Juridification of Educational Spheres : The Case of Swedish School Inspection

Sammanfattning: This dissertation argues that the great transformation of education policy and governance that we have witnessed in the last few decades can only be properly understood by taking into account a process of juridification. In and of itself, this is not a novel assertion; what is argued here is that what this entails concretely has been only partially understood. The mounting importance of positive rights in the welfare state as a means of preserving and legitimating the State’s role is underlined, and particular focus is directed to the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (SSI) as an intermediary body between the State and educational institutions. The main argument that this dissertation advances is that the Swedish 2010 Education Act, along with the changes that its enforcement brought to state school inspection, is an instructive expression of the institutionalization of a juridified school system. Central to this argument is the idea that the legitimacy of the postmodern State in the eyes of its citizens can no longer be taken for granted. Juridification can be seen as a strategy of compensatory legitimation. Drawing on earlier research on governance and juridification, respectively, the dissertation sketches out the general thrust for the examination of the relation between the two and, in particular, just what the theoretical perspective of juridification adds to our understanding of the transformation of education policy and practice. We still know rather little about the latter, i.e., about what the functions and implications of a “juridified” mode of education governance may be more precisely. Against the backdrop of three empirical studies, it advances the argument that a good part of the evolutionary process that is here called “the juridification of educational spheres” comprises operations, institutions and actors deeply involved in locally or regionally situated issues and struggles. It further argues that state school inspection processes as such provide some means of intermediation – the means of making ideologies become real and policies come true. The final discussion is conducted in light of the specific case of the SSI, particularly how the actions and decisions involved in the Inspectorate’s enactment of policy actually constitute policy by giving it certain forms and specific content. These considerations take us beyond the sphere of governance and to the heart of what we may think schooling is or ought to be about.