Reading group: neoliberalism and primary education

Following on from our successful symposium on neoliberalism and primary education, we have convened a reading group to develop our thinking in this area.

Our first reading will be Alex Moore and Matthew Clarke’s article on ‘Cruel optimism’: teacher attachment to professionalism in an era of performativity. The full citation is:

Alex Moore & Matthew Clarke (2016) ‘Cruel optimism’: teacher attachment to professionalism in an era of performativity, Journal of Education Policy, 31:5, 666-677, DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2016.1160293


This study provides a critical exploration of the way teachers’ attachment to notions of professionalism may facilitate a process whereby teachers find themselves obliged to enact centralised and local education policies that they do not believe in but are required to implement. The study argues that professionalism involves an entanglement of (past) occupational and (present) organisational discourses and that the remainders of the former facilitate the enactment of the latter. The study draws on Berlant’s notion of cruel optimism to help understand this process, whereby teachers’ attachment to professionalism may assist them in undermining the very values they believe it embodies.

We will meet on Thursday September 14th in the Riverside Café at DMU, in the Vijay Patel Building, at midday. Please feel free to spread the word, as everyone is welcome.

If you have readings that you think we might engage with, please let either Mark Pulsford or me know. We intend to pull together a reference and resource list for researchers in this area.