READING GUIDE TO: Bourdieu, P.  and Passeron, J – C (1990) Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture,  2nd edition, London: Sage Publications.

by Dave Harris

Preface to the second edition

Bourdieu says that the points made here are clearly linked with his other work such as Distinction, Academic Discourse, the Inheritors, and Outline of a Theory of Practice.  However, his notion of reproduction has been distorted and simplified, and the empirical work ignored.  There is no mechanical reproduction, but rather a process of transformation and resistance.  It would be wrong to see his work as Althusserian—he has done empirical work on classroom interaction, for example [unfortunately, a very obscure reference for this—McCallum, D, and Ozolins, U.  (eds) (1980) Melbourne Working Papers, University of Melbourne: University of Melbourne Press—I am on its trail. I think it might be this].  This work might look like ethnomethodology, in fact, rather similar to Cicourel [possibly the one about how decisions are made about bad behaviour and juvenile justice when school rules are actually put into practice?].  Classrooms involve negotiating a ‘minimal working definition of the situation of communication’ (ix).  It is a model showing how the transmission of cultural capital goes on behind the backs of the participants and sometimes against their will, and how ‘differences in inherited cultural capital…  [are stamped]…  with the meritocratic seal of academic consecration…  [via a]…  credential’ ( ix-x).  Schools legitimate the exclusions and inclusions that make up the social order, and can produce the State Nobility.  Credentials take the place of feudal titles.  They are not just a record of skills, but reflect ‘social essence’ (x).  Schools both reproduce and conceal this process.  Bourdieu cites later American work on American elitism showing how even their credentials are also linked to cultural capital.

Foreword (Tom Bottomore]

For Bourdieu, there is a close connection between theory and empirical research on this topic.  Reproduction is about the symbolic power of power relations, and their legitimacy.  Pedagogy involves imposing a ‘cultural arbitrary’, a cultural scheme that looks natural but is really based on power.  Pedagogic action involves more than just what schools do [the family in particular is discussed below].  How pedagogic action works can be spelled out to give a series of testable propositions, especially through actual interaction in universities.  This implies complexity of class relations, especially given changes in the composition of classes and the activities of counter cultures.

Forward to the French edition [the authors]

Sociological language contains ideological overtones.  It is necessary to avoid a moralistic reading especially.  These problems arise when using terms such as violence or arbitrariness.  We must also avoid excessive philosophical speculation too.  The notion of a cultural arbitrary means that culture  ‘cannot be deduced from any principle’ (xx), meaning we must look for its social conditions and role.  It is also necessary that the arbitrary origin is misrecognised, and this immediately suggests an arbitrary use of power.  ‘Symbolic violence’ is a term designed to break the conventional, including the spontaneous depictions of pedagogy, to show the unity of arbitrary classifications and arbitrary power, and how these belong to the general category of violence.  In particular, we need to show the homology between the school’s monopoly of legitimate symbolic violence, and the state’s monopoly of physical violence.  We must not be misled by appearances, especially an apparent shift from authoritarianism.  We must question the social function involved, especially of the ‘indirect paths of academic consecration’ ( xxi), which are mechanisms  to hide pedagogical violence.  Attempts to conceal these only show their importance.

Translator’s note [Richard Nice]

Thus book is a product of Bourdieu’s Centre for European Sociology [a useful summary of the collected works and specialisms ensues].  It was founded on an homology between the school system and the church, which led to several sociology of religion pieces.  Religion and education were both seen as ‘fields’, producing work on various sections of the fields, including work on particular authors and their relations to fields.  There was even interest in the scientific field, in particular the way in which an arbitrary can still produce progress.  Members of a field shared typical misrecognitions—belief for the religious, neutrality of teacher judgments in education.  The work included some material on language codes.  There were aspects of the notion of habitus here too.

Book one: Foundations of a Theory of Symbolic Violence

[Laid out horribly formally as a series of theses and glosses.  I have not attempted to reproduce (!) this structure, and have mostly summarized the glosses.]

Power conceals itself under symbolic forms [and therefore all symbolic forms are really power relations?].  Understanding this requires a classically sociological approach which neither reduces everything to individuals nor to a theory of symbols [semiotics?] All pedagogic action is symbolic violence which imposes a cultural arbitrary.  There are many kinds of pedagogic action, shared across social groups including the family and institutionalised education.  Pedagogic action always legitimates the dominant class by reproducing its cultural arbitrary [this seems to be an acknowledgement here that the dominated class can occasionally reproduce its own cultural arbitrary, in families].  School and classroom activities are best seen as ‘fourth degree propositions’ of this general tendency.  However, schools do tend to secure a monopoly of legitimate symbolic violence [legitimated by the state, presumably].

Pedagogic action

Pedagogic action depends on the power relations of the major classes and groups.  For example the differences between patrilineal and matrilineal societies produce different kinds of parental authority.  Power relations must take particular forms, however—pedagogic ones.  This depends on power relations outside of the specific relation of pedagogic action.  A dominant pedagogic action is dominant because it expresses more fully the objective interests of the dominant class.  This dominant pedagogic action can produce specific pedagogic actions in different sectors.  [Not the first hint of an Althusserian notion of ‘a structure in dominance’].

Pedagogic actions also reproduce the selection of groups according to their cultural ability because they only develop and transmit what is been selected as worthy.  The actual meanings of a culture must be arbitrary (non deducible, for example from some notion of nature [—so that screws  Rousseau]).  The selection of meaning is necessary in order to lend significance to a culture.  The signs of arbitrariness are clear when we compare one culture to others or to other imagined possibilities.  The necessity of the culture really derive some its connections to social conditions, but this is masked by a common ‘genesis amnesia’ (9).

