Book Chapter

Policies for the knowledge economy: Knowledge discourses at play


Fenwick T (2011) Policies for the knowledge economy: Knowledge discourses at play. In: Malloch M, Cairns L, Evans K & O'Connor B (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Workplace Learning. London: Sage, pp. 319-330.

This chapter examines diverse discourses of knowledge embedded in state policies set forth specifically to mobilize lifelong learning for the global knowledge economy. The discussion draws from the literature as well as examples of federal policy documents in Canada related to its Innovation Strategy launched in 2002. At least two broad policy directions have been at play in these policy documents. One continues to emphasise skill acquisition in a conventional deficit-oriented, individualist and universalist model of work education, where the educational goals are upskilling through control and measurement. The other urges innovation as the prime mover of the new economy, where the goals are formulating (and attracting) a ‘creative class’ through environments conducive to invention. It is suggested that, rather than creating the bifurcated skill economy that some have argued, these trajectories actually appear to create distinct but overlapping knowledge scapes or networks. These networks contain fundamental ambiguities and discontinuities about the meaning and value of knowledge in a knowledge economy, spaces which may open possibilities for educators. The chapter proceeds in three sections. The first examines diverse notions of knowledge and skill that have proliferated in policies and critical responses linked to the knowledge economy discourse. The second discusses specific examples of federal policies in Canada that illustrate many of these currents. The third section discusses the ambiguities and tensions apparent in such policies, showing the play of knowledge discourses that invite openings for alternate conceptions of workplace learning and the knowledge economy.

knowledge economy; workplace learning; educational policy; Knowledge economy; Employees, Training of; Organizational learning

Publication date31/12/2011
Publisher URL…oc#tabview=title
Place of publicationLondon