Some of the ideas examined in this paper
were presented in a symposium at the American Association for Research in Education
in New Orleans in April 2000. The symposium was on Neo-liberalism, Welfare and
Education: The New Zealand Experiment.
In 1998, after 15 years of radical reform in New Zealand,
the neoliberals wanted to recognize the notion of 'community', albeit on their own terms;
under Social Capital they redefined community as individualised trust arising from an
ahistorical, abstract, notion of spontaneous sociability. This 'community', it seems, would produce economic
value, and the neoliberal trickle down effect would therefore be reactivated. But, like the neoliberal policy it was supposed to
address, this initiative (and Bolgers re-election bid) failed.
The new approach to social policy depended on
reinventing community through a particular version of social capital. It was the same approach to policy that involved
notions of social cohesion and responsibility put forward in the Code of Social and Family
Responsibility (Department of Social Welfare, 1998).
These two policy moves can be viewed as part of Government attempts to devolve
responsibility for welfare away from the center to community and from the collective to
the individual. But the notion of community
as a social ideal is both historically and theory-laden, and underlying the use of social
capital as a new metaphor for community is an acknowledgment of the inadequacies of a pure
neoliberal market-oriented model as a basis for social policy. Indeed, it could be regarded as a cynical
expression of community.
The paper argues that these policy initiatives are an attempt
to mask the failure of neoliberal reforms, by appealing to traditional notions of
community while at the same time implicitly redefining a community morality. These
initiatives have failed, leaving the Government with no distraction from its inadequacies
until the arrival of the current policy of the Knowledge Economy.
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