Navigating Shallow Waters: Symbolic Violence and its Implications for Education for Sustainable Development in Neoliberal Japan

Mike Smith, Travis Past

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Abstract

In the face of ongoing ecological, economic, and social concerns, the UN’s sustainable development framework emerges as a map for securing a brighter tomorrow. Yet, against this backdrop, the neoliberal values of deregulation, open marketisation, and individualisation constrain sustainable development outcomes. Building on previous research conducted in Japan, a nation positioned at the forefront of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), this ‘think piece’ seeks to offer a critical examination of its implementation and positionality within Japan’s education system, specifically the imbalance between public and private educational providers. Drawing on Bourdieu’s symbolic violence, we seek to shed light on the social norms (in this case, skill-based human capital development) replicated through education, the long-standing power structures reinforcing them, and finally, the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in terms of access to attaining covetable neoliberal skills. The goal of this piece is not to reject the altruistic good of ESD. On the contrary, through this analysis, we hope to generate greater awareness by engendering a more meaningful and transformative ESD aligning with sustainability as a shared public good. Consequently, we call for more equitable ESD available to all students, regardless of educational setting.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalPower and Education
Early online date9 Apr 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2024

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