How Can It Be? Nietzsche, the Radical Water Practice of a Looked After Child, and the Established Order of the School

Paul Moran


The death of God, announced by Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil (1886/2001), and in his earlier works, has been hailed as a revolutionary turning point, at least in philosophical terms. Nietzsche’s critique of metaphysics tears apart, for example, as lived experiences, assumptions dividing the very corporeality of our individual and social being from the systems of knowledge and expectations, and of how and where we live from the construction and meaning of our individual and collective identities (Woodward, 2013). And yet there are circumstances—perhaps this is mostly so when living outside an established order from which you derive your meaning—that render your status, your future, your security profoundly disturbing, with no point of remittance. In such circumstances—and these are the circumstances today most obviously of the refugee, the dispossessed, and the poor—the future is only tenable by being able to belong to whatever established order is necessary. Having the requisite skills, appearance, and mode of being to secure a job and somewhere to live are not very mysterious but necessary indications that being part of any such order has been effected. This paper explores these points in relation to an ethnographic study, conducted over one year, of looked after children,  focussing on one child in her reception year at her local mainstream primary school. More generally, this serves as an illustration of how schools necessarily do the work of the symbolic order.



Educational alternatives; progressive education; alternative education; difference; educational theory; educational philosophy; home education; education policy

Full Text:

Click here for PDF


Agamben, G. (2003) Homo Sacer: Sovereign power and bare life. D. Heller-Roanzen (Trans.). Stanford University Press. Originally published 1998.

Belau, L. (2001). Trauma and the material signifier. Postmodern Culture, 11(2). Retrievable from:

Bowlby, J. (1997). Attachment: Vol 1 of attachment & loss trilogy. London: Routledge.

Chaffin, M., Hanson, R., Saunders, B.E., Nichols, T., Barnett, D., Zeanah, C,...Miller-Perrin, C. (2006). Report of the APSAC task force on attachment therapy, reactive attachment disorder, and attachment problems. Child Maltreatment, 11, 76-89.

Deleuze, G. (2006). Nietzsche and philosophy. The Athlone Press: London. Originally published 1962.

DfE. (2014). Reports: Data collection and statistical returns, Schools, colleges and children's services and Looked-after children, London: Gov. UK.

Hillen, T. & Wright, H. (2015). Clinical work with people affected by public care or adoption. BJPsych Advances, 21(4) 261-272.

Moss, J. (Ed.). (1998). The later Foucault: Politics and philosophy. London: Sage.

Nietzsche, F. (2001). Beyond good and evil. J. Norman (Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Originally published 1886.

Nietzsche, F. (2001). The gay science. B. Williams (Ed.), J. Nauckhoff & A. Del Caro (Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Originally published 1887.

Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. (2012). Looked after children: Knowledge, skills and competences of healthcare staff. Retrievable from:

Sowah, L. (2015). What is the true meaning of Giorgio Agamben’s Bare Life/ Homo Sacer? Unpublished manuscript. Retrievable from:

Woodward, A. (2013). Deleuze, Nietzsche, and the overcoming of nihilism. Continental Philosophy Review, 1, 115-147 to be different...

Other Education works in association with the following partners:

and is sponsored by the silence and mindfulness App Calm Me Down

Please see copyright notice at the end of each published work for specifics.

ISSN: 2049-2162 © Other Business Ltd, 2012-2017. Other Education™ is a not-for-profit trading entity of Other Business Ltd whose registered office is: Bernard Rogers Accounting, Bank Gallery, High Street, Kenilworth. Registered in England: 08567212