This paper explores the policy contextualization of teaching and learning within post-compulsory education and lifelong learning (PCET) in England and aims to locate PCET in a range of arguments that frame discussion. These arguments are necessarily discursive in that whilst they bear some relation to socio-economic conditions they move beyond these to construct an understanding of the nature of society, the economy and education. The paper critically examines globalization, reflexive modernization and its links with third way politics. It concludes by exploring debates concerning pedagogic practice and the organization of waged labour. It argues that the progressive nature of this pedagogic discourse is compromised by its acceptance of capitalist relations. Nevertheless space for intervention remains building upon the democratic concerns of reflexive modernization as well as the contradictions of a consensual capitalism that claims to offer social justice.