Since the 1990s, governments of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have begun to promote their foreign aid politics domestically via global education. This policy remit has its origins in civil society and has been combined with a stated aim on the part of governments to prepare populations for globalisation, but also to convince populations of the need for increased aid spending in the context of various challenges, including calls for aid effectiveness, large-scale protest by the metropolitan left and rising parochialisms that diminish cosmopolitan world views. In the context of the apparent spontaneity of political mobilisation globally, this article seeks to qualify the optimism of the political sociology and social movements literature on the network society by comparing two OECD government remits for global/development education in the UK and Australia, which are attempts to manage or socially engineer civic activism and engagement. The problem which this article addresses is that, on the face of it, state funding of ‘global education’ appears to be a success of the activism of educators combined with the networked advocacy efforts of development non-governmental organisations, except that it has occurred in tension with international drivers to use education to further global economic competitiveness and governments' desire to promote their own foreign aid spending in a climate of falling legitimacy. This phenomenon of state funding for global education might be considered an elaboration of network politics, but this article argues that it must equally be read, via Gramsci, as a hegemonic contest in the struggle for subject production appropriate to the global knowledge economy.
The article is available on the Taylor & Francis Online website.