The Global Financial Crisis and Educational Restructuring

by Michael Adrian Peters (Volume editor) João M. Paraskeva (Volume editor) Tina Besley (Volume editor)
Textbook VI, 335 Pages
Series: Global Studies in Education, Volume 31


The worldwide integration and globalization of finance, an aspect of «financialization», coincided with the rise of market-oriented neoliberalism promoting free trade and privatization strategies. New Internet-based technologies have reinforced financial market integration, creating a fragile, globally integrated financial ecosystem that poses new systemic risks and contagion effects characterized by excessive borrowing and ballooning debt, massive asset bubbles, a huge shadow banking system, and financial innovation leading to collateralized debt obligation and securitization. Public education has been at the core of neoliberal privatization strategies and financialization with the trillion-dollar blowout of student loans. Education, once considered a national and global public good tied to the creation of knowledge and the basis of a just and democratic society, has undergone a profound transformation and financial restructuring. This collection of essays by a range of international experts addresses the root causes of this massive change, analyzing the growth of finance capitalism and financialization, as well as the financialization of education and its consequences. The book is a valuable resource for classes in educational reform, education policy, higher education, and educational finance.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction: Global Financial Crisis and Educational Restructuring
  • Chapter One: A Permanent Economic Emergency
  • Chapter Two: Finance Capitalism, Financialization, and the Prospects for Public Education
  • Chapter Three: Financialisation, or the Search for Profits in the Sphere of Circulation
  • Chapter Four: The OECD on FIRE: Financialization and Socioeconomic Decline in Advanced Economies
  • Chapter Five: Financial Governmentality: Wealth-Effect as a Practice of Social Control
  • Chapter Six: The Embers of Truth in the Ashes of Finance
  • Chapter Seven: Instrumental Reasoning qua Capitalist Rationality: The Embedding of Capitalism within Educational Discourse
  • Chapter Eight: Financial Fantasy Documents and Public Learning: The Case of the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Report
  • Chapter Nine: The Rationality Crisis in U.S. Higher Education
  • Chapter Ten: Neoliberal Pedagogy of Debt vs. Debtor Pedagogy: The New Neoliberal Commodities
  • Chapter Eleven: Crowding Out Knowledge: Efficiency, Innovation, and Higher Education
  • Chapter Twelve: Who’s Afraid of Public Financial Literacy?
  • Chapter Thirteen: Financialization and the Production of New Financial Elites through Business Education
  • Chapter Fourteen: Education and the Crisis This Time
  • Chapter Fifteen: Finance-subjectivity: Thinking through the Consequences of the Global Financial Crisis in Education
  • Contributors
  • Name Index
  • Series Index

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Global Financial Crisis and Educational Restructuring


The worldwide integration and globalization of finance is one of the major developments of this age. This process and its effects have been intensified through a range of factors including economic and trade reforms following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and China joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 and the subsequent development and opening up of Chinese capital markets in 2013.1 These changes and the establishment of a global finance culture coincided with the rise of a market-oriented neoliberalism that began in the USA and UK and went on to become the dominant politico-economic-social policy system not only in the Western world but also in Asia and Latin America. Neoliberalism established the Washington Consensus free-market ideology of economic structural reforms, macroeconomic stabilization, free trade and foreign investment, market freedom, and the minimal state. As well as nation-states pursuing neoliberal policies, we have seen the neoliberalisation of major world policy agencies promoting free trade and privatization strategies. Education has been at the very core of such strategies and we have been experiencing “an increasing interest in the education of the workforce and the mobilization of financial resources to accomplish this task” (Harvey, 2014, p. 183).

Another vitally crucial parallel process that has highly influenced financial systems and which has intensified especially in the twenty-first century is the acceleration of technological innovation systems. New Internet technologies (IT) have reinforced financial market integration through growth of fibre optics, mobile telephones, new forms of instant messaging, social media, the use of sophisticated ← 1 | 2 → algorithms in financial markets, and now high speed trading using lasers and so on. These trends and associated global governance and policy shifts have created and emphasized a form of interconnectedness and interdependence, yet the downside surely has to be a potential fragility in any collapse in just one part of a one-world integrated financial ecosystem that poses new systemic risks and contagion effects. While the world has experienced high levels of technological accomplishments—“the electronic revolution of communications, information, genetics and the biotechnological” (Sousa Santos, 2005, p. vii) serious global contradictions have been exposed.

