The (in)credible fiscal prize: A critical examination of the discourse of evidence in early childhood intervention
(2021) Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood
In playing with the concept of ‘credibility’, this article presents a critical examination of the discourse of evidence and the programming of upbringing in early intervention policy and practice. The truth claims of the evidence discourse in policy are explored through a single complex case study of an early intervention city in Northern Ireland. The framework for the study discussed uses Bourdieu’s thinking tools of habitus, capital and field alongside Foucauldian discourse analysis to explore the ways in which early intervention policy and practice impact on children, parents and communities. A key question is to consider how evidence is constructed within the discourse and how this can be considered as a Foucauldian regime of truth. Building from the emerging body of critique around scientism and parenting, the study extends this through a sociopolitical lens to the Northern Ireland context. Despite a strong tradition in Northern Ireland of community-based activism and political transition from direct rule to devolution, early intervention policy and programming have tended towards direct read across from Britain and the USA. The study documents that community-based practice struggles within the policy field for recognition, yet ‘home grown’ carries significant social capital within and across communities. The dominant policy discourse of the (in)credible ‘fiscal prize’, transformation through evidence-based interventions contrasts with the backdrop of worsening child poverty in communities. Contrary to the truth claims, this suggests the reproduction rather than transformation of social disadvantage. © The Author(s) 2021.
Bourdieu; discourse; early intervention; evidence; Foucault