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Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education
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The uses of affect in education: Chilean
government policies
Claudia Matus
To cite this article: Claudia Matus (2015): The uses of affect in education: Chilean
government policies, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, DOI:
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The uses of affect in education: Chilean government policies
Claudia Matus
College of Education, Ponticia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
This article draws attention to the uses of affect to produce specic
subjectivities and moralities in educational policies. It highlights the
connections between specic ideas of the educated subject, the
family role presented in governmental educational policies in
Chile, and the ways these ideas are linked to the subjectivities and
communities which the market requires to function. My argument
is that with different intensities, affect regulation has become a
strategic component of a government that articulates the relation
between right ways to behave at homeand school success.Asa
result, affect makes conservative cultural dispositions look natural.
I use discourse analysis to show how these policies use affect to
control and monitor behaviors and personal relations, as well
circulating cultural logics and ideological structures. I analyze one
particular document to show how affect does not work through
meanings per se; rather, it circulates productive ideas of families,
studentsbehaviors, and social and cultural frames to organize a
good life.
Uses of affect; policy in
education; regulation;
production of the good
student and family; Chile
In this article I explore the use of affect in educational policies to produce specic subjec-
tivities and moralities. I argue that affect is important because it turns conservative ideo-
logical positions into common sense. In other words, affect acts strategically to neutralize
conservative ideas of the family and school objectives, and as such it makes cultural and
social evaluation simple and efcient. This article focuses on particular ideas of the edu-
cated subject and the role of the family as presented in Chilean government educational
policies. It explores the links between these ideas and the production of subjectivities for
the interests of the market.
After years of policies to address issues of community life at school, to regulate school
security, to prevent bullying, and to promote well-being at home, what is clear is that such
interventions have intensied the notion that educational responsibility belongs to indi-
vidual schools and families as producers and consumers within an educational market-
place. With different intensities, affective regulation has become a strategic component
of a government that critically links the right ways to behave at homewith school
success. The state, acting as agent and guardian of morality fosters a specic kind of dis-
cipline and values as ideals to reach educational success. Government policies use affect in
© 2015 Taylor & Francis
CONTACT Claudia Matus
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such a way that by controlling and monitoring behaviors and peoples relations in the
spirit of upholding social security and managing educational risks feels like inevitable
ways of acting. Affect facilitates the circulation of naturalized and normative cultural
logics and ideological structures to shape desirable practices and feelings.
As has been noted by several authors (Buras, 2008; Cárcamo-Huechante, 2006; Duggan,
2003) cultural arrangements (such as the notion of nuclear family) facilitate the operations
of the market which require well dened identities and communities to function. In the
case of schools, the idea that school successis an effect of good-homesis taken for
granted. As conservative thinker Hirsch (1996) states: students from good-home
schools will always have an educational advantage over students from less-good home
schools(p. 43). As a result, ideas of cultural deciencyand less-good homesemphasize
imaginaries of cultural chaos and social disintegration, which should be prevented to
maintain an efcient and self-regulated market. The role of schools then is to foster par-
ticular moral and educational standards.
I present affect as a force that serves the production and regulation of students and
families through public, common, and obvious knowledge. As Seigworth and Gregg
(2010) note:
Affect is the name we give to those forces visceral forces beneath, alongside, or generally
other than conscious knowing, vital forces insisting beyond emotion that can serve to drive
us toward movement, toward thought and extension . (p. 1)
In the production of ideal students and families, affect is constituted by discourses and
practices of neoliberalism. As neoliberalism advances a new vision of national and world
order, it requires specic communities and subjectivities to be produced (Duggan, 2003;
Gabbard, 2008; Muehlebach, 2012). Therefore, neoliberalism is not a neutral economic
and cultural order; it imposes inevitable effects on institutions and peoples lives. Neoliber-
alism operates as a moral and ethical project that structures public notions of schooling
using a market-like system. It shifts funds, oversight, and accountability from government
to individuals or corporations, and emphasizes the production of specic moralities
(Berlant, 2004; Brown, 2005,2010; Duggan, 2003; Massey, 2005; Muehlebach, 2012;
Protevi, 2009). As Olsen (1996) describes the change from classical liberalism to neoliber-
alism, he notes, this shift
involves a change in subject position from homo economicus,who naturally behaves out
of self-interest and relatively detached from the state, to manipulable man,who is created by
the state and continually encouraged to be perpetually responsive. (p. 340)
In this new regulatory frame, cultural and social dispositions are necessary to produce a
docile subject to conform to market mandates.
