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New wine in old skins: changing patterns in the governing of the adult learner in Sweden

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This paper explores the ways in which the adult learner has been governed in recent years and whether the techniques for doing this have changed over the last 50 years. The focus is first on which adult subject (adult learner) is constructed in the material analysed. What kinds of subjects are governed? This is followed by an analysis of what kinds of techniques are used to govern the adult learner. Official reports from the present time and the mid 20th century on Swedish municipal adult education are analysed using the Foucauldian notions of genealogy and governmentality. The results show that a different, more individualistic, subject is construed in the contemporary texts compared with the texts from the mid 20th century. The subjects should be autonomous and be mobilized by being included in lifelong learning. In the mid 20th century, the adult learners were the talented ones who were supposed to develop their inner potential and by doing so reach self-fulfilment. However, several of the techniques used for governing these subjects are the same. Guidance and risk calculations are used during both periods. However, as will be argued, they differ in how they are used. Today, the techniques employed are in line with a more individualistic view where the subjects conduct their own conduct; they plan their own education supported by study counsellors as well as make their own risk calculations. In the mid 20th century, the subject was governed by society in a more direct way; it was the study counsellors who decided whether an adult would study and they (and a board of exemptions) made the risk calculations. The techniques are the same but different; new wine in old skins.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2005

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