For sociologists, the question is: how do we explain that social reproduction is happening, to the extent that it is? And what is the role of schools in that social reproduction?
Sociologists’ explanations for how social reproduction happens through schools Marxist explanations: economic determinism Cultural and linguistic capital Resistance
Two Important Terms AGENCY: an individual’s ability to act or choose STRUCTURE: the way that political and economic power affect opportunity, in stable and enduring ways
Marxist Explanations the structure and differentiation of the capitalist economy takes precedence over human action or agency capitalism requires people to take on different work roles (and thus different sets of skills, knowledge, and dispositions) which are valued differently (receive different levels of wages) a reserve labor force (both skilled and unskilled) keeps wages low (for capitalists’ profit)
Marxist Explanations: What is the role of schools? Bowles and Gintis (1976) say that schools are training young people for their future economic and occupational position according to their current social class position students of working-class origin are trained to take orders, to be obedient, and are subject to more discipline children of professionals are trained using more progressive methods, which gives them internal discipline and self-presentation skills These children therefore need to be sorted into different tracks or schools for the purposes of instruction.
Other terms for Marxist approaches “deterministic”: people have no choice because their futures are determined for them by the economic structure and their position within it “structural”: the economic structure will end up reproducing itself, whatever people do “materialist”: a focus on material/economic conditions; the economic and occupational structure is paramount in this explanation
Cultural and Linguistic Capital Income and wealth are forms of economic capital Cultural capital is what is valued socially or culturally (by society as a whole? By those in power?) that can be transformed into status, power, or economic capital Each class has its own cultural background, knowledge, dispositions, and tastes that are transmitted through the family (Bourdieu 1984) This is called the habitus to signal its deep routinization, naturalness, and embedding within a person’s body, language, and tastes
Cultural and Linguistic Capital: The Role of Schools The cultural capital of the dominant group in society (holding the most power and wealth) becomes the knowledge that is most valued in schools To possess that cultural capital means one is considered educated or smart or talented (i.e., having merit) The acquisition of that cultural capital occurs invisibly and naturally
Cultural and Linguistic Capital cultural capital good academic performance economic capital high educational credentials
Cultural and Linguistic Capital: The Role of Schools In other words, schools look like they are neutral in evaluating students, but because the knowledge and dispositions they value correspond to the cultural capital of the dominant group, students from that class perform better in schools. Schools require cultural resources with which only some students are endowed. Schools therefore legitimate social reproduction.
The story so far..... the primacy of the economic structure the primacy of the cultural (which regulates the interaction of structure and agency through the notion of habitus)
Resistance Theory student resistance to school is a political response to oppression and limited life chances Students do not believe that a high school diploma is going to help them do well this theory thus highlights agency: people are able to act, interpret, and have some power in their lives in response to structures
Paul Willis, Learning to Labor: How Working-Class Kids Get Working-Class Jobs (1977) earoles (conformists) and lads (non- conformists), all working-class The lads develop a subculture in opposition to the values of the dominant society, based on machismo and racism education was associated with feminine qualities (Willis, 1977, p. 104) factory work became a place of masculinity, respect, and pay
Willis, continued Factory work initially positive Yet four or five years later, the lads felt locked into factory work and into this type of life (Willis, 1977, p. 112) Ironically, through their resistance to school, they “chose” their class position and reproduced the social structure
Questions regarding Willis’s work for today’s economy How does the change from an industrial economy and factory jobs to a consumer economy and service sector jobs affect working-class young people’s choices and options? How does social reproduction happen for working-class young women? through resistance or some other mechanism?
Which theory makes the most sense to you in explaining why social reproduction happens? Explain your reasons why.
Andy Blevins Economic determinism? Cultural and linguistic capital? Resistance? Other factors not accounted for by these theories?