The state uses affect as a way to produce specic orientations toward particular ends
and goals. For instance, the well-used popular notion that parents are the childsrst
teacherimplies that failing schools can be saved by the correct behavior of families.
Affect engages a particular way of regulating behaviors and, while narratives of punish-
ment are absent, affect valu[es] the small-scale, the ordinary, and the everyday(Ber-
berich, Campbell, & Hudson, 2013, p. 316). Therefore, the impact of affect on the
behavior of families to follow the state prescription for success needs to be exposed
and questioned.
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One particular government document shows how affect works in the context of edu-
cational policies in Chile: the Good Faith Contract for Families in Education (Mineduc,
2011b). I will analyze the document to show how affect produces and reinforces particular
meanings about the good student and the good family, how they relate to school success,
and how these specic images of social life are projected and valued as good. I argue that
affect is used to govern at a distance(Rose, 1999a). By analyzing this document, I show how
affect operates and promotes the invention of an array of technologies that connect up cal-
culations from political centers to thousands of micro-locales where conduct is shaped
(Rose, 1999a, p. xxi). Thus, affect is conceptualized as a force (Clough, 2007; Massumi,
2005; Seigworth & Gregg, 2010) that allows us to map ways of understanding bodies and
practices in relation to specic ideas about ways people ought to be and how they
should behave. It provides the basis for understanding students and their families by inscrib-
ing social and cultural regularities, using persuasion, education, and seduction rather than
coercion(Rose, 1996, p. 50). Affect, therefore, becomes an efcient way to direct subjects on
how to think about and how to act in relation to school purposes and practices.
Modes of inquiry
I present the Good Faith Contract for Families in Education (Mineduc, 2011b) produced by the
Ministry of Education in Chile as one exemplary document to show how affect connects to
specic regulations and, as a consequence, produces specic paths of behavior to follow.
In this document the use of affect fosters imaginations about the right way for students
and families to behave, to feel, and to live at home. It creates a recognized basis from
where bodies and actions can be sorted, justied, and penalized. I choose this document
because of its obviousness. This document is important because of the simple fact that it com-
municates and overcodes (Deleuze & Guattari,1987) whoever and whatever we can imagine.
I use discourse analysis to trouble common sense understandings of affect, notions of
family and students, and promises associated with goodand right behaviors. Here the
term discourseis not synonymous with the term text(Fairclough, 2012; Fairclough &
Fairclough, 2012; van Leeuwen, 2009; Wodak, 2012). Rather, is it through texts that dis-
courses travel and gain intensity. My interest is to uncover how normative ways to
think about students and families are discursively constituted and maintained in the pro-
duction of social and cultural meanings. My questions about the document are: What
social/cultural regularities are enacted in the subjectivities and practices produced by
the text? What do these regularities connect to? And if affect is used to regulate bodies
and meanings in policymaking, how does it become useful and recognizable?
To organize my analysis I rst present conceptualizations of affect; second, I locate and
describe the text to be analyzed; third, I show two particular sections of the document
where I discuss the production of families and their commitments, and the uses of
emotions to orient family goals; fourth, I analyze these two sections to reveal the critical
uses of affect to orient subjects to specic ends; and nally, I offer some conclusions.
Affect is a way of understanding specic imaginations and meanings about the good
student and the good family in relation to particular cultural and social dispositions
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toward school success and parental actions. Affect creates right and deviant bodies, and
valuable practices that conform to logics of accomplishment and accountability in schools
in such a way that these prescriptions seem natural and evident. In these ways, affect bears
a problematic neutrality.
