Entrepreneurs of the self: symbolic capital and social (Re)production in the neoliberal knowledge economy

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This conceptual study examines the neoliberal knowledge economy as a dimension of globalisation policy within East Asian higher education. In exploring the practice of linguistic instrumentalisation, this inquiry aims to demonstrate the influence of English on the hereditary reproduction of social class. Calling on the theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault, this inquiry explores the interplay between one’s hereditary and ultimate class membership and how proficiency in English mediates this hierarchy. Reinforced by a doxic knowledge of the ‘entrepreneurial’ credential ladder, aptitude in English represents a ‘weapon’ of empowerment (symbolic capital), used to certify and signal global readiness. Nevertheless, the meritocratic ‘freedom of choice’ leitmotiv supporting neoliberal governmentality fails to rationalise not only the class-conscious capitals that enable foreign language education but the ideological agendas that inhibit agency in such a manner as choosing English remains contingent rather than free. Given the economic benefits associated with EFL proficiency, this inquiry foregrounds inherited social class within its analysis, moving towards a deeper engagement with the socio-economic dimensions of foreign language education and the processes by which education is (further) reduced to strengthening pre-existing power relations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobalisation, Societies and Education
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2022


  • Bourdieu
  • East Asia
  • foucault
  • knowledge economy
  • neoliberal governmentality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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