Chapter 3 follows on form Chapter 2 by examining the theoretical ideas put to work in this text. It begins by taking account of policy directed at literacy education. It discusses how a key aim of this study is to see how governmental uses of literacy have become linked to wider policy concerns – that is to say, how literacy has become connected to a network of policies that engage questions of the security of the nation’s political economy and civil society. My focus is to consider the political arguments used to connect literacy and education to the government of human subjects and the strategies used in policy statements when invoking literacy as a “problem” about human populations and the state. My interest is to see how literacy and education surface as technologies in the discursive strategies of government.

I argue in this chapter that this type of study demands a theoretical perspective about the nature of discourse and political practice; one that helps to conceptualise the representation of policy proposals by policy actors when deploying constructs of mass literate populations and human subjects as individuated literate citizens. To do this work, my thesis is informed by Foucauldian conceptualisations of discourse and ways of thinking about the government of human subjects. I argue that in this study, as in the work of many others (Ball, 1993; Maguire, Hoskins, Ball, & Braun, 2011; Woods, 2009) that Foucault’s theoretical tools are significant for the way they help to conceptualise and analyse how education connects with practices of governing; relationships of power, economy and society; the dissemination of knowledge and the production of human subjects. In this chapter, I take a cue from this work, as I outline my understanding of key concepts such as governmentality, power, neoliberalism, security apparatus, dispositif and their applicability to my research.