The paper examines the argument that the contradictions of performativity provide the context in which new forms of professionalism can develop. English further education is used to explore these questions. The paper addresses four issues. It seeks to locate the discussion within the period immediately following the incorporation of colleges of further education in 1993, when colleges of further education were removed from local authority control and placed under aegis of the Further Education Funding Council. This is followed by an examination of changes to the management regime following incorporation. It considers suggestions that bullying forms of management have been superseded and that there has been some feminization of senior management. This discussion is set alongside one addressing the socio-economic context as well as hegemonic understandings of the economy. The final part of the paper examines claims made for the development of an 'activist' or transformative professionalism. However the key difficulty with these potentially progressive arguments is that analyses operate at the level of ideology accepting the way in which the knowledge economy is constructed thereby failing to seriously consider and work through the patterns of antagonistic relations that exist within capitalism. In a similar manner they play down education as site of struggle. Whilst the paper is orientated towards English further education the argument has a wider purchase, applying to education in particular and the welfare state in general.