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Extra info for Policy, Discourse and Rhetoric: How New Labour Challenged Social Justice and Democracy

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Efficient outcomes are defined as those that cannot be attained with a lower input of efforts. If the marketisation and privatisation of the educational system was legitimised as a response to the perceived inadequacies of state institutions to adapt to economic restructuring toward post-industrialism in the 1970s, as Gewirtz reminds us, the unintended outcomes of these policies seem to be ill-matched to ‘efficiently’ encounter economic restructuring in the context of a knowledge-based society.

However, this premium has gradually declined since the 1990s, so that the reasons that justified the establishment and gradual increase of private funding in the first place, are based on a world view from the 1980s which no longer mirrors today’s realities. One claim that has been made throughout this chapter about neoliberalism’s function as a hegemonic discourse certainly applies also to the creation and contestation of new strong discourses. If neoliberalism that has dominated debates in public policy for three decades emerged from the fringes and gained its momentum as a response to specific crises in the 1970s, a new assessment that takes these new realities into account will have to take a similar path.

11 The emphasis on privatisation as well as the significant impact of public choice theory in Thatcher’s policy decisions has contributed to the general perception of the United Kingdom as a “classic case of doctrinaire neoliberalism” (Clark 2002, 774). Under New Labour the commitment to the social and the ‘public’ resurged, at least rhetorically. This was mirrored in a different approach towards public goods and services with the public interest being, again, defined in broader terms. This putative re-expansion of the public, however, did not signify a return to ‘Old Labour,’ to socialist principles, or to the model of the Keynesian Welfare State.

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