The OECD, neoliberalism, and the learning city: promoting human capital in the guise of lifelong learning

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MacPhail, J. Scott
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In this thesis I investigate the concept of the learning city; a concept which has attracted the attention of a growing number of adult education theorists. Many of these theorists expound the virtues of the learning city, but it is my claim that they do so without any clear sense of how or why the notion was first postulated. I believe the origins and underlying purpose of the concept of the learning city is largely unexamined or taken for granted by its most avid promoters. In particular, its chief advocates rarely locate the origins and development of the learning city in the neoliberal policy discourses that transpired in the OECD and the EU during the 1970s to the 1990s. In this thesis I conduct a close examination of these policy discourses which reveal that the learning city was initially formulated and subsequently promoted to support a neoliberal policy agenda aimed at fostering unfettered global economic development. I argue that the notion of the learning city, linked as it has been to OECD policy and the neoliberal agenda, has many drawbacks. Chief amongst these is the ways the OECD notion of the learning city further exacerbates existing global inequalities amongst cities. The neoliberal learning city competes unfairly with urban contexts in the developing world. Rather than promoting equitable social development, the OECD learning city strives to out compete all rivals (including those cities woefully incapable of playing the globalization game).
Adult education , Continuing education , Community development, urban , Education and globalization , Government policy , Human capital