Theories, critiques, narratives

5.1 The different theoretical views on economization

There is no one theory of economization per se. Rather, economization is explained theoretically in several ways and analyzed with different emphases. What all approaches share is the view that it is a complex transformation process in which economic forms, instruments, and logics increasingly dominate in areas that are not primarily economic (value. The changes affect the macro level (fields, systems, discourses) and meso level (institutions) as well as the micro level of everyday practices and modes of subjectivation. However, the different theories differ considerably in their interpretation of the extent, the degree or. the scope of economizing transformations, which is related to the definition of ‘the economic’. For some, economization can only be measured by ‘hard’ indicators such as monetary profits or. For others, economization begins much earlier, for example, with output-oriented control in the school system, in which primarily measurable performance is evaluated by tests – similar to a system of key figures in companies, according to which success and savings potential are measured. The broad spectrum of economic forms, instruments and logics includes u.a. the primacy of efficiency and output orientation, marketization, competitive selection, the hierarchical separation of leadership (management, school board, university presidium) and operational level (employees, teachers, professors), enterprise and entrepreneurship as global guiding principles, etc. In the following, we will briefly introduce theoretical approaches that play an important role in the discussion on economization (Hohne 2012: 801-807).

System or. Differentiation theory defines economization as de-differentiation, d.h. as the dissolution of rationality boundaries and action logics between economy, politics, health, education etc., is interpreted differently in the various theories (Schimank and Volkmann 2008; Kronig 2007). It is based on the system’s own logics or rules (‘code’), according to which specific actions and communication take place in the system: For instance, according to the logic of mediating/acquiring when it comes to learning and didactic action in the field of education, while in the capitalist economy money-, exchange-, and market-based transactions according to features such as money payments, supply/demand, buy/sell, profit, minimum/maximum principle (min. costs + max. value added), etc. operates. The respective logics of the systems are not arbitrarily interchangeable because they would limit a) the social functions and b) the autonomy of the systems: A science that would be primarily economically oriented to monetary profits would no longer operate in a truth- or knowledge-oriented way – so the assumption. Pierre Bourdieu, for his part, speaks of fields in which actors act according to hybrid logics, from different positions and motives, and equipped with different resources (types of capital). Fields and actors also have their own, albeit relative, autonomy (‘nomos’ as it is called), which is always embedded in hierarchical structures and dependencies. According to this, scientists can both strive for truth and simultaneously pursue the goal of increasing reputation (= symbolic capital) and influence (= power) with it. Through economization in science, motives such as gaining reputation and power would come to the fore, implying a radicalized market-oriented competition among scientists.

In the perspective of governmentality studies, economization is conceptualized as the imposition of a new technology of government and discourses that are characterized by the subject being called upon to engage in a new and specific form of self-governance or. is invoked. Foucault emphasizes the difference between homo oeconomicus as a partner in exchange (according to classical liberal understanding) and the new neoliberal figure of homo oeconomicus as an “entrepreneur of himself (…) who is for himself his own capital, his own producer, his own income” (Foucault 2004: 314). The transfer of economic principles to the subject is not an external process of coercion and subjugation, but transforms the subjects’ relationship to self and other in a specific way insofar as it is based on different modes of self-production: Pedagogically as self-organized lifelong learning, psychologically as self-directed acquisition of competencies, and economically as self-entrepreneurship (Brockling/Krasmann/Lemke 2000).

Neoinstitutionalist approaches (Meyer/Rowan 2009, Meyer 2005) could show a worldwide diffusion of certain institutional structures and contents in educational systems (summarizing Adick 2009: 264). At its core is the global spread of a Western-dominated model of rationality characterized by specific notions of subject and action: a work-ethically disciplined, rational subject on the one hand, and the objectivity of scientific knowledge and ends-means rationality on the other. This guiding concept represents the homo-oeconomicus model in neoclassical economics, which is gaining transnational currency, especially with global actors such as the OECD. The worldwide standardization of titles, credentials and degrees (Meyer/Ramirez 2005: 229) is an important indication of an overarching uniform development of organizations, which can lead “in the long run to a homogenization of formal structures and practices within an organizational field” (Koch 2009: 119) – neoinstitutionalistically called isomorphism (Meyer/Rowan 2009). In the field of education, economization processes are based on isomorphic mechanisms, which educational policy e.g. through the creation of best practice examples (= mimesis) (Hohne/Schreck 2009: 224 ff.), via normative pressure in the form of the profiling requirement for schools (school programs) or enforced isomorphism qua legal regulations (educational standards, central comparative studies) are implemented.