It is a time of disquieting regressions, a return of the social evils that appeared to have been or about to be overcome, [a] return of slavery and slavish work [a] return of high vulnerability to old sicknesses that seemed to have been eradicated and appear linked to new pandemics like HIV/AIDS [and now Ebola] [a] return of the revolting social inequalities that gave their name to the social question at the end of the nineteenth century; in sum, the return of the specter of war, perhaps now more than ever a world war, although whether cold or not is as yet undecidable. (ibid, p. vii)

Systemic risk and system failure in global finance can be caused by many different (but interrelated) factors: too much debt (households, corporations, banks, financial institutions, governments), too much borrowing in foreign currency, sovereign debt, asset bubbles, overconfidence, large and complex banking systems, shadow banking systems (non-bank institutions taking on banking functions), financial innovation leading to collateralized debt obligation and securitization, the failure of mathematical models (Klemkosky, 2013). Neoliberalism edifies an economic framework based on the continuing process of subjectification, of a ‘subjective economy’ that creates a binary creditor-debtor positional continuum (Lazzarato, 2011).

Following the 2007–2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in the USA, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act instituted a new set of reforms intended to reduce systemic risk and ensure greater system stability through the development of a new regulatory environment intended to supplement the existing Securities Acts of 1933 and 1934. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of Financial Research are supposed to monitor systemic risk for the Federal Reserve Board.2 These reforms amount to the most massive reform of the US financial system ever with the Act running to hundreds of pages, yet it is clear that the reforms have been incomplete and the regulators have underestimated the systemic risk in destabilizing financial markets. Perhaps even more telling, little thought has gone into the ‘risks’ of the financialization of everything—the financialization of the economy, society, and culture. Within this financialization matrix, the state plays a key harmonizing role within an interbanking system underpinned by American liberal internationalism and the wilting financial institutions of the Bretton Woods agreement. It is in this context that it is crucial to demystify globalization as it poses challenges ← 2 | 3 → that seem to increasingly erode national sovereignty. Quite conversely, Leo Panitch (2011) argues, “The states are crucial, and the power of states are crucial to [the] phenomenon of globalization” (p. 79). While the interstate system is failing, especially with the rise of non-state actors (e.g., massive transnational companies as well as terrorist organizations such as ISIS), there is as yet no alternative.

Education is a central aspect of modern life, seen now not so much as a social good but as an economic good tied in with notions of human capital theory, and as crucial for any state to be competitive and to become fully engaged in the knowledge economy. As such, education entails investment costs both for the state and for individuals engaged in obtaining (or ‘consuming’) education.

The global picture is complex in terms of what and how much and which education sectors are publicly funded. Globally, we find that the schooling sector comprising primary and secondary education (K–12 in USA) in most countries is generally financed by the state since it is seen as important for advancing social aspects such as equality of opportunity, addressing diversity, and social inclusiveness. Despite this, there is frequent political debate about the extent of that provision and opponents to public education suggest not only voucher systems but also more private or charter schools. Although generally a much smaller sub-sector, alongside publicly funded schools there are also privately funded ones. In contrast to the K–12 sector, the early childhood education sector is predominantly privately funded although parents may receive various levels of state subsidy. Higher education funding in much of the world is publicly funded, but students are required to pay increasingly high fees in many states and there are also an increasing number of private higher education institutions emerging worldwide. Some countries still fund free university education. There is now a considerable discourse about a crisis in publicly funded education.

One of the toughest challenges facing current ‘education-state-market’ relationships has been examined by Peters and Besley (2006). Drawing on Hardt and Negri’s rationale, Peters and Besley warn of the need to frame the interface education-economy within a radically different cultural knowledge economy. One that is at grips with not just new dimensions of labor, such as flexibility and mobility, but also with the intricacies with the immateriality of labor, that concomitantly pushes education for a new dynamics of ideological production. Peters and Besley claim that the postmodernization of production and labor imply unequivocally the postmodernization of the circuits of cultural and economic production and labor unleashing new demands for education and educators.

