2001 volume 33(9) pages 1665 – 1679

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Tooke J, 2001, "Reforming adult education: struggles over the British state strategy of Learndirect" Environment and Planning A 33(9) 1665 – 1679

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Reforming adult education: struggles over the British state strategy of Learndirect

Jane Tooke

Received 19 April 2001; in revised form 13 July 2001

Abstract. The state is increasingly understood as a collection of institutions that are continually reforming as a result of multiple influences. As a consequence, the form of the state is by no means coherent or stable. One type of influence shaping this ongoing reformation is state institutions themselves, for example, the continuing struggles over public service provision in the United Kingdom. It is this kind of internal state reformation with which this paper is concerned. The paper explores the shift within the British state towards 'governance' entailing the transfer of state activities to 'nonstate' organisations. It focuses on an initiative called Learndirect that is part of this transition and its local articulation in east London. It applies strategic relational state theory as a way to simultaneously consider the order and the contingency of processes surrounding this initiative. This reveals tensions between different spatial scales of the institutions involved and the struggles that ensue. The paper highlights the power relations shaping the form Learndirect is taking and how this privileges the provision of particular kinds of services. It is argued that analysing these networks of power can help to uncover the ways in which some institutions exert influence over others so as to enlist support for a particular agenda. At the same time, the author is careful to stress that politics is always an open-ended space; consequently, the state form that results is never completely knowable, but neither is it completely random.

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