On lifelong learning as stories of the present
Abstract: This thesis examines the discursive construction of lifelong learning in Swedish, Australian and American policy. Lifelong learning has an aura of apparent self-evidence which this study wishes to challenge by deconstructing the normalised truths in contemporary lifelong learning policies. The thesis rests on a collection of four articles, written by the author within the framework of the PhD programme. Using foucauldian concepts of power/knowledge and governmentality, this study identifies a number of discursive stories about the present in terms of how the ideal society and its ideal citizens are envisioned. It shows that there are national differences in the usage of lifelong learning in terms of the meanings given to life, long and learning. Yet three stories also extend across the nations examined. First, learning is construed as work-related rather than a life-related. Secondly, the positive rhetoric of lifelong learning – the creation of ideal citizens – is accompanied by a parallel story of deviance, incompetence and failure. This leads to a third pervasive story of ‘medicalization’ where the deviant is pathologised as an undesirable other in need of treatment and correction by professionals who operate as the doctors and nurses of lifelong learning. Overall, the analysis suggests that as discourse, lifelong learning links the government of others and the government of the self.
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