Fast Childcare in Public Preschools presents an ethnographic examination of the implementation of fast-policy management models and the efforts of teachers to use these to improve their work organization, and the frictions this brings. Using examples from Swedish public preschools, the book focuses on essential areas of the Lean management model in particular, bringing to life concepts relating to the care and education of children. The book draws on international childcare policy and public reforms, exploring the assignments that preschools are set and argues that separating the pedagogical and the organizational as suggested by proponents of management models is not possible.
This book considers Jamie Peck and Nik Theodore’s work on ‘fast policy’ and ‘model power’ and analyzes the tensions between the easy-to-use and difficult-to-use in management models. The model form of Lean’s management model rendered it difficult to align with existing childcare policy, pedagogical models, and the organization of a preschool. The book explores the utopian dimension of a modern project in pursuit of efficiency and speed in relation to the Lean model and the preschool teachers’ work, by asking, ‘what are the wider societal implications of the Lean project in preschools?’
Fast Childcare in Public Preschools will be of great interest to cultural anthropologists, qualitative sociologists and political scientists, and organizational researchers interested in the anthropology of policy.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Introduction
The Lean Management Model in Preschools
Chapter 2 Words
The Policy Words of Preschools and Management Models
Chapter 3 Meetings
Lean Meetings and Preschool Circle Time
Chapter 4 Colour
Colours at Work in Play and in Management
Chapter 5 Flow
Eliminating Waste along the Assembly Line
Chapter 6 Plan
Hoping for an Efficient Future
Chapter 7 Conclusion
The Utopia of Efficiency
Renita Thedvall is Associate Professor in Social Anthropology at Stockholm University, Sweden. Her research is based in the field of policy and organizational anthropology, with special focus on the anthropology of bureaucracy and the state. She has explored these issues in various field sites from the EU to preschools. She has a particular interest in meetings, a topic she has investigated together with Jen Sandler through an edited volume, Meeting Ethnography (2017, Routledge).
"Policymakers typically argue that budgetary constraints and rising staff costs can be solved by introducing measures that render the workforce leaner and more efficient. Even Sweden, with its proud welfare state tradition, is now experimenting with neoliberal models for banishing waste and increasing productivity. Renita Thedvall has written a poignant ethnographic analysis of how the ‘Lean Management Model’ developed in the automobile industry was introduced into Swedish preschools, how teachers experienced it and its unanticipated effects.
Fast Childcare is a fascinating study of policy travel and translation that will be of particular interest to anthropologists, educationalists and organisational theorists. It makes a valuable contribution to both the anthropology of policy and the ethnography of organisations."
Cris Shore, Professor of Social Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London.
"What happens when a management model designed to increase efficiency, eliminate waste and improve the flow of automotive assembly lines is applied to the organization and operation of preschools? Fast Childcare in Public Preschools is a fascinating ethnographic account of the fast-policy model known as Lean and how it was “bolted” onto the work processes of caring for and educating children in Swedish public preschools. Thanks to the rigor and insight that Renita Thedvall brings to her analysis of this issue we understand why many public organizations are attracted to “transportable” management models like Lean and we also learn why this model was particularly appealing to both management and teachers in many Swedish childcare settings. Thanks to the richness of her ethnography we see why efforts to integrate this model with the everyday practices of preschool teachers produced the numerous tensions and strains she documents between “the easy to use and the difficult to use” characteristics of Lean as a model for organizational reform. This exciting book is written in an engaging and accessible style that will make it a valuable teaching and research resource for students, scholars and practitioners from a range of disciplines including anthropology, education, psychology, organizational studies and public policy."
Helen B. Schwartzman, Professor Emerita of Anthropology, Northwestern University.
"Thedvall’s Fast Childcare will surprise and enlighten you at every turn. In it, she uncovers the seemingly absurd migration of the "Lean" management theory from the automobile industry to the educational sector. With a sharp ethnographic eye, she carefully details how ideas born on a factory floor somehow manage to gain traction on the playroom floor. By charting how the Lean model aimed to colonize older models of childcare, Thedvall reveals how managerial efforts and pedagogical ones can bleed into one another, with children getting lost in the shuffle."
Gustav Peebles, Associate Professor of Anthropology, The New School, New York, USA