Affect enables the analytical exercise of uncovering the operations of common sense in
the production of valuable subjects. As there is no single, generalizable theory of affect
(Seigworth & Gregg, 2010, p. 3), affect enters the social sciences and humanities to
provide multiple possibilities for theorization and analysis. As Seigworth and Gregg
(2010) have noted:
the concept of affecthas gradually accrued a sweeping assortment of philosophical/
psychological/physiological underpinnings, critical vocabularies, and ontological pathways,
and, thus, can be (and has been) turned toward all manner of political/pragmatic/performative
ends. (p. 5)
To dene affect, I draw on Massumis(2002, cited in Ducey, 2007) suggestion,
there are two levels at play in any event: that of intensity, a state of suspense, of potential
disruption; and that of semantics and semiotics, of language, narrative, and expectations.
These two levels resonate with one another; their vibrations are sometimes dissonant and
at other times harmonious. Affect is their point of emergenceand their vanishing point
where the vibrations between the levels either emerge as something actual or fade into
the virtual. Affect therefore shadows every event. It is the source of unexpected, of the unmo-
tivated, of surprise. (p. 192)
As part of the complexities to work with such a concept, there is an important distinc-
tion to make when referring to affect. Affect is most often used as a synonym for emotion.
But Massumi (2002) makes this distinction: affect follow[s] different logics and pertain[s] to
different orders(p. 27). This means that affect distances itself from psychological readings,
and dominant theories of signication. While emotion is readable and easy to grasp, affect
is disperse a pulse with no specic point of reference. As Massumi (2002) explains,
An emotion is a subjective content, the sociolinguistic xing of the quality of an experience
which forms that point onward dened as personal. Emotion is qualied intensity, the conven-
tional, consensual point of insertion of intensity into semantically and semiotically formed pro-
gressions, into narrativizable action-reaction circuits, into function and meaning. It is intensity
owned and recognized. (p. 28)
Affect tells about ways of knowing that are not delimited, pre-decided, or easily recog-
nized. Its failure to t into a prexed structure of meaning in comparison to emotion makes
affect an invisible force to enact life. For instance, to behave like a nuclear family and to
exhibit a high moral standard requires specic values (the traditional family, the moral
father) to live in desirable ways. Affect, in this case, acts as that force that makes specic
ideologies become desirable and unquestionable.
As Stewart (2007) comments,
At once abstract and concrete, ordinary affects are more directly compelling than ideologies,
as well as more fractious, multiplicitous, and unpredictable than symbolic meanings. They are
not the kind of analytic object that can be laid out on a single, static plane of analysis, and they
dont lend themselves to a perfect, three-tiered parallelism between analytic subject, concept,
and world. They are, instead, a problem or question emergent in disparate scenes and incom-
mensurate forms and registers; a tangle of potential connections. (p. 4)
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Affects are expressions performed as intensities and variations of social and cultural
worlds. Affect does not denote a personal feeling or particular way to react to any situ-
ation. As Massumi (1987) explains, It is a prepersonal intensity corresponding to the
passage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation
or diminution in that bodys capacity to act(p. xvi).
Thus, I wish to explore how affect makes cultural regularities and social orders
common and obvious when used in school policies. Affect travels and takes shape
through a complex web of relations, contingencies, and surfaces. Affect is something
that invisibly happens, seems to act as a force with no intelligible location, and pertains
to no one; this is common sense (Stewart, 2007). What interests me is to demonstrate
how the re-inscription of common sense through affect allows a spontaneous reproduc-
tion of culturally dominant discourses that normalizes bodies, relations, and practices of
recognition. This common sense simultaneously intensies specic ways of knowing and
rewarding particular social and cultural worlds. As expected, affect acts as an objective
measure of particular situations lived in particular contexts. More importantly, when
affect is used to generate specic social and cultural practices through policies, it con-
nects to other specic ends, such as the promise of the good life. Dening how affect
works requires reference to affective values [that] accrues to an image as it moves in
circulation(Wissinger, 2007, p. 239). Affect orients, stimulates, and incites bodies
toward specic actions.
It is important to note that I am not interested in how affect inuences specic policy
contexts. Instead, I focus on ways in which affect orients peoples desires toward particular
ends. How affect is used to create a particular kind of subject produced in specic discur-
sive webs of normative and dominant notions of good students and families is relevant
particularly when there are specic interests and motivations to address issues of commu-
nity life at schools.
