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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Social Sciences Book Chapters and Sections
Title: Encountering Foucault in lifelong learning
Author(s): Biesta, G J J
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Editor(s): Nicoll, Kathy
Fejes, Andreas
Citation: Biesta GJJ (2008) Encountering Foucault in lifelong learning. In: Nicoll K & Fejes A (eds.) Foucault and Lifelong Learning: Governing the Subject. London and New York: Routledge (of Taylor and Francis), pp. 193-205.
Keywords: Foucault
lifelong learning
Foucault, Michel, 1926-1984 Contributions to education
Foucault, Michel, 1926-1984 Criticism and interpretation
Continuing education
Issue Date: Jan-2008
Abstract: First paragraph: “The only important problem is what happens on the ground.” (Foucault 1991a, p.83) The chapters in this book stage a range of different encounters with the work of Michel Foucault. Through them we not only gain a better understanding of the potential of Foucault’s work. At the same time the chapters shed a different light on policies and practices of lifelong learning. There is, therefore, a double encounter in this book: we encounter Foucault in lifelong learning and we encounter lifelong learning through the eyes of Foucault. Both encounters are, of course, important. Whereas the stated purpose of this book is to gain a new and different understanding of lifelong learning and, through this, to contribute to a re-conceptualisation of lifelong learning, the book also functions as a ‘test’ of Foucault’s ideas. It reveals strengths and weaknesses of using Foucault to analyse and understand educational practices and processes and the wider strategies and techniques of governing in latemodern, neo-liberal societies. For this final chapter this raises two questions: What has this book achieved in understanding and conceptualising lifelong learning differently? And what does this tell us about the significance of Foucault’s work for this particular endeavour? To address these questions I will, in this final chapter, focus on three issues: (1) the nature of Foucauldian analysis; (2) the question of normativity; and (3) the opportunities for change. In what follows I will first try to characterise the main thrust of the chapters against the background of Foucault’s ideas on governmentality and power. I will then focus on what I see as one of the most interesting dimensions of this book, viz., the question as to what follows from Foucauldian analysis. I will first characterise how the different authors answer this question. I will then discuss what I see as the specific ‘nature’ of Foucauldian analysis, particularly with respect to the relationship between power and knowledge. This will provide the background for my reflections on the strengths and weaknesses of the contributions in this book which, finally, will bring me back to the question of normativity in Foucauldian analysis and the question as to how such analysis can support change.
Rights: Published in Foucault and Lifelong Learning: Governing the Subject by Taylor & Francis. This is an electronic version of a book chapter published in Foucault and Lifelong Learning: Governing the Subject, January 2008, pp. 193-205. Foucault and Lifelong Learning: Governing the Subject can be found online at:

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