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Neoliberalising adult education.

Chapter in book
Authors Marie Carlson
Bengt Jacobsson
Published in In Dahlstedt, Magnus & Andreas Fejes (eds.) Neoliberalism and Market Forces in Education. Lessons from Sweden.
Pages 123-137
ISBN 9781138600881
Publisher Routledge
Place of publication Oxon & NY
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Cultural Sciences
Department of Sociology and Work Science
Pages 123-137
Language en
Keywords adult education, courses for immigrants, marketization, value shifts, teacher profession, reduced discretion, increased bureaucracy
Subject categories International Migration and Ethnic Relations, Educational Sciences, Social Anthropology


By drawing on the example of how the largest study association in Sweden, the Workers’ Educational Association (ABF), successfully competed for and won a large share of adult education in Gothenburg in the early 2000s, this chapter illustrates how values previously central to ABF were reshaped. Traditionally, ABF connected to Swedish popular education traditions of ‘bildung’ and the free, broad development of knowledge searching among its participants. By entering the competition for winning bids within adult education, ABF had to reorganise in order to better adapt to the market conditions. It, therefore, created a shareholding company that would be responsible for the adult education they won through procurement in Gothenburg. This area of ABF’s activities thus had to work under the same conditions, with the same logic, as any other business, ideologically shifting the focus from a view of a broader ‘bildung’ to a narrower economic focus on employability. The chapter is based on a policy ethnography in courses for immigrants, where the researchers participated also in teaching practice. Theoretically, a narrative approach is used and especially the teachers' situation is discussed; their reflections on increased bureaucracy, to perform and demonstrate “measurable” results and difficulties in sticking to previous values and knowledge views.

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