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The training-to-work trajectory: pressures for and subversions to participation in the neoliberal learning market in the UK

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The UK government has emphasised the role of lifelong learning in eradicating social exclusion and improving productivity and the skills base. With a neoliberal rationale that normalises economic participation, the unemployed are being offered (re)training to enable a swift transition to paid employment and encourage ‘personal responsibility’. Taking a critical feminist approach framed by the social control model of lifelong learning and Foucault's governmentality, this article explores efforts made to ‘encourage’ mothers to take up training to precipitate a move into the labour market. Drawing on interviews with training providers and mothers, it highlights pressures mothers feel when they have to comply with current training and employment norms, and points to the gendering of official constructions of progression. But using de Certeau's ‘tactics’, it also offers a reading of evasion in mothers' training participation and progression: how mothers exert agency to ensure training better fits with needs, desires and caring responsibilities.
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Keywords: capacitación; governmentality; gubernamentalidad; madres; mothers; neoliberalism; neoliberalismo; progreso; progression; training; ‘tactics’; ‘tácticas’

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Human Geography, Brunel University, UxbridgeUB8 3PH, UK

Publication date: 2011-10-01

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