'Risky business': market provision, community governance and the individualisation of 'risk' in New Zealand education

Susan L. Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article addresses the increasing importance of 'risk' for understanding the changing nature of community governance in New Zealand education. Risk, as a dynamic, is viewed both as a risk mentality arising from a particular attitude toward the future and an administrative tool of government and technology of governance. Drawing upon the 'risk society' hypothesis advanced by Beck, Giddens and Lash and the work of the governmentality theorists, the author critically examines the ways in which the New Zealand state's response to the dynamic and contradictory processes of globalisation/regionalisation in the world economy - together with the privileging of neo-liberal ideology - has created fundamentally different conditions for community agency in education that needs to be explicated. The article is developed in three parts. The first part elaborates the central ideas of the 'risk society' hypothesis, clarifying the relationship between risk as an administrative tool of the state and risk as a mentality in post/industrial/post-Fordist economies. The institutionalisation and individualisation of 'risk' in contemporary societies is contrasted with the socialisation of risk under welfare statism in order to illustrate the nature of the shifts that have taken place. In the second part of the article the author lays out the new structural and ideological conditions for 'community' that emerged with the restructuring of the educational sector in New Zealand, beginning in 1987. In the final part of the article it is suggested that although the 'risk society' hypothesis is helpful for better understanding community governance in New Zealand education, it pays insufficient attention to the structural and class basis of reflexivity and the differential capacities of individuals and their communities to absorb or avoid risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-299
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Studies in Sociology of Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1999
Externally publishedYes

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