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Connecting ‘up there’ with ‘down here’: Thoughts on globalisation, neo-liberalism and leadership praxis


The United States of America and England are countries that have embraced neo-liberalism, and have been at the forefront of the neo-liberal restructuring of public education. Both of these countries can be considered as laboratories for neo-liberal policy, hence their focus in this chapter. Primarily conceptual in nature, this chapter seeks to connect what happens ‘Up There’ with what school leaders do ‘Down Here’ (Bell & Stevenson, 2006). The authors intend to demonstrate how global politics and policy are linked with the everyday practices of school leaders. Furthermore, the chapter illustrates how values and practices of individual school leaders are shaped by the systems values implicit in policy. We recognise that debates which pose structure against agency are debates ultimately about balance and relativities. It is not that as individuals we are free agents, or have no agency, but about understanding how structure and agency interplay in ways that constrain and shape what we do. Moreover, we believe that by having a more sophisticated understanding of how structural factors constrain our actions, we are better able to maximise the opportunities provided by our agency. This is not about over-stating the potential for agency, but it is about seeking to maximise the ‘spaces and interstices’ (Dale, 1982, p. 158) within which agency may be exercised. In presenting this work the authors draw on a number of different traditions, not all of which sit comfortably with each other. However, taken together they shed some light these complex issues.


Stevenson, H. and Tooms, A.K. (2010), "Connecting ‘up there’ with ‘down here’: Thoughts on globalisation, neo-liberalism and leadership praxis", Normore, A.H. (Ed.) Global Perspectives on Educational Leadership Reform: The Development and Preparation of Leaders of Learning and Learners of Leadership (Advances in Educational Administration, Vol. 11), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 3-21.



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