Power relations are never naked, and culture is never pure—so idealism and relativism are inadequate.  Pedagogic action operates between ‘pure force and pure reason’ (10).  That some elements are really arbitrary leads to the need to make greater use of ‘direct means of constraint’ (10).  Pedagogic actions reproduce power relations and the system of cultural arbitraries.  So the whole education system reproduces culture and social or power relations.  Functionalism sees the reproduction of the whole cultural capital system as a common heritage, but pedagogic actions are really the reproduction of distributions of cultural capital and therefore of the social structure.  The economic value of cultural capitals is clearly involved.

Pedagogic authority

The education system needs to both implement the symbolic activities of pedagogic action and to make it look as if it is autonomous.  It therefore collaborates in misrecognitions.  There are paradoxes—for example in claiming the authority to teach cultural relativism on the one hand, and yet to claim that the cultivated pupil is ‘a native of all cultures’ on the other (12).  This shows how the power of the pedagogic action requires a misrecognition of its own position.  Especially glossed is the notion that pedagogues are nonviolent, that they engage in ‘non directive teaching…  Rousseauistic myths of natural education, or pseudo Freudian myths of non repressive education’ (13).

Pedagogic authority is really about the right to exert symbolic violence and claim legitimacy, so it reinforces arbitrary power.  It does not need any external validation.  Pedagogic authority is especially not psychological [ that is related to 'personality'?] , and can be unconscious.  It is not the basis of rational choice or a social contract.  The recognition of its authority shows its power—its objects are unable to criticize it [Bourdieu gives a rather Durkheimian example here of an outlaw who rebels but only by accepting that the law has the right to ban him].  The strength of pedagogic authority is therefore related to the impossibility of brute domination, and to the extent and unification of market mechanisms which constitute the value of different pedagogies.  The legitimacy of the power system itself is an important variable in retaining pedagogic authority—it depends on the dominated not realizing their strength or potential.

Thus analyzing pedagogic action is at the heart of analyzing the social basis and exercise of power, domination and legitimacy.  The power relations themselves determine characteristic modes of imposition and concealment.  This depends on: the congruence of the cultural arbitrary of the dominant group and the particular kind imposed by the pedagogic action; the extent to which coercive imposition is ruled out or apparent [an interesting example follows noting the divergences between cultural and power arbitraries, especially in the case of the French working class who distance themselves from educational culture and its authority, but are also more likely to accept repression and sanctions as legitimate] (16):  there may be different stances to corporal punishment—for one group it simply helps them recognize the arbitrary nature of power, while for another it is a mere ‘attribute of teacherly legitimacy’ (16). 

The recognition of the arbitrary power of a pedagogic action still might not lead to a full understanding of symbolic violence.  However, the most radical challenges are provided by utopian beliefs in a culture without any arbitrariness, or an individual fulfilment.  However, utopian thinking like this is understood best as a device to enable a new group to come to power—for example, in the 18th century, French intellectuals embraced the idea of cultural tolerance the better to attack the church.  In this sense, utopian thinking is still illusory and misrecognises its own violence.

Experience alone is never enough to counter pedagogic action nor is ‘liberal education’.  This merely masks the arbitrary nature of pedagogic action.  Indeed, sometimes the softer approaches might be more effective ways of exercising symbolic violence.  For example the American education system which displays affection, love and the use of nicknames, also becomes a ‘subtle instrument of repression, the withdrawal of affection, a pedagogy technique which is no less arbitrary…  than corporal punishment or disgrace’ (17).  The psychological relationship also conceals an arbitrary character, as in 'human relations' [presumably in the management sense].  These are also more tightly bound to the traditional system than appears to be the case—it is simply that one system is waiting to replace the other (18).

It follows that pedagogic action is not just a technical matter of efficient communication: it must also have its authority recognized.  Authority is sometimes seen as the major real issue anyway, but it is usually misrecognised.  As a result it is usually non-negotiable and rarely requires to win consent.  It is often enough to claim that something is ‘education’, as propagandists sometimes do.  It is its position in a system of pedagogic authority that makes pedagogic communication effective rather than the personal qualities of educators or educated involved.  The same goes with willingness to listen.

Pedagogic authority is supported by the dominant cultural arbitrary.  However, educational and academic legitimacy can come into competition with the pedagogic authority of others.  However, academic knowledge is claimed as being especially valuable, which enables it to regulate and integrate its rivals (23).  A failure to grasp this is what haunts liberating education—from those who think it is important to teach elite culture and Latin to the masses [the Jacobin policy, apparently], to the open recognition of diversity and the value of popular culture [often involving the aggressive denunciation of dominant culture] (24). Both olicies show definite ambivalence towards the dominant cultural heritage.

The agents of pedagogic action are best seen as delegates of social groups or classes whose cultural arbitraries are being imposed.  They are not necessarily explicit or legalised agents, but functional ones.  They must be so, in explaining the ‘cultural proxy between the [dominant] cultural arbitrary imposed by that pedagogic action and the culture of arbiters of the groups or classes subject to it’ ( 25).  Thus the media for example ‘encounter and reinforce predispositions’, and it is class/power relations rather than the force of ideas as such that make them effective.  There is a tacit delegation here.  Delegation is limited by the need to reproduce the cultural arbitrary [with a reference to lots of examples of kinship systems here], and there can be conflicts.  Similarly, the recognition of authority by the dominated class works only if there is a pay off in terms of market value or symbolic value—for example in terms of middle class support of schools [there is a link to material on the abstract value of diplomas here -- but see Bourdieu and Boltansky].