However, education remains the prime institutional mechanism for the generation and transmission of values, culture, and knowledge. It has long been considered a vehicle for social mobility, social transformation, social cohesiveness, and for social equality leading to a more just and democratic society, but it has been well and truly financialized. This is a multifaceted and as yet incomplete ← 3 | 4 → process that has affected source of funding of education at all levels particularly with the rise of private learning institutions and the financialization of student loans. Critical avenues for a serious debate of how public is public education have opened up. Such debate is crucial in a moment when the attempts of a global uniformity at all costs, so visible in most recent conservative educational policies, such as the Common Core in USA, not only mask eugenic claims but also place education at the center of rebooting new processes of humankind’s ideological revolution (Paraskeva & Torres Santome, 2012). The concept of public education accordingly has undergone a profound transformation and it unlikely to ever be the same again.

Some six years after the Global Financial Crisis the effects are lingering, and some would argue the structural issues that brought about the crisis have not disappeared but are inherent to the system. The stability and fairness of the world financial system is seen as one of the elements of global order, only recently integrating classical civilizations and regional blocs, especially China, India, and most countries of the Middle East, into a system poised between the old Westphalian order and the relatively new American-styled liberal internationalist democratic order. A stable financial system, along with international rule of law, state sovereignty, and the national-state system would seem to be a condition for peace and prosperity, yet the prevailing world order, if we can call it that, seems to be giving way to regional blocs sometimes based on religious belief rather than a scientific or rational outlook with the rise of movements and non-state actors. In this uncertain climate world financial stability is a prerequisite for world order and such stability implies a fair and neutral set of international controls, standards, and lawful regulation. But, in the present circumstances, the world—educational and life more generally—seems increasingly precarious.


This book is a collection of essays that engages systematically with these questions. The collection begins with a number of essays that describe the nature of finance capitalism and the dimensions of the Global Financial Crisis and financialization. These general essays by prominent theorists set the scene for an engagement with the effects of the Global Financial Crisis on education and follows with chapters that more specifically deal with education and often provide exemplars from different countries globally. A strength of the book is that the authors hail from many countries and operate with clear global perspectives. They are also from different academic disciplines and so bring a range of expertise and perspectives, which gives strength to this collection, a first multidisciplinary approach that addresses the issues of financialization and education. ← 4 | 5 →

We are fortunate to have world-renowned Slovenian philosopher and scholar Slavoj Žižek providing chapter 1, “A Permanent Economic Emergency.” Žižek examines how the current metamorphoses of the last capitalist economy have been produced as a key ideological device to perpetuate a state of permanent emergency. In so doing, Žižek highlights how dynamics and categories such as state and class are more important than ever to understand the intricacies of an unraveled neoconservative impulse.

Chapter 2, “Finance Capitalism, Financialization, and the Prospects for Public Education,” is by Michael A. Peters and Tina Besley. As academics having worked in the UK, USA, and New Zealand, their chapter provides a global perspective, yet acknowledges local effects of financialization, the Global Financial Crisis, and the crisis of finance capitalism. They note the rise of finance culture as an aspect of financialization that impacts individuals and households in creating what can be considered the “financial citizen” or “entrepreneurial self.” Peters and Besley use the Libor scandal as just one example of a culture of banking that is endemically fraudulent and has bought off all political opposition. The issue of High Frequency Trading (HFT) and the attempts by countries to regulate following the “Flash Crash” are briefly covered before the chapter addresses the financialization of education and finally the impact of student debt.

Costas Lapavitsas, in chapter 3, “Financialisation, or the Search for Profits in the Sphere of Circulation,” points out advanced capitalist economies in the last thirty years represents expansion of the sphere of circulation, while the sphere of production has continued to face difficulties of profitability and productivity growth. In the course of financialization, relations among industrial/commercial capital, banks, and workers have been put on a different footing. The financial sector has become capable of extracting profit directly out of wages and salaries, a process called “financial expropriation.” Financial institutions have also become adept at profit-making through mediating transactions in open financial markets, that is, investment banking. The combination of financial expropriation and investment banking were the catalysts for the GFC that began in 2007.

