GSE Publications

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

January 2005


The modern school has been a critical site for imagining possible publics and publicly-defining national purposes. Public education is presumed to provide a collective good to "a public"—"a public" of which the discourse about educational purposes conjures and addresses. Yet the imagined publics and purposes of education have varied considerably at different historic junctures. These variations have been shaped in part by the rise and fall in prominence of two contrasting political horizons and the quite distinctive roles they have envisioned for the state and the market. The first, articulated in classic form by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations, privileges the role of the free market, arguing that state efforts to promote the social good are ineffectual compared to unbridled market forces. The second stresses the state's central role in protecting its citizens from the vicissitudes of the market by insuring social security and increased well-being.


Postprint version. Published in Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, Volume 12, Issue 1, Winter 2005, pages 153-182. Publisher URL:



Date Posted: 20 June 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.