There is a risk, however, because the education system also determines lack of worth.  This can be exacerbated if there is a unified cultural market [yet another notion of a structure in dominance, since pedagogic action unites and dominates the cultural market].  Dominated systems can survive, but students soon realise the worthlessness of their products. In this way  pedagogic action establishes its authority and needs less legitimation.  If all goes well, there is a close relation between the dominant culture or arbitrary, the cultural arbitrary of the dominant pedagogic action, and the cultural arbitrary of students through their early family influences.  This is especially effective if the economy and the educational system are integrated so [however, there are often contradictions, as Bourdieu and Boltanski say].  Ideally, a relation also exists between pedagogy, the value of diplomas, and the family, and cultural capital itself (30).  Such close relations lead to classic misrecognitions—ethnocentrism for the [lucky] individual, and a general misunderstanding of the relations between legitimate culture and the reproduction of power relations.

Pedagogic work

Systematic work is needed especially if education systems are to produce a ‘lasting habitus’ (31).  Hence the very long duration of the education system compared with families, and the inertia of the education system.  The habitus is an ‘analogue of genetic capital’ while pedagogic work is an analogue of generation (32).  Pedagogy work is also related to the production of the cultural arbitrary and its reproduction in a durable habitus.  This is more effective than conventional political power, which reproduces itself in the short term.  Effective pedagogic work generates a transposable habitus, one which is exhaustive. 

Pedagogic action implies pedagogic work—another delegation.  Together, they help to integrate the dominant group, and it is this rather than some consensus or common culture that operates.  The actual contents of pedagogic work can look and be very different, for example, producing different artistic styles, or the system of paired oppositions in politics or aesthetics.  Again, these contents become accepted as legitimate, as effectively ‘as physical restraint’ (36): pedagogic work produces a tendency to always give ‘the right response’ (36).  Pedagogic work therefore confirms pedagogic authority, in a ‘circle of baptism and confirmation (37).  This produces an unquestioning acceptance of cultural arbitraries as ‘natural’.  It is impossible to leave behind these effects, since there is no reason outside of ‘the circle of pedagogic authority’ (37).

Pedagogic work produces the legitimate consumer, and the right ‘social definition of the legitimate product and the disposition to consume it in the legitimate manner’ (38).  [This whole section looks a bit like Althusser’s generalities model, with pedagogic work transforming pedagogical authority into educational contents]. Genesis amnesia is the usual result, which can lead to the concepts such as 'natural reason' or ‘innate taste’ (38).  Agents who consume cultural objects do so because pedagogic work has shaped their values and the legitimacy of the objects too (39).  Pedagogic work  therefore produces misrecognitions of both pedagogical authority and its relation to social reproduction.  It makes it impossible to see the limits of an habitus, which therefore leads to an ‘illusion of freedom and universality’ (40).

So pedagogic work is not just about enforcing particular ideas, or the contents of dominant culture, but its overall legitimacy.  For example it persuades people who are excluded to accept their exclusion as legitimate, to accept hierarchies of prestige, or to generate ‘transposable, generalised dispositions’ toward ‘social disciplines and hierarchies’ (41).  It helps to devalue non dominant knowledge, and increases susceptibility to cultural goods produced by dominant groups [and the examples here include medicine, legal advice, and the culture industry].

The habitus so generated seems to be primary and irreversible.  We can gain knowledge of others, but never fully appropriate them.  Secondary pedagogic work, like that based in schools, builds on the habitus developed in the family, despite school denials—that is where ‘logical dispositions’ are acquired in practice, and they form the basis of subsequent ‘symbolic mastery’ (43).  [So this is the origin of ‘deep approaches’].  [The argument here seems to be that the family and its pedagogic work therefore structures all the others in dominance].

Any reforming secondary pedagogic work faces a considerable task.  One tactic is to demonstrate the arbitrary nature of cultural roles.  This is the tactic involved in military or religious conversion. Or to select as students only those who are already prepared, as in finishing schools [the example here is the Ecole Nationale d’Administration].  Some upper class families employ members of the working class to care for their children, and those children have to be reconverted in boarding schools.  So, for example, the teaching of grammar builds on those earlier principles for logical classification which are codified, as much as traditional laws are.  The process is best done using  ‘implicit pedagogy’ (47).  Here, the disciples abandon themselves and model themselves on their masters.  This works very well if they are already predisposed to do so: others must be persuaded of their failure.  This goes on at an unconscious level, via ‘anonymous, diffuse pedagogic action’ (48).  Such action includes arranging space in particular ways.  People are able to cope with explicit verbalized pedagogical work if they are already able to ‘neutralize in imagination or reflection  the vital urgencies which thrust a pragmatic disposition on the dominated classes’ (49).

Primary socialization therefore is really about categories and dispositions rather than formal  cognitive mastery, about symbolic mastery.  The mastery of words rather than things helps.  Those who have already undergone this socialization can cope with the implicit pedagogy of schooling.  They already have a suitable habitus.  There is, for example, a ‘structural affinity between teaching in the humanities and bourgeois primary pedagogic action’ (50).  Even in technical education, theorization excludes working-class children, despite their possession of skills, and the ‘general education’ they receive reduces their own language ‘to jargon, slang or gibberish’ (50).

Pedagogic action which excludes in this implicit way is better at concealing the arbitrariness of education, and in underpinning the legitimacy of its ‘products and hierarchies’’ (51).  Museums assume a knowledge of the cultural code [so do art galleries, to cite an earlier example].  Educational institutions encourage self elimination, although this can be disguised by an explicit legal form of discrimination and elimination in the exam system, their 'ideological function' (52).

Another ideology is found in the notion of giftedness [see Inheritors].  Rosenthal’s experiment [the classic example of self fulfilling prophecy] shows the flaws.  Would a perfectly rational system of pedagogic work overcome exclusions?  It would be aimed at 'incorporating in all its pupils the practical principles of the symbolic mastery of practices which are inculcated by primary pedagogic action only with [dominant] groups and classes' (53).  However this would be utopian.  Such a system would inevitably be vetoed as not in the interests of the dominant class [smuggle it past the bastards?].  It also assumes that the interests of individuals and those of the dominated class are the same.  In practice, there are few socially mobile proletarians, and their cases only 'perpetuate the structure of class relations' (54): there is no possibility of the social mobility of the whole dominated class.

