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This paper traces developments across Stephen J. Ball’s policy sociology in education oeuvre and considers their implications for doing research on education policy today. It begins with an account of his policy sociology trilogy from the 1990s, which outlined his conception of the policy cycle consisting of the contexts of influence, text production and policy practice. It then considers the emergence of a strengthening focus on the global in Ball’s work, noting the significance of the 1998 paper, ‘Big policies/small world’, which demonstrated how policy problems and solutions circulate through global discourses, but are always recontextualized within national policies and practices. Next, the paper reflects on two recent books: Global Education Inc and Networks, New Governance and Education. The former is concerned with the rescaling of the contexts of policy and the enhanced significance of both international organizations and global edu-business in the education policy cycle and the implications for doing policy analysis. The latter employs a network ethnography approach and provides an account of the new network governance in education: the rise of heterarchies, a melange of bureaucracy, markets and networks. The paper concludes by suggesting this account is indicative of the topological turn in culture and social theory. The conclusion gestures towards the implications of this for the policy cycle conception and for doing education policy analysis today, suggesting that Ball’s recent work provides the scaffolds of such an approach.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access