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History of Vocational Education and Training in Europe

Cases, Concepts and Challenges


Edited By Esther Berner and Philipp Gonon

Understanding today’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) systems requires a comprehension of the rise and development, i.e. of the foundations of topical VET. This book provides a comparative view of its development in Europe. The contributions of renowned authors give insight into conceptual questions, cases and challenges in this field.

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On the Genealogy of the Subject of Industrial Work: Training and Testing as Subjectification Practices (1900–1935)


Abstract: Drawing on the subject-theoretical work of Michel Foucault, the paper analyses practices of subjectification on the backdrop of Taylorist rationalization processes. By a first step, the relevant knowledge order and power relations are sketched by referring to contemporary developments in the young discipline of psychology, mainly in its application-oriented form as psychotechnique. Subsequently, two main procedures are in the focus: testing and training. Both practices and their elements are presented in their concrete historical forms and institutional context (i.e. aptitude tests, apprentices training). Finally, as an outlook, the findings are connected to the question to what extent the results can apply on actual post-Fordist conditions.

1.  Introduction

Whether a janitor, a buyer, an electronics technician, a secretary or a “group leader of Output Management”, the requirement profiles found in the respective job advertisements have some things in common. Those interested in one of these jobs are supposed to check if they have team spirit, flexibility and communication skills.1 These characteristics represent typical requirements of the neoliberal services society. Nevertheless, changes in economics and technology have ever since demanded the adapting performances of the working subject. The reverse demand, that is the adaptation of the economy and working processes to human “nature” or visions of a better society, remained within the genre of utopia.

The motive to find a fit between subject and work, according to the maxim “The right man in the right place”, was probably never as virulent as it...

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