Affect, then, becomes a convenient analytical tool to mobilize and make desirable
specic ideologies (for example, conservative ideas of families). My concern is that edu-
cational policies not only regulate, but also inuence and transmit specic cultural
orders. From this perspective, it is through policies understood as discourses that we
can make value judgments about those who are (and who are not) following the orien-
tations as great achievers, committed parents, etc. (Bacchi, 1999; Ball, 1994; Blackmore,
1995; Scheurich, 1994).
Tracing the location of the text
The document on which this analysis is based is part of a broad web of discourses and
practices that produce the need to regulate and control families, and consequently, stu-
dentsperformances in schools in Chile. Other documents include the law that regulates
school subsidies (Mineduc, 2011a), the manual that manages school communities
(Mineduc, 2013), and programs that provide indications for school integration and
inclusion (Mineduc, 2009), among others. I present these documents only to set up the
context and framing of the document for analysis. As these documents provide specic
ways to talk about students they connect discourses and practices in such a way that
they give impetus and authority to each other. They are usually prescriptive in that they
indicate ways to diagnose, solve, monitor, and prevent social problems in schools.
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Through these policies, deviant behaviors based on cultural valuations become recogniz-
able and part of the public life to be regulated by the state (Duggan, 2003).
For instance, discourses of the vulnerable student(Infante, Matus, Paulsen, Salazer, &
Vizcarra, 2013) portrayed in every policy document named above are particularly interest-
ing. As one example, the National Board of School Assistance and Scholarships uses a
survey submitted to every child in rst grade in every public and private school in Chile
to produce information about central topics for the construction of a base line [to
develop the vulnerability index](p. 1). To do this, the survey solicits a wide range of
specic information about schools regarding,
studentscharacteristics related to health issues, cognitive development, upbringing, and
other information that allow the characterization of central aspects of the family and physical,
and emotional context of the child. In addition, the survey requires information about parents
expectations and results of child school performance. (p. 1)
Vulnerability is formalized and legitimized as a system to understand family structures,
spatial organizations of the home, gender roles, mothering features, and parentsfeelings
and desires. This particular document uncritically denes specic subjectivities and social
These policy discourses successfully construct subjectivities at riskas a required con-
dition for subjects to be regulated. As a consequence, most public policies addressing
the problem of vulnerabilitytake the form of programs oriented to promote respectful
and tolerant environments in schools, to manage community life, to prevent youth preg-
nancy, to train normative sexualities and genders, etc. (Mineduc, 2014), or other policy
instruments that normalize and sanction behaviors that endanger images of schools as
safe spaces. These documents reproduce ideas of non-normative subjectivities as the
origin of the problemand as a consequence, in need of being regulated to build safer
schools. In many ways, these policies intend to solve problems by using regulatory and
monitoring systems that obscure biases in their proposals. As a result, they usually take
an instrumental way to frame social and cultural issues in contrast to any reection on
how constructions of vulnerability, race, social class, gender, sexuality, and the like,
might inform the problems which these policies are intended to solve.
In order to interrogate this way of framing social problems in educational policies I
analyze the Good Faith Contract for Families in Education (Mineduc, 2011b). It is an exem-
plar to demonstrate the ways affect can be used to advance notions of morality and per-
sonal responsibility within a neoliberal oriented government (Brown, 2010; Duggan, 2003;
Muelhlebach, 2012; Protevi, 2009). In this case, normative ideas of the good family and the
good student demand assimilation of certain subjectivities. These ideas of family and
student assemble specic contents in relation to affect in such a way that they are felt
and lived as truths. Affect, then, becomes the instrument through which a regulatory
screen (presented as specic concepts of behavior and emotion) is enacted.
Description of the text
In what follows I describe the text itself to provide a sense of the structure and language
used. The Good Faith Contract for Families in Education (Mineduc, 2011b) was a document
which was delivered to three million families (from primary to high school in private,
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funded, and public schools) during the rst semester of 2011 in Chile. It followed the
format of a contract (deliberately using lawas a coercive frame), and it required the sig-
nature of parents and students. Even though the document stated that the signature was
voluntary, in most schools it was [explicitly or implicitly] presented as mandatory. The con-
tract itself already contained the signatures of the Chilean President and the Minister of
Education. The school principal retained one copy of the contract signed by both
student and guardian and the other copy was sent to the Ministry of Education.
