New capitalism, risk, and subjectification in an early childhood classroom

George Kamberelis, University of Wyoming
Steven Bialostok, University of Wyoming

Copyright © 2010 by Symposium Journals

Abstract

'New capitalism' has been characterized as an economic period in which insecurity, flux, and uncertainty exist in the workplace. Capitalism attempts to tame that uncertainty through risk taking. Taking risks has become what one must do with risk. Economic discourses of embracing risk - thoroughly grounded in the ideologies of neoliberalism - are widely distributed into many noneconomic areas, including education. Risk taking is now understood as something everyone should valorize, a necessity for freedom and choice. Such discourses are appropriated and recontextualized into different domains, including the everyday interactions between young children and teachers. In this study the authors examine the discourse of a writing lesson taught by one early childhood teacher, focusing on how she used language to promote/produce her students as risk-takers. The authors argue that this teacher's attempt to promote/produce risk-takers belied her commitment to neoliberal ideologies and new modes of capitalism. They also argue that her efforts were dampened by tensions that she also seemed to embody/live - tensions between old and new forms of capitalism, between modernist and postmodernist notions of agency, between safety and risk, and between freedom and control. The outcomes of her work thus seemed to embody tensions in how her students came to understand choice, risk, and freedom. © Symposium Journals Ltd.