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Neoliberalism, emotional experience in education and Adam Smith: reading The theory of moral sentiments alongside The wealth of nations

Hanley, C (2015) Neoliberalism, emotional experience in education and Adam Smith: reading The theory of moral sentiments alongside The wealth of nations. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 47 (2). pp. 105-116. ISSN 0022-0620

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Abstract

This paper examines some critical accounts of emotional life shaped by neoliberalism. A range of literature concerned with neoliberalism and emotional experience in educational contexts is reviewed. I argue that neoliberal ‘reforms’ in public institutions create an ever-increasing demand for emotional performance. Neoliberals often refer to Adam Smith’s The wealth of nations (WN) but this paper focuses on Smith’s equally significant The theory of moral sentiments. In this work Smith connects competitive social relationships with varieties of challenging emotional experience. I argue that theorists in the present, seeking to understand neoliberal ‘reforms’ in public institutions, should focus on not just WN but both of Smith’s major works together. This paper offers new insights into the nature of neoliberalism, extending and developing the field of historically informed critical work highlighted in this paper.

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