The document was organized into four sections. The rst section was a brief introduc-
tion presenting the purposes of the contract; the second part outlined ten commitments
that families were supposed to follow; the third section presented ten suggestions to
parents and guardians to support the student in his/her learning process; and the
fourth section provided details for the signing. The introduction of this document set
up the purpose of education as:
the result of the efforts of students, families, and schools. The combination of the efforts of
the student and school, and the commitment to mothers, fathers, and guardians is fundamen-
tal. Families and schools are partners to achieve the expected results. (p. 1)
The document presented called for greater parent involvement and better quality in
education. Later, in section four, the specics about the signing of the Contract asked
for signatures under the following clause:
We have read the commitments implied in the Good Faith Contract for Families in Education,
which, even thoughit does not endow legal responsibility, it establishes family duties and chan-
nels through which we can participate and collaborate in the education of our sons and daugh-
ters. We are satised to accomplish our duties, voluntarily and according to our possibilities. (p. 1)
The document was a reminder that families, daughters, and sons must exhibit good
behaviors. The assumption behind the promotion of good behaviorswas that they facili-
tated community life, and as a promising consequence, facilitated learning at schools.
Commitments presented in this document covered a wide range of spatial, temporal,
and relational dimensions of family life, from daily habits to instructions about the signi-
cant bonding relations inside the home. The explicit tasks required the family to promote
discipline by organizing, arranging, and monitoring family life in ways that created specic
personal interactions and were based on respect, obedience, and sharing.
In the following sections, I present the uses of affect to understand the productive
nature of the document for analysis. Then two specic sections, where directions for stu-
dents and families are provided. By presenting the analysis of the Good Faith Contract for
Families in Education, I do not intend to focus on the obvious meanings. Rather, I argue that
the document intended to create the desirable states and dreams to be reached. By ana-
lyzing these two sections and the ways they re-circulate productive ideas of families, stu-
dents behaviors, and the social and cultural frames to organize the good life, I present the
ways affect orients desires, dreams, and hopes of good behavior.
Producing families and their commitments
In section two of the document we see a list of behaviors, actions, and ways to feel about
what should happen in homes. This list is presented as a seriouseffort to helpfamilies to
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have a better engagement with school responsibilities and, as a desirable effect, to secure
learningat schools through good practicesat home. It orients parentsactions, denes
deviant behaviors, and re-positions particular cultural regularities as the right way to
The framing of the list is oriented to create the ideal subjectbased on notions of the
traditional family and reinforcing patriarchal social organization at home. For instance,
the assumption behind these ten commitments is that home is a space organized in
a very specic way, where adults are present to satisfy the students needs, to organize
the home, and monitor the students performance. The document presents the follow-
ing tips:
To organize, together with your son/daughter, an efcient schedule to nish homework. It
does not have to be too extensive so he/she can carry it out every day. If possible, provide
a permanent place to study. Set up a schedule for the student to sleep, eat, study, read and
participate in extracurricular activities (if your son or daughter is less than 10 years old, he/
she needs 10 hours of continuous sleep time during the night. If your son or daughter is an
adolescent he/she will need 8 hours of sleep during the night); to talk with your daughter
or son on daily basis, listening to what he/she says about his/her classes, classmates, and tea-
chers. Be attentive if one day he/she is sad or worried. (My translation, p. 1)
The document generalizes particular spatial organizations and legitimizes the child-
centered family as a site for the emotional investment and self-realization of citizens
(Rose, 1999a, p. 161). These gendered social arrangements of home facilitate the pro-
duction and justication of a specic image of a family structure that best serves the pur-
poses of government policies. These ways to organize home become strategic social and
cultural frames that link inseparably with other circuits best captured by the ideology of
neoliberalism. The expansion of neoliberalismsinuence occurs through the reiteration
of normative ideas of the ideal society, where family and the individual are the primary
entities (Gabbard, 2008). This conception of the public realm as organized around specic
identities (e.g. men, women, and families) in ways that maintain and preserve a specic
social and moral order to facilitate private interests.
