The 'Great Refusal'? A Marcusian response to the Bright Blue vision of education in the 'Big Society'

Agnieszka Bates

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The modernisation of education and other public services remains a major political objective of the current Coalition government in the UK. This paper focuses on Tory Modernisation 2.0, a blueprint for the second stage of the public sector reform produced by the Conservative pressure group, Bright Blue. From the critical theory perspective expounded by Herbert Marcuse, the Conservative vision of the ‘Big Society’ is a one-dimensional conceptualisation of social relations. In the guise of pragmatic, sensible prescriptions for how the institutions of society should be reformed, Tory Modernisation 2.0 advocates an acceleration of marketisation, which is both potentially destructive and irreversible. Against the backdrop of a bleak, one-dimensional society promoted by the Conservative Party, education has become a site of struggle between what Marcuse terms the dialectic of domination and the ‘Great Refusal’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-366
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Educational Administration and History
Issue number4
Early online date9 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • modernisation
  • education
  • neoliberalism
  • Big Society
  • critical theory
  • qualitative change

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