Economization also functions as an umbrella term for a number of similar terms such as capitalization, commodification, commercialization, land grabbing, privatization, etc. (Hohne 2012: 799 f.). Richard Munch, for example, resorts to the concept of “capitalization” to refer to a targeted increase in the value of educational capital as well as the convertibility of different types of capital among themselves, in which education as cultural capital is primarily turned into a means of exchange (Munch 2010). Reinhold Sackmann, for his part, defines ‘commodification’, following Karl Polanyi, as an economic process “in which a service or an object becomes a commodity traded in a market economy or. an actor increasingly orients his actions to profit” (Sackmann 2004: 66). Ingrid Lohmann speaks of the “commercialization of education” and thus emphasizes that “market is the cipher for profound, worldwide transformation processes in the relations between economy, politics and culture”, in which non-democratically legitimized transnational “market institutions” such as OECD, WTO or World Bank increasingly influence educational policy decisions in a constitutive way (Lohmann 2010: 138 f.).

5.2 Possibilities and limits of criticisms of economization

Economization is usually spoken of by someone who wants to formulate a critique with it. While the use of the term economization is critically intended, especially as a critique of hyperthrophic and unreflected generalizations of economic instruments, methods and discourses, there are also reservations about this critical discourse of economization. As far as the critique of economization is concerned, there is also a polemical variant in addition to the scientific-reflexive discussion of the concept of economization. According to them, ‘economization’ is nothing more than a political term of struggle, which is just as theoretically irrelevant as the opposite assumption that economics would ‘hostilely take over’ the whole society. Elmar Tenorth, for example, accuses critics of economization of being “trapped in the old formulas” and “blind to the actual practice and possibilities of current educational reform” (Tenorth 2005). Towards the supposed ‘opponents of reform’ it is emphasized that it is “wrong” to use evaluation, accreditation, performance orientation, school profiles, etc. with economization: “Does all this mean ‘economization’, i.e. the introduction of a foreign principle into educational institutions??” He justifies his “no” by saying that control would be in the hands of the educational institutions themselves (Tenorth 2005). What remains unconsidered here is the fact that said autonomy is precisely a prerequisite for a more economic action of organizations in the ‘market of opportunities’ (cf. Item 4.4. to marketization through quasi-markets), because this pattern of legitimation is found in privatized clinics or water companies as well as in the case of (partly) autonomous schools. In addition to the global rejection of the concept of economization, there are also theoretically fruitful critical discussions of the economization discourse, in which u.a. criticizes that this argues too little empirically (Bellmann 2016). In contrast, there is now much empirical evidence on economizing changes from case studies for various pedagogical fields and educational policy actors (Peetz 2014, Schimank/Volkmann 2017, Bloem 2018, Hartong/Hermstein/Hohne 2018, Hohne/Striebing 2020, Buchter/Hohne 2021).

5.3 ‘The state’ as opponent/enemy of ‘the economy’? Narratives and Counter-Narratives in the Discourse of Economization

Beyond the aforementioned polemical variant of the ‘anti-economization’ position, the critical discourse of economization also contains a metaphorical-narrative potential that essentially involves a story of struggle, war, and conquest: Metaphors such as ‘colonization,’ ‘hostile takeover,’ ‘attack,’ ‘expansion,’ ‘land grab,’ or even the “terror of economics” (Forrester 1997) tell the story of a violent border crossing and occupation of a territory by a ‘foreign power’. In this context, the state is often assigned the role of a pacifying ‘patron saint’, whose monopoly on the use of force and balancing power between different social interests has been symbolized by the all-dominant ‘Leviathan’ since Thomas Hobbes’s book of the same name (1651).

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