The politics of reflection

Chris Holligan* (Corresponding Author), Education in the North

*Corresponding author for this work

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The purpose of this critical research (Harvey, 2000) is to explore beneath the politics of surface appearance and attempt to provoke debate about the contingent nature of professionalism (Scottish Government, 2002), drawing upon social rather than psychological theory. My argument is that engagement with learners in post-modernity (Lyotard, 1984) necessitates the cultivation and use of 'soft power'. The psychology of selfhood in the modernist paradigm of professionalism (Schon, 1983; 1987) is limited in terms of the power its account gives to the professional about the orientation and nature of critical reflexivity. Its roots in individualistic psychology have the effect of reflections being inwardly directed onto the private self. Instead teachers' self-identities and criticalities should engage to a greater extent with the politics of communities and be adaptable to the reflexive inclination of pupils who, like teachers, are subjected to intensified demands arising from our shared post-industrial condition (Touraine, 1974; Giddens, 2005). The paradigm of subjectivity presupposed within the orthodox and essentialist psychology of received professionalism may impoverish a teacher's reflexivity and mental wellbeing. In the absence of sociology of the self, bereft of soft power, the teacher's capacity to cope with disciplinary challenge and gain the respect of pupils may be reduced, as may their agency to improve society. Reference is made to Derrida's (1994) concept of haunting to illuminate competing hegemonies constructing the self.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalEducation in the North
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2009


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