Chapter 4, “The OECD on FIRE: Financialization and Socioeconomic Decline in Advanced Economies,” is by Jacob Assa, who lives in New York and is currently a statistician at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). His perspective uses current data to build his case on the impact of financialization on OECD countries. In particular he notes limited economic growth, which appears to be slowing, financial fragility, and unemployment. He concludes by noting that although some assign blame for the recent economic and financial crises on financialization, the last forty years have seen negative impacts in the developed OECD countries where there is “increasing inequality, slowing down economic growth, and swelling unemployment. It appears that, when financial machinations supersede productive enterprise, to use Krippner’s language, both the economy and society suffer.” ← 5 | 6 →

Stefano Lucarelli and Emanuele Leonardi, from Bergamo, Italy, present chapter 5, “Financial Governmentality: Wealth-Effect as a Practice of Social Control.” Lucarelli and Leonardi examine how contemporary capitalism is characterized by an accumulation regime whose main tendency is to incorporate every aspect of individual as well as societal experiences into valorization circuits. The means through which such an internalization occurs include neoliberal economic policies and the wealth-effect, arguably a command device aimed at governing contemporary subjectivity. Hence Lucarelli and Leonardi frame the process of financialization as a practice of social control. They use Michel Foucault’s notions of biopolitics and governmentality for reflecting on financialization. In particular, the chapter focuses on one of the unprecedented characters of neoliberal financialization, namely its need for mass participation, its apparent democratic stance.

Chapter 6, “The Embers of Truth in the Ashes of Finance,” is by Campbell Jones, Auckland, New Zealand. Jones looks for the immanent possibilities for public education that arise out of the culture of finance as he says “the new publics and new public educations that are summoned by finance in spite of itself.” He writes: “I seek to account for the place in finance of logics of division, separation and particularism and at the same time how these unravel in the face of finance, both in the public and in public higher education.”

Howard Gibson brings a UK-oriented approach in chapter 7, “Instrumental Reasoning qua Capitalist Rationality: The Embedding of Capitalism within Educational Discourse.” The first part of the chapter seeks to explain the philosophical origins and assumptions of the term ‘instrumental rationality,” a term largely based on Max Horkheimer, by examining some of its philosophical antecedents in the work of David Hume and the sociology of Max Weber. The second part of Gibson’s chapter shows how instrumental rationality has inserted itself into three current educational discourses (including managerialism) in England that employ reason instrumentally and becomes normalised. The third part links instrumental rationality with capitalism by showing that many of the secreted purposes contained in these educational discourses are primarily destined to secure a trained and disciplined labour force.

In chapter 8, “Financial Fantasy Documents and Public Learning: The Case of the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Report,” James Reveley and John Singleton provocatively examine the interplay between fantasy and financialized capitalism in the USA. While finding Deleuze and Guattari’s materialist theory of group fantasy helpful, rather than a psychoanalytic study or a textual or discourse analysis, they draw on work by sociologists and organizational theorists who conceptualize official reports as fantasy documents that fulfill a social function. They use the 2011 report known as the Angelides Commission, issued by the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) to illustrate this, treating it as a social fact in its own right rather than merely as a source of information about the crisis. They ← 6 | 7 → track the report’s engagement with a wider social fantasy about the existence of a new period—immediately prior to the 2008 financial crisis—of finance-driven growth. They supplement the fantasy documents literature with work by economists whose crisis theories have an affinity with an emergent psychoanalytic literature on this topic. After providing a brief overview of the FCIC, Reveley and Singleton introduce the theory of fantasy documents identifying how the FCIC report channels two types of fantasy.

