National service legislation in the early 1990s allowed for the institutionalization of civic engagement programs in U.S. higher education. While these programs are often celebrated for promoting civic and democratic engagement among college students, the broader political, social, and economic context for why the legislation progressed is often ignored. Utilizing historical discourse analysis with national service proposals and associated congressional documents from 1989 to 1993, we examine policy makers' rhetoric to 1) highlight their rationales for national service and 2) illustrate who and what they posit that national service is for. Through this investigation, we argue that political leaders used service and the amelioration of social problems as a way of instituting neoliberal logics, both in terms of economics (e.g., defunding social programs, thereby shifting civic and social responsibility to individuals and communities) and governance (e.g., through social control). We further contend that the mechanism of civic engagement has been one way that higher education has motivated youth to perform ideas and behaviors that align with the state, thereby further enabling neoliberalism's advancement.
Keywords: historical discourse analysis, governance, neoliberalism, civic engagement, higher education
How to Cite:
Rost-Banik, C. & Perrotti, C., (2021) “Shaping Service Initiatives through Neoliberal Economics and Governance: An Analysis of Policy Makers’ Rhetoric”, Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis 10(2). doi: https://doi.org/10.31274/jctp.11614