Liquid Modernity: Exploring the research contract nexus within contemporary Scottish political culture

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Abstract

This paper contributes to our understanding of a supposed free-market in research, where knowledge-transfer is to government, which then brokers the evidence into professional fields. Education research contracts are put out to tender by Scottish Government and a constellation of factors constructing this phenomenon has epistemological and political parallels with neo-liberal doctrines shaping research in the US and elsewhere. Conceptions of research capacity are discussed, and the relationship of universities and other research actors to applied research is explored. The empirical knowledge presented locates these matters within the idiom of neo-liberalism and Bauman’s cognate idea of liquid modernity where networks are bound to thrive. Neo-liberalism is demonstrated in terms of a paradigmatic material shift in state funding and topic focus. The public sphere is shown to shrink in comparison with a vibrant Third Sector. It is theorised that market-researchers are most suited to delivering the numerical political knowledge used to govern. Market researchers are neo-liberal knowledge workers suited to utilitarian intellectual labour, and, unlike critical academics their quantitative research outputs are congruent with Lyotard’s account of research under post-modernity: system-compatibility is a paramount yardstick of worth. That said, ideological leanings within academia foster convergence towards the commercial market research field: academics, as capitalist entrepreneurs, are involved with supporting market research companies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-22
JournalScottish Educational Review
Volume45
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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