Oct 20

Foucault, Pastoral Power, Schooling and Subject Formation

David Hamilton, a remarkable educational theorist and historian, has concluded the following about schooling; i.e., about education as secular, public project: “It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that, on an international scale, schooling was conceived by Christianity and raised by capitalism.” The question that this important observation raises is: “How is the religious origin of education manifest in its current, capitalist, international and secular form?” An answer might be found in Foucault’s notion of pastoral power; namely by seeing education as being more or less substitutable with “pastoral power.”

I attempt such a substitution in this file (pdf), using Foucault’s overview of pastoral power, provided in Why Study Power: The Question of the Subject. Each reference to power in this part of Foucault’s text has been substituted for with the word “education” (or a related term, like socialization). I’ve undertaken this not to cast education or schooling as simply an exercise in hegemony; instead, following Foucault, I am principally interested in the formation of the subject, and see education as constitutive of this formation (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse).