School-to-work transitions support: ‘cruel optimism’ for young people in ‘the state of insecurity'

Chadderton, C (2020) 'School-to-work transitions support: ‘cruel optimism’ for young people in ‘the state of insecurity'.' Power and Education, 12 (2). pp. 173-188. ISSN 1757-7438

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In this paper, I argue that current arrangements for school-to-work transitions support in England, now school-based, are designed to contribute towards ensuring the consent of the population for what I refer to as the ‘state of insecurity’ (Lorey, 2015): the neoliberal relationship between the individual and the state in which insecurity is promoted as freedom. Based on an analysis of policy, the paper argues that the government careers strategy for young people aims to contribute to shaping the precarious subjects which inhabit the state of insecurity, by encouraging them to internalise neoliberal values around freedom and individualism which accompany governmental precarisation. Drawing also on the work of Judith Butler (2011), I suggest that throughout the careers strategy, neoliberalism functions as performative or hegemonic norm which is cited to constitute notions of ‘good’ or ‘normal’ labour market arrangements, aspirations and selves. I suggest that this strategy is an example of Berlant's (2011) ‘cruel optimism’, which constitutes a fantasy of a ‘good life’ which is in fact likely to be unattainable to many young people, especially the more disadvantaged.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: school-to-work transitions support; careers strategy; policy analysis; ‘state of insecurity’; precarity; ‘cruel optimism’; fantasy of the ‘good life’
Divisions: School of Education
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Research in Equity, Inclusion and Community (CREIC)
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Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2020 14:54
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:54
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