Policy analyst and leading gambling theory scholar Clyde W. Barrow, in chapter 9, “The Rationality Crisis in U.S. Higher Education,” dissects how over the course of the last century, many of the stresses and contradictions of advanced capitalism have been displaced onto colleges and universities, which are now directly attached to the state—whether legally, politically, or financially—as an important component of the ideological and economic state apparatuses. As a component of the ideological and economic state apparatuses, the university is implicated in the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis as both a cause of the crisis and a solution to the crisis. The author argues that the possibilities for crisis management within the existing corporate model of higher education have been exhausted in a rationality crisis that threatens to implode the administrative apparatus in higher education. The author calls for a radical reconstruction of power relationships within the university and in its relationships to capital and the state.

In chapter 10, “Neoliberal Pedagogy of Debt vs. Debtor Pedagogy: The New Neoliberal Commodities,” João M. Paraskeva and Sheila L. Macrine expand on Williams’ (2007) notion of debt education to help explicate Macrine’s (2012) concept of a neoliberal pedagogy of debt, which she describes as a materialist interpretation of the development of neoliberal capitalism’s chief predatory weapon—that of debt subjugation. They argue that in order to reveal the true ideological productive/reproductive practices of a neoliberal pedagogy of debt, it becomes necessary to make the other side of this predatory tool, a ‘debtor pedagogy,’ explicit, which helps to articulate the citizen/worker responses to such oppression and subjugation. In order to accomplish this, Paraskeva and Macrine (a) define the ‘neoliberal pedagogy of debt’ and introduce the concept of ‘debtor pedagogy,’ which is the flip side of the same predatory coin; (b) unmask how such pedagogies have been crucial in feeding the school-to-prison pipeline and force-outs, and; (c) examine how certain pedagogies have been determined by the needs of the current market-based culture of society asphyxiated by austerity policies and practices.

Sharon Rider and Alexandra Waluszewski, from Sweden, present chapter 11, Crowding Out Knowledge: Efficiency, Innovation, and Higher Education. Their chapter examines the monetization and marketization of higher education, research, and scholarship. Following Max Weber, they investigate the “forced marriage” between research and innovation in the modern university and the way in which policies have encouraged a deeper relationship between university research ← 7 | 8 → and industry, blurring the boundaries and concepts of different forms of life. Seemingly innocuous policies aimed at encouraging interaction between university research and industry have deeper implications that need exploring.

In chapter 12, “Who’s Afraid of Public Financial Literacy?,” Shanti Daellenbach considers the widespread enthusiasm for financial literacy programmes, which are supported by governments and financial institutions, suggesting that there are two ways of looking at how the public perceive the GFC. One suggests the public have not yet learnt their lessons, while another that they actually have done so. Globally, people have become increasingly vocal in discussions around the failings of the financial system, on ways to change it, and how it should operate in the future. There have been widespread large-scale protests over government austerity policies, financial sector bailouts, financialization and its social consequences, for example, the Occupy movement, the Icelandic Revolution, anti-austerity movements in Spain and Greece, student-led protests regarding debt and the financialization of education in Chile and Canada, and protests in Brazil and Turkey over government financial expropriation that benefit the few, and so on. Daellenbach notes that despite people becoming increasingly critically financially literate, the growing emphasis on financial literacy education globally operates on the assumption that the public remains financially illiterate.

Chapter 13, by UK–based geographer Sarah Hall, “Financialization and the Production of New Financial Elites through Business Education,” considers the intersection between financialization and educational restructuring through a focus on the educational practices of financial elites working in financial services in the City of London in the 2000s. Whilst educational background has been widely recognized as a key determinant of entry into the City historically, processes of financialization in the 2000s increased the demand for financiers significantly, and this greater labour market demand could no longer be met through established recruitment methods. In response, education in the workplace, through business schools and within financial services firms themselves, has become an important way of educating a more diverse group of financiers into legitimate forms of financial practice and the associated cultural norms associated with financial services in the City. By reporting on original empirical research conducted in these forms of education, the chapter examines the distinct spatiality of positional advantage within these graduate labour markets as graduates seek to convert their education credentials obtained in a national context into global positional advantage within international financial labour markets. This argument demonstrates the need to take the spatialities of finance and education seriously as global labor markets continue to contain within them local, national, and regional differences that need to be negotiated by individuals as they seek to maximise their own employability and career progression.