The concept of family produced in this document is one of a desirable condition. It
becomes desirable as affect fabricates a particular awarenessof the good and bad
effects of not reproducing the norm. In this regard, Raymond Williams (cited in Rose,
1999a) argues that the image of the nuclear, bourgeois family were nineteenth-century
inventions. This way of organizing groups of people is constructed as the norm; it
serves specic ideological purposes that often do not encompass actual experiences
and realities (Peterson, 2007). In the document, the idea of family and the relations that
constitute an ideal familyfunction as a code, or register, intended to stigmatize those
placed beyond the norm by virtue of their inability to conform to this particular organiz-
ation of home life. Not to exhibit the expected characteristics presented in the document
(be present at home, organize and regulate space and time for the student, etc.) is con-
structed as a failure, which is a sign of something wrong in the emotional economy of
the family(Rose, 1999a, p. 159). In this way, the less-good familieswill be irremediably
oriented toward poverty, neglect, unhappiness, shame, disgrace, and all of the dispositions
that produce the unwanted subject and the non-useful citizen. Affect, then, acts as that
force that pushes subjects to follow these prescriptions as a promise of better states of
being and belonging(Seigworth & Gregg, 2010, p. 10).
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The good familywants to educate the good child; therefore the family needs to do the
good things to reach the goal of success. This way, mainstream, dominant, hegemonic
social and cultural dispositions become imagined as shared values and orientations that
organize life. That these commitments appear neutral relates to the ideology of the
normal subject of neoliberalism. As an effect, the production of failure to carethat can
be read from the simple fact that complaining about or resisting any of these commit-
ments locates families as deviant.
The document instills assimilation using discourses of good behaviorlimited to the
reorganization of family life. Not only does it overlook the many other ways that biases
play out in these social constructions, it suggests that the problem ultimately arises from
the students and families themselves. There would be no problems related to academic
achievement, or behavior which promotes a healthy community, if students themselves
were not violent or different in other unacceptable ways. As the document establishes
the management of the self through affect, it seeks to minimize poor discipline
through the organization of family life. Essentially systems of truth about the good
studentand the good familyare established. The document presents efciency,
responsibility, attentiveness, and dedication as forces that connect to specic actions
that will lead to appropriate social and cultural ends. This produces a mechanism of
control that uses affect [as] a valuable resource in the shifting economy(Ducey,
2007, p. 192).
Instead of addressing complex issues, the document instills notions of resilience, a par-
ticular idea of agency, and self-advocacy among families and students. Certainly, regulat-
ory frames of being and behaving promote and require other forms of monitoring. The
recognition that the circuit of obedience, attentiveness, and accomplishment intersects
with and reinforces other circuits is critical to trouble the effects of living under already
given social and cultural frames. Affect is what prompts us to look to traditional values
and normative ways to organize life as the desirable end through which we dene who
we are and the circumstances in which we do not follow these ideals.
Uses of emotions to orient family goals
As the second section of the document focuses on regulating ideas of families, parents,
and values to organize life as desirable, the third section uses emotions to connect and
reinforce previous tasks to be accomplished. For instance, the document suggests that
parents should communicate how proud they are because the child/teenager attends
school, is being a role model, is promoting a healthy life style, etc. The document
To communicate as many times as necessary to your son/daughter how proud you are as a
family that he/she attends school; To believe profoundly in your son/daughters capacities
and explain to him/her that he/she will accomplish important goals if he/she studies; Not
everything we learn comes from school. Responsibility is also learned from you [parents or
guardians] being a role model; To satisfy your son/daughters needs [provide] appropriate
food, hygiene practices, time to rest, and emotional support; To talk and motivate the devel-
opment of habits to promote healthy life and the performing of sports [is] a way to keep him/
her away from ghts, drugs, and alcohol abuse; To promote respect for all the members of the
school community and to instill the importance of accomplishing established school norms,
showing respect, particularly to the school principal and teachers. (My translation, p. 2)
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The use of emotions as expressions of individual responsibility instills the belief that life
is a project to be accomplished. To be proud, condent, motivated, hopeful, and loving,
are presented as the good ways to relate to school, and in doing so, these emotions reori-
ent family practices and meanings to being good, desirable, and expected. To instrumen-
talize affect through emotions allows the reorientation of individual desire toward a
common good(Ahmed, 2010, p. 59).
