Relationships with Theory 3 – Prof. Maggie MacLure

For our third instalment of ‘Relationships with Theory’ (read the explanation and read the first one here and second one here) we take another look at how an academic has come to use particular theories and how they understand these decisions.

This time it’s the turn of Prof. Maggie MacLure:

My comments aren’t so much about why I’ve chosen a particular theory/theorist – though my current influence is Deleuze – but more about why theory is important. I’ve already written about this, so my response is to blatantly quote myself:

“[T]he value of theory lies in its power to get in the way: to offend and interrupt. We need theory to block the reproduction of the bleeding obvious, and thereby, hopefully, open new possibilities for thinking and doing […] Theory stops us from forgetting, then, that the world is not laid out in plain view before our eyes, or coyly disposed to yield its secrets to our penetrating analyses. It stops us from thinking that things speak for themselves – ‘the data’, ‘practice’, the pure voice of the previously silenced. It blocks our fantasies about the legibility of others – the idea that we can read other people’s minds or motives. It stops us from forcing ‘the subjects’ out into the open where anyone and no-one can see them […] This is a political as well as a methodological imperative. Theory is needed to interrupt the specious clarity demanded and enforced by audit cultures, whose workings could be summarized as the bureaucratic administration of banality (MacLure 2005) […]

This kind of theory doesn’t aspire to generalisation, abstraction or the condensation of complexity into categories or themes. It doesn’t ‘slide home like a bolt’, as Nigel Thrift puts it, locking its objects into the confined space of its explanations. The kind of theory I have in mind defamiliarises, complicates, obstructs, perverts, proliferates. It is the sort of theory that goes under such names as poststructuralism, postmodernism, or deconstruction […] Often capitalised as “Theory”, and frequently placed in scare quotes, it has always been offensive.”

From MacLure, M. (2010) “The offence of theory”. Journal of Education Policy, 25, 2: 277-286  online here



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