The sublime objects of education policy: quality, equity and ideology

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Quality and equity are touchstones of education policy in the twenty-first century in a range of global contexts. On the surface, this seems fitting: after all, who could object to more quality and greater equity in education? Yet what do we mean by quality and equity, and how are they related? This paper draws on Lacanian psychoanalytic theory to argue that not only are quality and equity far more complex than education policy formulations typically imply, but also that despite their elevated place in policy debates they remain elusive, serving as sublime objects that function as sites for the investment of desire, while simultaneously covering over and compensating for the ultimate impossibility of a complete and harmonious society. The paper argues that it is a result of their occupying this empty place, and through their holding out the (illusive) promise of enjoyment, rather than as a consequence of their specific or intrinsic content, that sublime objects such as equity and quality exert their particular ideological force.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFreud, Lacan, Zizek and Education
Subtitle of host publicationExploring Unconscious Investments in Policy and Practice
EditorsClaudia Lapping
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781351111270
ISBN (Print)9780367586140, 9780815362814
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2020

Publication series

NameEducation and Social Theory


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