Fearful asymmetry: circuits of paranoia in governing through school inspection

Clarke, John (2016). Fearful asymmetry: circuits of paranoia in governing through school inspection. In: Jupp, Eleanor; Pykett, Jessica and Smith, Fiona eds. Emotional States: sites and spaces of affective governance. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 129–143.

URL: https://www.routledge.com/Emotional-States-Sites-a...


In this chapter, I explore the perverse dynamics of one field of governing relationships in England: the system of school inspection provided by Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education). I suggest that this process – and the field of relationships through which it is conducted - are characterised by an emotional intensity at odds with conventional descriptions of rational bureaucratic organization or claims about the forensic or scientific objectivity of audit and inspection processes. I suggest that the form of collective psychopathology visible in the school inspection regime is an unintended (though perhaps not unexpected) effect of a model of governing that seeks to promote continuous improvement which is constructed out of mistrust and surveillance and is conducted through organizational relationships that emphasise governmental, social and professional distance between the inspectors and the inspected.

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