The education system

This takes a specific form according to the requirements necessary to implement pedagogic action, produce an enduring habitus and a set of general misrecognitions.  Durkheim noticed that, for example, an education system is specifically needed to produce a Christian habitus [in modern societies].  Weber extracted the more general conditions for a religious habitus [theodicy, a rational priesthood and so on?].  Bourdieu and Passeron think the best way to proceed is to suggest generic conditions first then examine the social conditions which lead to the realisation of specific forms.  The social conditions include ‘urban concentration…  division of labour entailing the autonomization of intellectual tribunals or practices…  a market in symbolic goods’ (55).  This approach can be compared with Marx on the decline of feudal and the emergence of capitalist modes of production.  In particular, the relative autonomy of the education system should be seen as a part of general social change.

Pedagogic work is gradually institutionalised, leading to paid teaching, teacher training, standardisation, examinations and so on.  This process probably began with medieval universities.  Durkheim was right to specify the emergence of the need for moral education, Weber was right to spot the emergence of a group of specialists trying to monopolise legitimate culture: the interests of specialists have been important in the development of the education system, just as the activities of priests developed a religion, once it was established, as Weber tells us, or artists with art, once it had emerged as an autonomous field.  The specialists produce specialist pedagogic work, in this case, the work of schooling.

Specialist teachers disseminate messages which they have not necessarily produced themselves—this is the notion of professorial mastery.  It is an ideology, requiring ‘the laboured negation of the truth of the professorial function’, which is cultural and social reproduction (57-8).  Training, textbooks and so on emerge really to maintain control, to maintain an orthodoxy against various ‘prophets and creators’.  At the same time, the possibility of prophecy is a useful part of a myth that the institution is not totally binding on its personnel.  In practice, there is massive standardisation, including standard rituals, replaceable personnel, the production of manuals, commentaries, model answers and so on.  New members have to undergo a classic apprenticeship.  Additionally, ideas are syncretised and brought together in eclectic lists, principally to routinise and neutralise messages and conflicts over cultural legitimacy (59): these are the classic ways in which professors arrive at a consensus on a programme. 

Routinization varies according to the nature of pedagogic action and is role in cultural reproduction.  In France, for example literary education is more routinized than is science education, since it is mostly literary education that reproduces dominant culture and legitimises it.  The autonomy of a particular subject is also important, especially whether it is confined to the education system, or linked to other practices in the overall field.

The education system must produce its own agents to reproduce it.  These agents reproduce the market that gives them a value.  On the surface, it looks as if they are simply defending the value of their own scarce educational credentials, but this action is supported by dominant groups because they are also reproducing the whole market [and members of dominant groups themselves require diplomas to legitimates their own access, as the Inheritors points out].  This process is masked by the relative autonomy of the education system.

Reproduction works best when the principles of the education system are implicit, or rendered as unconscious influences, passed down from master to apprentice.  This is part of avoiding a general danger of education becoming too explicit: for example, it must resist any pressure to include more than the dominant cultural arbitrary as its focus.  This danger is resolved by institutionalisation—‘it resolves by its very existence the questions raised by its existence’ (62) [clever French stuff].  The institution protects itself from difficult questions, such as whether teaching itself, as a kind of mastery, is appropriate.  There also certain crises which affect the education system now and then [and the example here is a protest by parents over controversial content].  These crises have the potential of bringing into light the reproduction role and the links between the education system and wider social and institutional conditions.

Specific school authority develops as a subset of pedagogic authority [and this authority is invoked against protesting parents and others who would question the institution].  The school as a system protects and shelters the authority of individual teachers.  The parallel here is how Papal and [RC] Church infallibility protects the authority of individual priests.  In fact, this parallel has played a useful ideological role despite the emergence of the education system from the church.  Education has borrowed from the church the assumption that teaching will be impossible without infallibility in the system.  This Christian origin has helped develop a very uncritical acceptance of this view of school authority.

School authority is therefore particularly good at enabling a misrecognition that its own symbolic violence is autonomous and unrelated to power relations more generally.  Thus school seems to be able to be neutral in any struggle between classes and groups, able to protect science and critique as above petty conflicts, as the embodiment of ‘the Utopian vision of the “critical university” capable of bringing before the tribunal of pedagogic legitimacy the principles of cultural arbitrariness from which it precedes’ (65).  [However, some critical intellectuals have obviously escaped, including Bourdieu himself.  In fact, I remember Bourdieu arguing this very point somewhere, pointing out that he only escaped because he was a marginal member of Parisian university life, and crossed two academic specialisms – anthropology and sociology].  Another myth is that the education system can bring about social change on its own, modernise societies for example.  Liberal universities only mask and help misrecognise their relation to social and cultural power—they are also derive their authority from social relations, in this case liberal ones.

Misrecognition also arises particularly when university academics become full state employees.  This leads to a specific ‘ideology of “disinterestedness”’ (66).  Further, individual professors receive institutionalised authority in a particular way, represented as professorial charisma.  This is an effect of educational specificity which permits a certain amount of tinkering, such as ‘juggling with the syllabus that is implicitly on the syllabus’ (66).  There is a general ‘enchanted adherence’ to the view that authority rests in the person of teachers.  Their real power arises from their ability to inculcate the cultural arbitrary, sometimes with ‘scheduled improvisation’ which helps them mask their relation to conventional pedagogy and thus to the wider system of authority.

