Ideological disempowerment as an effect of neoliberalism on teachers

Kwok Kuen TSANG, Qingyan QIN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


In works based on deprofessionalisation/proletarianisation theory, teachers are described by researchers as technically disempowered because of the entry of neoliberalism into the institutional environment of education. Technically disempowered teachers suffer not only from work stress but also from other kinds of negative emotional experiences. This article contributes to deprofessionalisation/proletarianisation theory by introducing the concept of ideological disempowerment to explain why teachers complain that they are overloaded by ‘non-instructional work’ that is instructional in nature. It shows that the inability of teachers to identify the instructional meanings of ‘non-instructional work’ stems from neoliberalism’s tendency to ideologically value the managerial purposes of teachers’ work over its instructional purposes. This leads teachers to break away from ‘non-instructional work’ and devote themselves only to work that appears to be directly related to teaching. Accordingly, ideologically disempowered teachers may have a narrowed concept of teaching, resulting in them being discouraged from performing various tasks that are likely to be conducive to the whole-person growth of students. By explaining neoliberalism in both technical and ideological terms, this article advances deprofessionalisation/proletarianisation theory and contributes to a better understanding of the process of teacher disempowerment that results from neoliberalism. Copyright © 2020 The Author(s).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-212
JournalPower and Education
Issue number2
Early online dateJun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


Tsang, K. K., & Qin, Q. (2020). Ideological disempowerment as an effect of neoliberalism on teachers. Power and Education, 12(2), 204-212. doi: 10.1177/175774382093260


  • Neoliberalism
  • Deprofessionalisation
  • Proletarianisation
  • Ideological disempowerment


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