Tag Archives: Educación Escolar

The moral life of econometric equations: Factoring class inequality into school quality valuations in Chile

[Gabriel Chouhy envía este post contando de su investigación recién publicada en European Journal of Sociology sobre el sorprendente rol de las controversias estadísticas en la reciente re-organización del mercado de la educación escolar en Chile]

Since neoliberalism took root, market mechanisms have encroached on the organization of policy fields for the provision of public goods such as transportation, healthcare, education, or social security. But oftentimes marketization fails to deliver satisfactory outcomes, inviting experts and regulators to assess markets’ failures and rewrite their organizing rules. An emerging scholarship within the social studies of markets tradition is now theorizing about “the organization of markets for collective concerns and their failure” (see e.g., the special issue of Economy and Society edited by Frankel, Ossandón, & Pallesen, 2019). Instead of focusing on political junctures in which market-minded policymakers invoke the general principles of privatization, choice, and competition to oppose central planning within malfunctioning public bureaucracies, these authors look at processes whereby already marketized policy fields become problematized, evaluated, and fixed to correct socially undesirable market failures. A remarkable conclusion drawn from multiple case studies is that little room remains for a politics that includes “the possibility of problematizing existing policies in ways other than as poorly functioning markets” (Frankel et al., 2019, p. 166). Market-minded policies and devices have not become immune to evaluation and critique, but, after neoliberalism, the type of knowledge generally mobilized to problematize market-enhancing policy instruments is now much more circumscribed to the actual functioning of these devices and much less inimical to the market organization of policy fields themselves. Neoliberal doxa (Amable, 2011; Mudge, 2008, 2011) now dictates technocratic common sense. 

The paper contributes to the vital question posed by Ossandón and Ureta (2019, p. 176) with respect to neoliberal resilience, namely, “How does a critical evaluation of market based policies, rather than triggering a movement, for instance, toward fundamentally different modes of organizing a given area, end up consolidating markets as policy instruments?” Like these authors, my empirical focus is on experts’ work of evaluating and repairing market devices that failed to deliver optimal policy outcomes. But I give especial attention to how external demands for decommodification shape this technical work. Bringing politics back into the social studies of markets, I argue that, contrary to the idea that neoliberal doxa is fully entrenched, the technical process of market evaluation and repair remains enmeshed in ideological conflict over the moral virtue of marketization. To do so, I lay out a reflexive approach to the politicized uses of social scientific expertise (especially, but not only, economic expertise) for regulatory decision-making within education, a policy domain the sociological literature has largely overlooked despite being increasingly subject to top-down rationalization by technocratic and market forces worldwide. 

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