Recent post-Fordist visions of industrial relationships have stressed the interplay of a powerful, central governing body feeding off numerous smaller units which are satellites, subsidiaries or subcontractors to the powerful central unit. Scott (1988), for instance, suggests that this tendency marks a process of vertical disintegration where a formerly largescale organization proceeds to discard units of the organization which are then recombined in a seemingly loose network. Such networks do not, however, mean a reduction of the governing body’s power. Indeed, it is enhanced as modern information technology enables the constant surveillance and control of these myriad smaller units by top management, without the assistance of an army of middle managers. Further, resources, financing, policy, monitoring and assessment are firmly in the hands of top management. Loton (1991), the Chairperson of the Business Council of Australia, has strongly lobbied that schools should follow this pattern being implemented in the business world. Separate schools should, by and large, manage themselves but within strict parameters of policy, curriculum, student evaluation and teacher appraisal which should be determined in an even more highly centrally prescribed fashion at the national level. This chapter argues that such moves are part of a general strategy to displace the stress of the current economic crisis of capitalism down into smaller organizational units. Similar to the relationships in the business world, in schools there would be an element of dependence on the central power for political, financial and legal help; there would be domination, with schools being closely monitored and assessed with regard to both ‘standards’ and teacher and student ‘performance’; and there would be a degree of competitive isolation as the sense of solidarity held by teachers is gradually broken down by an enforced competitive individualism as not only schools but also teachers are forced to compete with each other in the so-called ‘marketplace’. These trends do not herald any new post-Taylorist panacea, as some post-Fordist advocates would suggest. Rather, it can be shown that they mark an even closer return to the technical rationality of the principles of scientific management. The move towards the self-managed school can thus be seen in terms of Habermas’ view of the life-world which, in late capitalism, has taken on a one-
sided rationality. Habermas (1984a) terms this one-sided rationality the colonization of the life-world where contemporary economic rationalism and the financial imperatives of late capitalism attempt to stifle the critical capacities of people and their scope to act.