Neoliberalism and discourse: case studies of knowledge policies in the Asia-Pacific

Grewal, Baljit
Crothers, Charles
Harvey, Sharon
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis examines policy documents relating to the knowledge society of six Asia-Pacific countries (India, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Fiji and New Zealand). I employ Norman Fairclough’s version of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to explore the discursive construction of knowledge-related policies within a comparative case study methodology. Leximancer – a computer software for text analysis is used to assist in operationalising parts of the CDA. The general conclusions drawn from the study indicate that the evolving knowledge policy discourse in the Asia-Pacific is not based on any robust theoretical framework but on international and country-specific paradigms of the knowledge society. In the policy discourses, the knowledge society is posited as a desired outcome in light of external (global) imperatives - economic globalisation, technological knowledge and innovation flows, and ICT revolution – which are married to context-specific developmental imperatives arising from geography, culture, history and polity. This hybridisation process gives shape to unique knowledge society paradigms of each country. My CDA analysis shows that the ideology of neoliberalism is a key discursive influence on the knowledge society paradigms and is mutated by differences in contexts across different countries. In the discourses, neoliberalism operates via an emphasis on policy restructuring (privatisation, deregulation and liberalisation), and streamlining of governance mechanisms relating to key knowledge and information policy sectors. The resulting knowledge society constructions are context and time-dependent frameworks and exhibit two core arguments of convergence in all the case studies: (1) ICT and Science & Technology as vehicles for knowledge-based development need to grow in an enabling policy environment and; (2) the twin imperatives of globalisation and technological revolution mean that knowledge policy should have a competitive and innovation orientation, and should be continuously readjusted in tune with global economic changes. In addition to convergence, there are two major issues of divergence, namely: (1) emphasis on affirmative action in knowledge-related policies of India, Malaysia, and Fiji; (2) the promotion of cultural production and creative industries in Singapore, New Zealand, and more recently in Korea. The original contribution of this thesis is that it provides a reassessment of the role of neoliberalism in knowledge society. The study is novel both in the selection of the problem and the methodology. Comparative case studies using CDA have not been attempted at the regional scale and not with this level of documentary data. The use of Leximancer improves the management of textual data and increases the validity of the interpretations. A study of this magnitude has not been attempted for the Asia-Pacific region previously. Finally, the conclusions drawn from applying the CDA are both persuasive and creative in terms of analysing policy discourses of the knowledge society.

Knowledge society , Knowledge economy , Neoliberalism , Critical Discourse Analysis , Asia Pacific , Knowledge policy , Leximancer , Information society , Policy Analysis , Sociology of knowledge
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