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An Essay on the Infrastructure of Critique

Rasmus Willig

Why is it important to take a critical approach to your work? And what are the consequences if your critical voice is suppressed? These are the questions that lie at the heart of Disenfranchisement, which focuses on the deteriorating possibilities for a group of kindergarten staff members to utter criticism and influence their work places.
The central point of the book is that the inability to criticise is closely related to a more general process of disenfranchisement that is corroding the lives of staff both professionally and privately. Through interviews with kindergarten workers, the book reveals how these processes have resulted in a widespread sense of powerlessness and paralysis.
This book is for anyone who seeks a conceptualisation of the feeling that it has become more worthwhile to keep silent than to speak your mind – a widespread impression in a time when several groups in the public sector, including nurses, teachers, kindergarten workers and police officers, report increased political control and a lack of tolerance of critical voices in a neoliberal era. The book focuses on the informal norms that determine our ability to criticise, rather than on the formal, statutory rights of freedom of speech, press and assembly.


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Translator’s preface ix New preface to the English edition xi Chapter 1 Many people feel unable to criticize without fear of reprisals 1 Chapter 2 The profession of kindergarten teacher 13 Chapter 3 Normative processes of disenfranchisement 27 Chapter 4 Organizational processes of disenfranchisement 51 Chapter 5 Safety valves for critique 63 Chapter 6 The unenfranchised children 77 Chapter 7 Critique is concealed and disenfranchisement is reproduced 87 viii Chapter 8 Towards a theory of the infrastructure of critique 97 Chapter 9 Afterword: ‘Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage’ 107 Bibliography 113 Index 115

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