So in general, the whole education system works by establishing the necessary conditions for its internal function—inculcation—which then become sufficient conditions for the external function—cultural reproduction.  And institutional power helps education pose as an autonomous institution, therefore a neutral one, the better to reproduce the cultural arbitrary of dominant groups—‘dependence through independence’ (67).

The Literate Tradition and Social Conservation

The analysis works from the assumption that pedagogy is a ‘simple communicative relation’: as it is obvious that it is inefficient, the question arises about how a system like this persists (107), especially through the ‘unhappy consciousness’ of its perpetrators (108).  It attracts a mixture of teacher confidence and student ‘semantic fog’ (108).  The words involved convey a familiarity since they arise from ‘stereotyped configurations’, and the style is supported by a whole culture, sustained institutionally.  Academic pedagogy is about status rather than efficiency.  It expresses values, codes, and notions of who is worthy to receive it.  It expresses social distance, supported by physical distance—professors are ‘remote or intangible, surrounded by vague terrifying rumour…  committed to theatrical monologue and virtuoso exhibition’ (109).  Academic style is a matter of ‘intonation, diction…  delivery…  oratorical gestures’ (109).  Dialogues are only a ‘fiction or farce’, and student responses or interventions are best seen as religious responses.  The discourse itself is the best way to maintain distance.  It appears as intrinsic or personal.  Professorial discourse neutralises.  The language is incantatory and largely about preserving authority (110).  It positively discourages communicative efficiency.  Student assignments are only allowed to echo professorial discourse—the dissertation is a copy of official discourse.  There is positive professorial contempt for the lack of clear communication in student scripts [some scathing remarks about students are quoted 111], but this is rather ironic in the circumstances!  In fact, garbled and simple student work is a sign of successful enculturation, even if students are speaking and writing in Creole versions.  Professors are always able to blame students rather than examining their own discourse.

There is a ‘professorial ideology’ of student inability.  Failure is a matter of not ‘being – for – the – teacher’ (111).  Students have to respond in these terms, producing ‘semantic atoms…  a rhetoric of despair, and the regression towards the prophylactic or propitiatory magic of a language in which the grandiloquence of magisterial discourse is reduced to the passwords or sacramental phrases of a ritual murmur’ (114),  ‘a smokescreen of vagueness over the possibility of truth or error…  A caricature of mastery’ (114).

Class functions support the system ‘even where its pedagogic efficiency tends toward zero’ (114).  Style is the issue, ‘a type of relation to language and culture’ (114).  It may be based on a Jesuitical influence, involving a systematic reinterpretation of the social demands of the aristocracy, involving a necessary detachment from the pedagogic task.  There is also a heavy influence of literary aptitude—academic life is to be literary and Parisian.  However, there is class reproduction too.  The distance from native languages is uneven, and produces two extremes: in bourgeois parlance, there is considerable borrowing from Latin, clear signs of the effects of scholarly or fashionable legitimating agencies (115).  Thus school [university] transforms this legacy to a ‘quasi scholarly handling of language’ (115), which increases the receptive capacity for scholarly discourse among the bourgeois.  This provides them with ‘educationally profitable linguistic capital’ (116), whose value varies according to changes in schools and families.  The legacy comes with a definite mode of acquisition—‘abstraction, formalism, intellectualism, euphemistic moderation’ (116), itself a ‘socially constituted disposition’.  It produces a ‘distinguished distance, prudent ease, and a contrived naturalness’.  By contrast, working class language is expressive and particularistic, moving from case to case, from ‘illustration to parable’, avoiding fine words and the ‘grand emotions’ (116).  It features ‘banter, rudeness and ribaldry’, and is unable to separate ‘objective denotation and subjective connotation’.  Working class speech features ellipses from frequent ‘implicit (or gestural) reference to the situation’. This is because there are no suitable social conditions for distance and separation in working class life.

So language denotes social position.  There is an underlying need to ‘stand aloof from one’s practice and from the rule governing the practice’ (117) [if we are to do well academically].  Native languages contain revealing ‘rhetorical devices, expressive effects, nuances of provincialism, melody of intonation, registers of diction or forms of phraseology’ (117).  These are found in whole categories of speakers, and are produced by the ‘social conditions of the acquisition and use of language (117).  Bourgeois speakers systematically exclude the vulgar and thereby affirm their distinction.  [Note 16, PP. 133 – 3 acknowledges Bernstein, but criticises him for treating the characteristics of working class speech as abstract and intrinsic, rather than as produced by an habitus.  It also notes the anxious perfectionism in middle class speech, with its fears of breaking etiquette]

These important modalities of language are not picked up in the usual empirical research.  [Note 16 says that modality is all important even though it looks trifling and is hard to research.  The example given is the difference between real left wing commitment and that which is produced by disenchantment with right wing positions]. They are hinted at in things such as vocabulary tests.  [One intriguing example relates the different performance in tests where students had to define imaginary words.  Middle class students were much better at it, but also revealed the suspicious ‘off handedness’ of the approach—the dark side of the deep approach for me.  They had to define ‘gerography’, an imaginary term.  Middle class students examined the possible linguistic roots of this term to come up with the definition, showing their classic ‘desire to “do one’s best”, to make use of one’s knowledge within the bounds of scholastic prudence', note 18, 135. In other words they can bullshit about anything while guarding their backs].

Similar social signs are used to judge oral exams, including the modality of language use, ‘bearing, gesture, dress, make up and mimicry’, all of which allude to the all- important social ‘relation to the teacher and to the situation’ (118).  Manners contaminate all practice.  It is important to demonstrate natural ease, casual delivery, and ‘stylistic understatement…  suggesting, by the tempering applied to the temptation to speak too well, the potential excellence of one’s speech’ (119).  It is important never to be too presentational, which will only lead to a suspicion of ‘self interested vulgarity’ (119).  Far better to adhere to the fiction of an exchange with one’s assessors.

