The Big Society and Education Policy
: A Conceptual Analysis

  • Catherine Simon

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


This thesis begins by exploring the notion of ‘The Big Society’ promoted by David Cameron at the time of the UK general election in May 2010 and arguably one of the most significant ideological themes to have emerged from the British Conservative Party in recent years. This conceptual analysis then explores the intellectual antecedents which inform Big Society ideology, arguing that the eclectic nature of Conservative Party thinking draws on liberal, conservative, radical and socialist models of community, civil society and the role of the state in relation to these. Theoretical models such as Lévi Strauss’s (1962) model of bricolage, Hall’s (1998) agency of political ideas and Vidovich’s (2007) ‘hybridised model’ help uncover the contradictions and limitations in Big Society policy-making and implementation. The thesis argues that there is a distinct silence in relation to the role of capitalism, either in the historical narratives or its place in the new political order that makes up the Big Society. Absent also, is any clear notion of the role and contribution of education in this context. Analysis of Secretary of State Michael Gove’s education policy 2010-2014, demonstrates that an education system constructed on notions of freedom, responsibility and fairness may have radically changed the education landscape in England but has ultimately failed to stem the tide of neo-liberal hegemony, the effects of which the Big Society attempted to ameliorate.
Date of Award16 Mar 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHugh Lauder (Supervisor)


  • Education policy
  • big society

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