Chapter 14, “Education and the Crisis This Time” is by John Morgan. He notes that despite many commentators predicting that neoliberal capitalist accumulation ← 8 | 9 → was in crisis and dying in the aftermath of the GFC, six years later pronouncements about the death of neoliberalism appear to have been premature, with the postcrisis economic landscape populated by ‘zombie’ economic concepts—ones that are to all intents and purposes dead but that refuse to die. Arguably neoliberalism emerged stronger than ever since ‘normal’ business resumed remarkably quickly with income and wealth increasingly accumulated by the richest sections of societies as share markets rose rapidly. Alongside this the crisis has seen austerity policies negatively affecting other sections of society. For education the crisis has presented an opportunity to intensify the pace of neoliberal educational reforms, competition, and marketization of education. Apart from opposition from some educational unions and left-oriented politicians, there are few signs of systematic opposition to the dominant discourses of educational growth.

The fifteenth and final chapter, “Finance-subjectivity: Thinking through the Consequences of the Global Financial Crisis in Education,” by David R. Cole, develops the concept of ‘finance-subjectivity’ in relation to the work of Félix Guattari, who furnished a useful notion of semio-capitalism. Semio-capitalism analyzes the ways in which capitalism works on a semiotic level and reveals the codes and axioms that potentially trap and mould subjectivity. The writings of Franco Beradi (Bifo), Christian Marazzi, Maurizio Lazzarato, and others in the autonomous tradition have extended and added to Guattari’s sense of semio-capitalism in terms of describing immaterial labor and cognitive capitalism. This chapter will use these ideas to get to the notion of ‘finance-subjectivity’ and how it now permeates educational practice. A recent (2012–2013) educational research project in the southwest of Sydney with public school teachers illustrates the idea of ‘finance-subjectivity.”


First, we wish to thank Maggie Lyall, administrator in the Centre for Global Studies in Education at the University of Waikato for her assistance. We are also grateful for the positive and helpful work by the Peter Lang editorial team.

We acknowledge two papers that have been published elsewhere and have been granted permission to appear in this book.

Thank you to New Left Review (http://newleftreview.org/) for Slavoj Žižek’s 2010 paper “A Permanent Economic Emergency,” New Left Review, 64, pp. 85–95, which appears as chapter 1.

Thank you to Taylor and Francis for permission to publish “The Rationality Crisis in US Higher Education,” by Clyde W. Barrow, published in 2010 in New Political Science, 32(3), 317–344. The journal is available online at http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cnps20#.VD8DfufgBcI. It appears here as chapter 9. ← 9 | 10 →

In conclusion, we are grateful to all of the authors who have contributed to this collection.


VI, 335
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (December)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. VI, 335 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Michael Adrian Peters (Volume editor) João M. Paraskeva (Volume editor) Tina Besley (Volume editor)

Michael A. Peters is Professor of Education at Waikato University, New Zealand, and Emeritus Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is Executive Editor of Educational Philosophy and Theory, Policy Futures in Education, E-Learning & Digital Media, and Knowledge Cultures, and is a Hon. Fellow of the Royal Society (New Zealand). His most recent books include Obama and the End of the American Dream (2012) and Education, Philosophy and Politics: Selected Works (2012). João M. Paraskeva is Full Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, where he is founder and Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Program Director of the EdD/PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy. He was recently appointed Director for the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture at UMass Dartmouth. His latest books are Transformative Educators and Researchers for Democracy – Dartmouth Dialogues (co-edited with Thad Lavallee, 2015) and Conflicts in Curriculum Theories: Challenging Hegemonic Epistemologies (2011/2015). Tina Besley is Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Global Studies in Education at Waikato University, New Zealand, and Adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Tina has published widely in different areas of research. Her latest book with Michael Peters is Paulo Freire: The Global Legacy (Peter Lang, 2015). In 2015 she was honored for her contribution to the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia by being elected as a Fellow.


Title: The Global Financial Crisis and Educational Restructuring