Aspirations and social hope

There is an interesting article by Nic Beuret in Issue Minus 1 of The Paper .  In this piece, “Hope Against Hope: a necessary betrayal“, Beuret makes a number of very poignant observations about how ‘aspiration’ functions as the dominant form of social hope in neoliberal economies.

“There are competing versions of hope in a given society, but there is also a hegemonic form to hope. For us, living in a becoming- neoliberal world, that hegemonic form is aspiration. Not aspiration in the sense to aspire to greatness in some heroic Greek sense, or something romantic and colourful. No, for us aspiration has a particular hue and tint – it means social mobility. It means a better job, more money, more things and a higher rung on the career ladder. Hope is individual in our world, never collective – the hope of entrepreneurs dreaming of making it big. Not just climbing the ladder but also winning out over all others. We hope for social mobility. … Hope, the dominant form of hope, is to do better than your parents.”

I agree.  As I have argued in my recent writing, over the course of New Labour’s period in government, the central aim of widening participation policy shifted from a focus on promoting social equity to a more explicit attempt to discipline the hopes young people developed for their adult lives.  The aim of ‘raising’ young people’s aspirations was to instill in them a desire for social mobility and the drive to take personal responsibility for achieving this.  In the process, all other hopes for the future came to be dismissed as inappropriate – as ‘low aspirations’.


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