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For the past 30 years I have been studying how people’s life chances and life projects are influenced and structured by the social settings and political environments in which they are set. In publishing my work I have become more and more aware of how these studies only reach particular audiences - basically those in the USA and Europe who can afford to buy, often expensive, books. Having spent a good deal of time as executive director of a large publishing house, Falmer Press, I know well enough how these constraints operate and what guides the choice of which books to publish. Hence I have some awareness of how the Internet can break open new lines of both communication and written work to new and hitherto inaccessible audiences. This, above all, is the intention of this website.
The site has been organised so that readers can work sequentially through the main topics of study I have covered, or focus on a particular topic. The point of covering the topics in a chronological way is to give some insights into the way the studies have evolved over time and how the focus of work can change according to historical circumstances.
Initially, my work focussed on curriculum and pedagogy. This was at a time in the 1970s when social inclusion was being pursued through the development of comprehensive schools. Hence focussing on curriculum and pedagogy was a way of providing research that might help social democratic governments that wanted, for whatever reason, economic or ideological to further social inclusion.
Since the 1980s the market has penetrated schooling in ways that drive the concern for social inclusion underground and the ways that stratify schooling, accordingly to the dictates of ‘choice’. The struggle over curriculum and pedagogy is therefore overshadowed by a market struggle for position and resources. In such a world, people’s life politics become an important new focus for work. If systems have replaced moral purpose with market functions, we have to look elsewhere to re-energise and re-understand people’s moral projects and life missions.
My later work therefore studies life politics in a variety of ways. Two of the largest projects I am currently working on are the Economic and Social Research Council project, Learning Lives, and the European Union project, Professional Knowledge. These project proposals can be accessed via the site, but broadly both projects are concerned by looking at how ordinary people and professional people define their life purposes and how patterns of learning and professional development affect people’s life missions. This work builds on the five-year Spencer Foundation project which studied these issues in the USA and Canada. In their studies it becomes clear that people’s life politics often collide with new ideologies built on targets and tests. This can lead to fundamental questions of the meaning of work of public service and of political systems. New performativity regimes are now in place in many western countries but our studies of life politics shown that are a long way from winning over people’s hearts and minds. The new work or life politics seeks to address these issues.
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