Bureaucratization, education and the meanings of responsibility

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In US-based educational research, the bureaucratization of education has been interpreted primarily from economic points of view. This paper examines bureaucracy and education from a political perspective, which provides key insights into the ways that bureaucracy as a form of governance influences ethical consciousness. As this paper puts forth, bureaucratic socialization supplants procedural for ethical responsibility. To understand the gravity and pervasiveness of this process, I turn to Max Weber’s theory of rational bureaucracy and Hannah Arendt’s insights into bureaucracy as a type of political domination, which she calls ‘rule by Nobody’. Following Arendt, bureaucracy is the most tyrannical type of rule given that there is tyranny without a tyrant. As such, responsibility falls by the wayside since no one can answer for what is being done. I argue that to understand the meanings of responsibility in education, one must do so in light of the ways that universal bureaucratization–its rational procedures, managerial techniques, knowledge fragmentations and so on–undermines ethical consciousness. As understanding rests at the heart of this inquiry, the paper ends on a note of caution regarding what to do about the breakdown of educational responsibility in a bureaucratized society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-520
Number of pages18
JournalCurriculum Inquiry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 20 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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