People acquire scholarly language by encountering scholastic work, but for the bourgeois, there is already a degree of ‘insensible familiarisation’ (119).  Only those enjoying this situation can fully produce ‘the practical mastery of language and culture that authorises cultivated allusion and cultured complicity’ (119).  For working class kids, school and its language appears unreal.  In academic life, oral transmission and the manipulation of words is central.  This explains the predominance of lectures rather than workshops, and the ‘extreme difficulty of obtaining access to the tools of self teaching’ (120).  Academic speech is dominated by stylistic conventions.  It is good to ‘talk like a book’ (120).  Academic speech presupposes access to legitimate culture ‘at every point’ (120).

Professors speak rather than assess or mark.  Underlings mark, and then have to submit to the ‘sovereign power of the examining board’ (120).  Pedagogical speech is the best way to adapt to the institutional conditions.  It enables a demonstration of virtuosity, especially in the open lecture [apparently given on a series of topics, which may fall under subject expertise or not, and with a very diverse audience—a particular requirement for effortless and confident talk, of the kind demonstrated beautifully by the YouTube videos of Derrida or Lacan].  Professors use academic speech to situate themselves and their intellectual field.  It is admitted that such speech can also be economical [for those in the know who can recognise the allusions].  Academic speech can also be recorded, but performance is primary.  There is also considerable scope for self justification: the ‘demands of didactic clarity dispense it from the meticulousness of erudite references, the appearance of erudition dispenses it from the original research, and the appearance of creative improvisation can in any case dispense it from both clarity and erudition’ (122).  In this way, displays of professorial charisma even convey a claim to supersede everyone else’s works!

The style is often imitated by non professorial intellectuals, as in ‘Parisian style culture…  An insubstantial structure [based on] brief encounters with authors, their works, and those who talk about both, or through weekly consultation of the gazettes of the intellectual Demi Monde’ (123).  Such culture features ‘all embracing taxonomies’ [not the first echo of current educational theory!].  The style applies also to ‘econometrics, computer science, operational research, or the latest thing in structuralism’ (123) [some really waspish examples on page 123!].

Academic discourse is all about prestige and self esteem, but it is supported by strong social functions, which lend it authority.  There is a social and economic need for some recognition that people have actually learned something [ a credential], even if it is only a sense of recognition of obscure words, or passing familiarity with the classic authors.  This social authority is deflected on to pedagogues themselves, thus ensuing maximum ‘resources and zeal’ devoted to this task (124).  This explains the necessary identification of professors with performance, in the dramatic aspects of their role.  It is necessary to exalt their profession.  Good performers can dispense with official props and protections, and emphasise their unique qualities [as in Goffman on role distance?] Charismatic feats include ‘verbal acrobatics, hermetic allusion, disconcerting references, or peremptory obscurity…  technical tricks...  such as the concealment of sources, the insertion of studied jokes…  the avoidance of compromising formulations [which might prove to be wrong]’ (125).  There is often a surface disrespect for conventions, but an affirmation of the value of academic discourse by transferring personal prestige and virtuosity on to it.  This includes ‘taking liberties with the syllabus that implicitly are on the syllabus’ (125).  Cultivating relations to the teacher leads to support for the academic institution, and thence to a ‘relation to language and culture which is none other than that of the dominant classes’ (125).  This is the ‘ruse of academic reason’, where the institution persuades teachers to serve their interests by making it individually rewarding.  Social conservation is served here, even if ‘academic reason cannot recognise [it]’ (125).  Individual freedom guarantees that the teacher serves the system, the freedom of the educational system guarantees service to class relations.  The system ‘never better fulfils the social function than when it seems to be exclusively pursuing its own ends’ (126) [exactly the focus of the famous critique of the autonomous news industry in Policing the Crisis…, but this predates it by a decade, and typically is fearlessly focused on our own institution, rather than taking the easy route of conveniently exposing ideology in other institutions].

You can see the constraints on what can be done if you imagine the alternatives.  Imagine teaching ‘stripped of all indulgences…  and traditional complexities…  [without falling into the idea of]... a perfectly explicit pedagogy’ (126).  Perhaps we can at least minimise the effects of the academic code ‘by continuously and methodically stating [it]’ (126), a more promising alternative than trying to sidestep the code altogether with a simulated clarity.  We can reduce the differences between teacher and taught at both the production and the reception ends.  We can give the message and the code which helps people decipher it, or insist on familiar modes of expression, or even stratify academic production, introducing students first then preparing them for the next stage, in order that they can gradually possess the academic code.  We need to recognise the effects of the code and its social roots and function.  We should be studying the acquisition of codes rather than looking for individual conversions.  We need to put pedagogy first.  Teachers should be differentiated according to their specialisms rather than in some kind of academic hierarchy.  We need to make the school survey other social functions.  The current system imposes one code and therefore rewards those closest to it.  We need to recognise that the relation to culture is the issue.  Academic denial of this relation, together with its disavowal of anything scholastic or pedagogic only shows its ‘dependence on class relations’ (128).

Traditional pedagogy is seen as a practice in itself, and is probably unable to recalculate the best mean to achieve its official ends.  Depreciation of pedagogy, the cult of the amateur, both show that its contradictions cannot be recognized.  Academic institutions cannot repudiate pedagogy altogether, since they are expected to do it, but nor can they confirm it, because this would seem to threaten their traditions and autonomy.  They therefore develop ‘academic anti-academicism’ (129).  This is as paradoxical and as unnoticed as giving a lecture on creativity, or combining school routine with the notion of giftedness.  However, schools must be conservative, they must serve the pedagogic interests of the dominant class who need the university to legitimate their relation to culture.

