This article critically examines discourses of education policy and work skills in twenty-first century Japan. Conducting a close analysis of texts produced by the Ministry of Education (MEXT) and the Japan Business Federation, it combines analytical constructs from the Discourse Theory of Laclau and Mouffe with those from Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to identify two distinct discourses currently engaged in a struggle for hegemony: a discourse of individual-centered neoliberalism and a discourse of group-centered moral conservatism. This struggle can be described at the level of key signifiers, whose meanings are tacitly contested by the two discourses. In employing these antagonistic discourses within single texts and even single clauses, policymakers produce a hybridized but ultimately incoherent discourse that attempts to uphold the prevailing social order by harnessing the individuality of Japanese citizens into a vision of patriotism and national solidarity.
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