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'The centre cannot hold': complexity and difference in European Union policy towards a learning society

Edwards R & Boreham N (2003) 'The centre cannot hold': complexity and difference in European Union policy towards a learning society, Journal of Education Policy, 18 (4), pp. 407-421.

The notions of lifelong learning and a learning society have been an important policy driver in the European Union at both the Commission and national government levels for a number of years. Overall, these policies aim to promote the twin goals of competitiveness in international markets and social cohesion within the still-expanding borders of the Union itself. To date, however, the impact of this emphasis on lifelong learning has been relatively slight. This article argues that this is in part because the policy process in relation to the development of a learning society is based on a view of governance and power that is open to reasoned dispute, and is, therefore, bound to disappoint in relation to its espoused goals. It is suggested that, rather than implementation being the main ‘problem' of policy, the policy context inevitably generates many recontextualizations and renegotiations of meanings according to the situations and the actors involved, thereby undermining the notion of 'implementation' as a technical-rational process. It is argued that the complex negotiations enacted at local level reveal and are fashioned by tensions between the membership resources available to actors. This emphasizes complexity, diversity, and difference in policy processes, bringing to the fore a communicative and distributed approach to policy rather than one that is technical and centralizing.

AuthorsEdwards Richard, Boreham Nicholas
Publication date07/2003
PublisherTaylor & Francis (Routledge)
ISSN 0268-0939

Journal of Education Policy: Volume 18, Issue 4 (JUL-AUG 2003)

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