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The paper aims to explore how head teachers and other education service leaders and their teams have been experiencing shifts in their identities during the last decade of education cuts in Catalonia (Spain), and the possible effects during the current COVID-19 crisis on educational leaders. Our exploratory hypothesis covers the crisis years (2008–2015) and on into the non-recovery years (2015–2020) until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. During these years, through what Ball (2008) describes as a “ratchet effect,” education cuts and their everyday effects in schools produced learned helplessness (LH) in head teachers and leaders. Theoretically, we propose to examine this malaise from a political angle, seeing it as a disciplinary technology to transform education leaders’ identity and practices. To corroborate this, we conducted four interviews with head teachers of different public primary, secondary, and special education schools, and a psychopedagogical service leader in the same semi-rural area in Catalonia. The exploratory results show that the incremental and selective cuts soon became a new normal and created feelings of (political) learned helplessness that may be seen not as negative side effects but as a disciplinary technology that reshaped leaders’ subjectivity. At the same time, education leaders carried out some (ir)responsible practices of resistance that can be understood as care of the self and others. More research needs to be done with different agents to capture the complexity and ambiguity of cuts and LH as a political phenomenon.
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