The arbitrary nature of university pedagogy can be seen from historical and other comparisons—with the Jesuits or the Ming Chinese.  However, our system has important current functions as well, involving the necessary relation to the dominant classes.  For example the culture of the ‘literary gentleman’ still persists in the value given to manners and style, in the way that ‘naturalness and lightness [are contrasted to] pedantry, didacticism or effort’.  There is a contempt for study, where progress is explained as a matter of gift or birth, a disdain for specialisation as mere ‘trade’.  ‘Manner, nuance, refinement, literary culture and then artistic culture’ are still more conducive to ‘the indefinite niceties of the games of distinction’ (130).  Academics spend a lot of effort opposing the vulgarity of achievement, and therefore support the idea that there is only one legitimate mode of acquisition.

The examination within the structure and history of the education system

Examinations are dominant and stressful, yet they are also ‘the clearest expression of academic values and of the education system’s implicit demands’ (142).  They inculcate the dominant culture.  For example, the French dissertation ‘defines and diffuses the rules of writing and composition’ (142) which are widespread, for example in the ‘administrative report, a doctoral thesis or a literary essay’ (143).  It is just like the Medieval disputatio, or the ‘British university essay whose rules are not so different from those of the literary genre of the same name and in which the subject must be approached with wit and a light touch’ (143) [long ago!] .  ‘Brio and brilliance’ are more important for the French style, ‘a style free from all familiarity or personal comment’ (143).  Such assignments are prototypes for pedagogy and intellectual ambition rather than signs of a national character.  The French System emphasises form and produces the concours as the major form of examination, where ‘young men who know how to amuse the audience and their judges and who, although their glib tongues will get them out of trouble, have neither patience nor firmness enough to teach well’ [a quote from Renan] (143).  These ties explain the social significance and heated debate about changing forms of assessment [compare with the debates about assessment in the UK, especially the ‘gold standard’ of the A level.  Curiously, much more innovation is now permitted at university level, although the standard essay, exam and dissertation still seem common].

We need a comparative study to sort out the ‘generic tendencies’ arising from the need to inculcate, and particular traditions and social functions ‘never completely reducible to the technical function of communication – producing skills’ (144).  Durkheim argued that examinations arose from the need to reproduce the university, while Weber argued that they were needed to rationalise access to careers.  They also clearly satisfy the ‘the petty bourgeois ideal of formal equality’ (145) [which would be a Marxist insight?].  All these are right, but the education system has its own logic too.  This ‘retranslates’ external demands systematically according to its own principles.  The university is especially ‘directly dependent on…  [Its]…  own past because of the particular form of its relative autonomy’ (145) [that is it needs to reproduce itself as well as the wider society].  The French system seems the most independent from the economy, but has the greater emphasis on examinations [Lyotard says that Napoleon's reform of the French University system made it much more tightly tied to political, administrative and military systems].  As Weber argued, the Confucian education system used literary prowess to produce a selection system, with frequent exams and the system of three levels of degree.  The similarities with the French system show the continuing effects of this emphasis on selection, and the role of the university in selecting particular qualities and qualifications to meet system needs.

The ability of the French system to maximize this role arises from its relative autonomy and its ability to retranslate and reinterpret external demands.  It has managed a near monopoly of academic values as the ‘official principle of every social hierarchy and every hierarchy of values’ (147).  Class values vary according to the degree of linkage with class interests and academic values, and market value and the social position obtainable from credentials.  There is certainly no valid rival principle of academic selection [this notion of a tight credentialist bond is still in dispute in British work on social mobility, however].  There is a convergence of interests.  Senior university personnel define meritocracy as a matter of reward according to school rank, while the aristocracy still maintain a belief in university values and the moral right of the university.  Universities enshrined competition in the form of exams which then produce rationalised hierarchies ‘based on the imponderables of derisory quarter points’ (148) [idiotic percentages for the British system].  These results are taken very seriously.  There is actually no rational connection between the contents of the syllabus and any notion of [transferable] merit, any more than there was in the Mandarin system, which tested knowledge of poetry in order to allow access to senior positions in the civil service.  However, the Jesuits were among the first to classify and translate aristocratic ‘glory’ into scholastic success (149).

Historical precedence is important but so is the current functioning of the selection system.  First and foremost, it is about ‘self perpetuation and self protection of the teaching corps’ (149).  It is this self perpetuation that produces a drive towards relative autonomy.  This interest is allied with those of the petty bourgeois and bourgeois intellectuals to produce a preferred pattern of formal equality as the main principle of selection rather than nepotism or favouritism.  Universities took advantage of a new centralised state bureaucracy to introduce a national system of examinations.  The competition to recruit teachers [the concours?  Or is it the aggrégation?] is the archetype of all examinations.  Qualifications achieved value in vocational terms [what a nice way to put it, instead of the usual view that it was the other way around!], often where credentials began as unofficial criteria (150).  These were sometimes idealised as indicating some universal standard, and maintained even if insufficient numbers of candidates to fill positions were available!  Examinations like this were always the most socially significant form of activity [because they reproduced universities themselves], more so than the doctorate.  The same exam can take on quite different meanings.  There is a constant maintenance of interest in reproduction as the main thread, though, an example of the university’s opportunistic ‘power to select and reinterpret accidents and influences in accordance with…  general principles’ (152) [a great description of the current adaptation of government interests in vocational qualifications, work based learning and the like].  Here, the role of specialists is crucial, who are able to systematize accidental elements.

However, the university is not that autonomous and has to discharge social functions too.  Academic hierarchies look rational, but they help to support social hierarchies.  University autonomy is the ‘quid pro quo of the hidden services it renders to certain social classes by concealing social relations under the guise of technical selection’ (153).

