governmentality as a conceptual tool is used in empirical social science research and, in particular, in education policy studies. The discussion starts with a cursory examination of the main definitions of governmentality first put forward by Foucault (1991) and further developed (in connection to liberal states) by Dean (1999), Gordon (1991), Larner and Walters (2004), Lemke (2000), and Rose (1996, 1999). It is maintained that in these diverse studies governmentality does not constitute a closed theoretical framework, but rather is operationalised as a generic analytical tool. The perception of governmentality in education studies is discussed in the second part of the paper. Educational research, which up until now has been more influenced by the methodological implications of Foucault's works rather than the conceptual, has shown evolving interest in governmentality. This tendency is exemplified in selected works by Ball (1990, 1994), Peters (2001a, 2001b, 2003) and Tikly (2003); the last even extended the application of governmentality to illiberal states. Taking Tikly's work as a point of reference for my study in progress, I attempt to apply the concept of governmentality to an understanding of policy-making, as technologies of government, in post-communist Ukraine. The possibilities and limitations of this theoretical endeavour are discussed in the final part of the paper.


governmentality, governmentality-in-the-making, illiberal governmentality, policy research

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