Hard work, growth mindset, fluent English: navigating neoliberal logics

Katy Highet, Alfonso Del Percio

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


A prominent feature of the shift to neoliberalism within education is the notion of neoliberal governmentality (Foucault, 1991), which positions individuals as autonomous, entrepreneurial selves. According to this logic, in the domain of education, students become responsible for their own success, which they ostensibly attain by acquiring commodifiable skills (Urciuoli, 2008). Such discourses, as many have documented, are particularly pervasive in Higher Education, but can also be observed in state-led or NGO educational institutions for job seekers. While the ways in which these discourses are reproduced by institutions – notably through the mobilisation of ‘buzzwords’ such as ‘growth mindset’– is imperative to explore, this chapter argues that it is equally important to address how students navigate them. Drawing on ethnographic data from an English-teaching educational NGO for disadvantaged students in Delhi, India, this chapter demonstrates not only the reproduction of neoliberal discourses within the institution, but also the cracks or ‘fissures’ (Gershon and LaDousa, 2019) in the logic that arise at certain moments. Importantly, it explores how students negotiate the contradiction between the neoliberal interpellation of the autonomous, enterprising self and their perception of the structural barriers to their success. Noting many scholars’ warning to avoid theorising neoliberalism as a totalising logic (Bell, 2019; De Korne, 2017) this chapter highlights the importance of observing the various practices of neoliberalism on the ground – the ‘uptake’ (Urla 2019a) of neoliberalism – paying attention to how they claim justification through an alliance with discourses of emancipation, and how students reproduce and potentially contest them.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Impacts of Neoliberal Discourse and Language in Education
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Perspectives on a Rhetoric of Equality, Well-being and Justice
EditorsMitja Sardoč
ISBN (Electronic)9780367815172
ISBN (Print)9780367724177, 9780367415471
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2021

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Education, Neoliberalism, and Marxism


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