To understand the workings of affect in relation to emotions can be read as follows: to
be proud, condent, motivated, hopeful, and loving have specicities and particularities
that lead to decisive actions and ways to behave by families and students. In the
opening of the emotional realm in educational policies, as the liberal thought of
Goleman (1995) suggests, groups and organizations become more intelligent and success-
ful. On the contrary, other more progressive theorists (Berlant, 2004; Brown, 2010;
Gabbard, 2008; Rose, 1999b) see the usage of the emotional realm as an aspect of the
regulation of subjects of neoliberalism that relies on emotions being central to achieve
specic public goals. That families act using these feelings to fulll the goal of behaving
as desirable familiesis an expected response arising from ordinary emotions. Emotions
operate as a path to follow, thus creating logics for families to reach a desirable end
(Ahmed, 2010). The creation of strict and particular relations between emotions and
social expectations are established as an obvious mechanism to accomplish success.
Once this relationship is achieved and embedded in peoples bodies, justications for
compensatory practices are reied. As Seigworth and Gregg (2010) note, affect then is
that previous force that pushes a specic emotion to the surface. They state that affect
arises in the midst of in between-ness: in the capacities to act and be acted upon(p. 1).
As expected, affect operates at different levels: affect makes us feel, write, think, and
act in [particular] ways(Seigworth & Gregg, 2010, p. 14).
Stating that well-behaved families or the right familymakes people better at school is
a way to secure the correspondence between specic practices, desires, and moralities. By
stating how good behavioris produced, the identity of the person who is entitled to
success is a problematic consequence. As Ahmed (2010) points out, for life to count as
a good life, it must take on the direction promised as a social good, which means imagin-
ing ones futurity in terms of reaching certain points along a life course(p. 71).
Emotions presented in this document create ways to understand school communities
in terms of who belongs and who does not. They become an integral part of the regulatory
system. As Grossberg (2010) notes, emotion is the articulation of affect and ideology.
Emotion is the ideological attempt to make sense of some affective productions
(p. 316). The emotions presented in this document cannot act by themselves. Rather,
they are pushed to the surface by affective forces, which are not possible to represent
by other means. They both create and incite the desire to follow the promise of the
good life at home. These pre-established forces that impulse people to act on specic
emotions produce trajectories of meanings and practices that inform institutions and
their agendas. In this document, commodifying affect through emotions is a way to
secure unitary ways of thinking about the proper images of family. As Ahmed (2010)
suggests, emotions act as scripts from which to fabricate particular truths about ways to
relate, in this case, to learning and school authority.
Analyzing this document provides possibilities for understanding how affect is pro-
duced and spread through networks that make people act in certain ways, and which
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are always effective in multiple and complex modes. Affect, as acting through emotions,
always uses existing and recognized social and cultural frames (e.g. notions of traditional
family), and therefore, cannot be separated from the articulations of peoples realities and
relations of power (Ahmed, 2004; Berlant, 2004; Sedgwick, 2003).
Final thoughts
Paying attention to discourses in this document, it is evident that good conductis con-
structed as an imperative to reach other desirable stages in life. It could be argued that
studentsperformance at school is hampered by the psycho-pedagogical characteristics
of the student. Further, it is also evident that the right way to behave and feel at home
relates to educational performance and it has become a dimension of student life to be
regulated. This occurs through the regulation and adjustment of temporal, spatial, and
interpersonal relations at home according to a biased and a non-critical understanding
of the social and cultural production of the student and family. Social problems, such as
delinquency, bullying, violence, dropouts, unsuccessful academic experiences at school,
are all connected to incorrect caring practices of young people within the family, careless
parental behavior, and non-conventional domestic practices. The representations of the
right family, the right parent, the right student, the right emotional/behavioral individual
are subject to the normative scrutiny of expertise. This makes it possible for government to
tutorthe ways lives are conducted in order to promote the social and cultural conditions
for school harmony; ideal home spaces; and civilizedrelationships between parents, insti-
tutions, and knowledge. The state effectively is sitting in familiesliving rooms dictating
how to behave, and which instructions will provide the best upbringing. For the state,
this is a way to foster normative construction of the bourgeois, patriarchal family while
producing effects of unitary, easy to recognize structures to regulate imaginations
about a good society.
