Revisions to rationality: the translation of ‘new knowledges’ into policy under the Coalition Government

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


External organisations

  • Institute of Education
  • University of Roehampton


This article gives an account of the use of knowledges from emerging scientific fields in education and youth policy making under the Coalition government (2010-15) in the UK. We identify a common process of ‘translation’ and offer three illustrations of policy-making in the UK that utilise diverse knowledges produced in academic fields (neuroscience, network theory and well-being). This production of ‘new knowledges’ in policy contexts allows for the identification of sites of policy intervention. This process of translation underlies a series of diverse revisions of the rational subject of policy. Collectively, these revisions amount to a change in policy-making and the emergence of a different subject of neoliberal policy. This subject is not an excluded alterity to an included rational subject of neoliberalism, but a ‘plastic subject’ characterised by its multiplicity. The plastic subject does not contradict the rational subject as central to neoliberal policy-making, but diversifies it.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)908-925
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number6
Early online date4 Jul 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jul 2016


  • Rationality, Networks, Neuroscience, Well-Being, neoliberalism