Accountability and the affective labour of teachers: a Marxist-Vygotskian perspective

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This article addresses the issue of affective labour in education in the context of standards-based reforms and accountability. In particular, it focuses on neoliberal strategies of rationalization and control that produce a number of social pathologies, such as alienated teaching and learning and reified social relations between teachers and students. The article turns to affective labour as something that enables teachers to counteract these effects. This argument arises from the analysis of interviews with teachers who continue to generate and sustain the sociality of teaching and learning. Affect directs teachers' commitment to practice that is governed by feeling, passion and the ethics of care. What gives affective labour such an important position is that it is both outside and beyond accountability and performativity measures. It is identified with the general pedagogical activity that cannot be structured by measuring devices such as students' test scores or standards. The article concludes with the application of Vygotsky's ideas about the role of affect in education and argues that affective labour has an expansive power of ontological freedom that cannot be controlled.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-412
Number of pages16
JournalThe Australian Educational Researcher
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Accountability
  • Affective labour
  • Standards-based reforms
  • Teacher work

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