In many ways the document polices the morality of families and organizes private
spaces for particular uses. In this regard, home is converted into a place of moralization,
where potential misplaced behaviors are named, recognized, dened, and constituted
as such. As a consequence, the family is constructed as an important place for the inculca-
tion of good behaviorand morality; it is assumed that there are sets of learned habits that
shape the character of the child or young person. Such habits should be learned at home
and from the exemplary life of the adults in the home.
This document assumes that there is an inadequate relation between students and
parents, so the objective is to equip parents with the appropriate skills and intuitions to
cope with the complexities of rearing a child or young person in this society. This is a
way to govern the family to become an educative institution that promotes good
values, conducts, and specic skills of citizenship. By signing this contract, the idea is
that families commit themselves to believe and accept the truth that it is its own respon-
sibilityto be in charge of behavioral problems that may arise with their sons and
What matters here are the ways of producing a web of signicant practices through
affect, and how living a good life at home connects to learning at school. The uses of
feeling loving, proud, condent, motivated, as valued emotions link the misbehaving
child or young person at hometo the non-successful student at schoolas well as
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those others who come to be seen as threatening to community life in school. As such, the
promotion of obedience, respect, motivation, hopefulness, and differentiates bodies. Prac-
tical ways of conducting life inside home are ways to understand and respond to pro-
blems, aspirations, meritocratic practices, achievements, and frustrations. They work as
techniques of authority that will shape the textures of intimate life and will regulate
bodies and relationships. The display of commitments expressed in the Good Faith Con-
tract for Families in Education provides the context to understand the workings of different
mentalities and practices in the exercise of power.
To produce families and schools as safe and productive places through the use of affect
requires the regulation of ambiguous identities, ways of being, which are often directly in
opposition to dominant ideological structures. Therefore, those who do not observe these
dominant logics of families and parenthood must navigate everyday affective spaces and
practices that cultivate the status quo in understanding that their bodies are the focus of
regulation and monitoring. I argue that this manipulation of affect is a ritualized, non-
visible form of control which requires the embodiment of prevailing cultural orders. As
such, affect is crucial to understanding personal justication for failure and acceptance
of conservative values, as natural components for school success or failure. These values
are inherent in the educational policies. They help our critical analysis of ways in which
school purposes are being transformed to serve the markets requirements for specic
Disclosure statement
The ideas expressed are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reect those of
the Commission.
The writing of this article was supported by CONICYT (Chilean National Commission of Scientic and
Technological Research), Proyecto Anillos en Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades [SOC 1103], and Nor-
malidad, Diferencia y Educación (
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Edgeworkbrings together seven of Wendy Brown's most provocative recent essays in political and cultural theory. They range from explorations of politics post-9/11 to critical reflections on the academic norms governing feminist studies and political theory.Edgeworkis also concerned with the intellectual and political value of critique itself. It renders contemporary the ancient jurisprudential meaning of critique as krisis, in which a tear in the fabric of justice becomes the occasion of a public sifting or thoughtfulness, the development of criteria for judgment, and the inauguration of political renewal or restoration. Each essay probes a contemporary problem--the charge of being unpatriotic for dissenting from U.S. foreign policy, the erosion of liberal democracy by neoliberal political rationality, feminism's loss of a revolutionary horizon--and seeks to grasp the intellectual impasse the problem signals as well as the political incitement it may harbor.
This essay examines, in Ben Highmore’s words, the implications of “a materialist turn towards the immaterial, towards affect, towards thinglyness, the senses” and how this might be determined by “the social world that produced them.” In viewing the “social,” or “sociocultural,” as always affective, and in viewing the significance of landscape in terms of how people define themselves and their relations to the world, this essay explores affect’s key role in countering entrenched, predefined systems of thought and feeling and its potential for, in Jacques Rancière’s terms, “redistributing the sensible.”