Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education



Mardi Schmeichel

Date of this Version



Curriculum Inquiry 47:2 (2017), pp. 195–216.

doi: 10.1080/03626784.2017.1283592


Copyright © 2017 the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Published by Routledge/Taylor and Francis. Used by permission.


Neoliberalism has an enormous influence on P–12 education in most industrial societies. In this integrative, theoretical literature review, we surveyed the journal articles on neoliberalism in US-based educational research to better understand how neoliberalism has been conceptualized in this body of work and to offer implications for future research on neoliberalism and education. We drew on Foucauldian discourse theories to conduct an analysis of peer-reviewed studies of American P–12 contexts to consider how researchers’ depictions of neoliberalism have shaped the discourse of neoliberalism in education and contributed to particular ways of thinking and responding to neoliberalism in the United States. The resulting analysis describes the topics addressed in the data, the definitions of neoliberalism presented across the studies, the application of neoliberalism to phenomena, and the depth of attention to neoliberalism in the research. The authors contend that future research must consider and document how historically situated and contradictory elements of a “rascal” discourse like neoliberalism interacts with existing discourses to impact life in ways that subjugate but may also create recuperative spaces for hope and creative resignification.