The Economic Problem of Masochism in Education


  • Ansgar Allen University of Sheffield, UK
  • Emile Bojesen University of Winchester, UK



It is no secret that there is much to learn from masochism. But its lessons have yet to include the thought that educational relations might themselves be structured by a masochistic economy. Given that our claim for the existence of this economy is made from within the academy, care must be taken, unless the educational researchers who comment on it be considered exempt. Educational researchers are not above nor insulated from what they critique. Educational researchers actively participate in masochistic games of love and hate, pleasure and discomfort that define educational relationships. They participate directly as lovers and sufferers of education themselves, or indirectly by providing long, wearing critiques of education that function as so many reasons for disappointment. Everyday educators and educational researchers alike are tied, bound together, with the latter serving to reinforce this economy of pain by furnishing educators with a scholarly framework, an optional supplement, a pile of books, papers and reports within which they can somewhat pleasurably locate their suffering. But this is not all they achieve. In addition to providing lengthy disquisitions explaining what all educators already feel, and have long felt more acutely – namely, transposing into writing a sense of the ‘shitness’ of things – educational research helps sustain what it bemoans. It gives succour to that love of education, the educator’s love of what they do, that finds pleasure still in the discomfort and displeasure that education must necessarily produce. Educational research dignifies education with moral purpose and helps sustain our love for it by endlessly implying education must be worthy of morally informed critique and attention. We urge the reader to keep these discomforting ideas in mind, throughout the essay that follows.


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