In practice, universities exclude most candidates before exams are even taken [before massification, obviously].  This is selection by social class.  Your chances of entering university is more affected by your class than your chances of passing exams when you get there.  Working class candidates eliminate themselves, or get sidetracked [this is the British system, like the community college American system].  All this is hidden by a focus on examinations as selection, including studies of the characteristics of those who passed or failed [docimology!], nor is it picked up by conventional sociological work on the differences between those who enter and those who complete universities, which ignores dropout between the stages.  So the scandals about pass rates are misleading, an obsession only for those ‘for whom the risk of elimination can only come from the examination’ (154).

These effects are missed by work on ‘wastage of talent’ with their emphasis on apparent lack of motivation, and by much work on formal educational opportunity.  Social origin classically appears as a technical disadvantage, and this is missed by those who see social inequalities themselves as responsible for disadvantage without seeing how the education system itself transforms social into educational disadvantages.  The same goes for the more technical focus on exam performance, such as work on normalising marks, or on changes in teacher-pupil relations, especially advocates of ‘democratisation’ (155).  All these factors focus on individuals not classes.  Individuals are persuaded to drop out, for example, by seeing themselves as having inability, but this must be understood within the whole ‘ensemble of objective relations…  between his social class and the education system…  the objective and collective future of his class’ (155).  These produce ‘dispositions towards education, and towards upgrading through education’ (156).  Objective probabilities of success therefore really express something which is understood better as a theoretical construction—how subjective expectations are formed (156).  Agents ‘always, albeit unwittingly, make reference to the objective relations which make up their situation’ (156).  This explains drop out and explains regional variations.  It also explains a common reaction on the part of working class students toward University – ‘”That is not for the likes of us”’ (157).

Courses in science are not more democratic, despite depending less on cultural capital.  Language and cultural differences are at work throughout the education system.  The mastery of language already influences ‘logical and symbolic mastery of abstract operations and…  mastery of the laws of transformation of complex structures’ (157), and children who lack that mastery are already cooled out.  Even science has its own hierarchies, ranging from pure maths at the top to the more applied natural sciences, from abstract to concrete work. Academic hierarchies are translated into types of secondary school, then into hierarchies of universities, with a hierarchy of teacher origins to match.  Recruitment to those at the top depend on academic success, but working class access has already been diverted into ‘school careers which entice them with the false pretences of apparent homogeneity only to ensnare them in a truncated educational destiny’ (158) [ such as the vocational route in the UK? That old notion of formal parity of esteem is still as bankrupt as ever?].

Social class origin plus uneven career possibilities ‘transmute a social inequality into a specifically educational inequality’ (158).  Would a more democratic intake prevent this?  There would still be an elite strand in France.  Elimination would be deferred only: people would now be exposed to elimination ‘by exam alone’ (159).  There would be concealed selection, with greater chances seen as the profit to match educational wastage—‘the advantage the social order derives from spacing out and so concealing the elimination of the working class’ (159).  [This seems like a good critical account of the policy to replace sponsored mobility with contest mobility, to use the terms favoured by British theorists and politicians.  That in turn was based on work on social mobility in the USA, with its more contest system and community college network.  Both were seen perceptively by Hopper as ways of solving the functional dilemmas of modern social systems, needing to both warm up the talented and cool out those with high expectations but lesser talents].

These insights explain the emphasis on the examination as a whole ‘moment of truth’ [other work also emphasisies its ritual value] .  Exams help to both eliminate people and also conceal a much wider process of exclusion.  There is a methodological implication.  The ‘mechanical use of multivariate analysis [misleads]’ (160), because it is the primary relation between social class and success that varies according to the type of secondary training in education.  Social advantages and disadvantages have already been translated and relayed.  We need to examine whole careers, to explain the occasional absurd and unusual relation between social origins and educational success, a result of the ‘compounding of improbabilities’ explaining success only for groups that already have been heavily selected.  It is a combination of unequal selectedness and the different expectations they produce that is responsible for the different categories of students found at university in class terms.  This is missed by a ‘purely synchronic approach’ (161), which calculates probabilities there and then, deals with abstract probabilities rather than conditional probabilities.  Such an approach cannot explain dispositions either: these are not just abstract attitudes or characteristics such as the lack of self assurance, but social identities (161).  The underlying habitus is the ‘generative, unifying principle of conduct and opinions…  [which]…  reproduces the system of objective conditions of which it is the product’ (161).

So we need to break with ‘spontaneous sociology’ and with the narrow focus on examinations and their characteristics.  We need to look at all the mechanisms of elimination.  The examination merely legitimates ‘academic verdicts and social hierarchies’ (162).  Those who pass are seen as gifted, and examinations are seen as the only selection mechanism.

Examiners’ judgments also ‘retranslate and specify the values of the dominant classes in terms of the logic proper to the education system...  Class bias [is] strongest [where it is] implicit [with] diffuse criteria…  such as the dissertation or the oral, an occasion for passing total judgments armed with the unconscious criteria of social perception on total persons, whose moral and intellectual qualities are grasped through the infinitesimals of style or manners, accent or elocution, posture or mimicry, even clothing and cosmetics...  or bourgeois ease and distinction, or universal tone or breeding’ (162).  Only a sustained ‘experimental decomposition of the examiners’ syncretic judgement’ can reveal the influence of social judgments.

Insisting on formal criteria alone will not prevent the influence of these judgments.  Specialists note that markers are often unable to agree on using the criteria, but they never examine agreement based on implicit criteria!  The irrationality and inconsistencies of selection arise from social functions rather than from the characteristics of grading systems themselves.  Compare with the scepticism that academics directed towards other scientific measures, such as aptitude tests, where it is acknowledged that aptitude is often a product of past teaching and learning!  It is absurd for systems like the USA to place even more faith in assessment.  Critics of meritocracy, on the other hand, are simply insisting on preserving the rights of traditional examinations to select [I think].

The skills agenda seems to restrict university autonomy, but universities still preserve their social function—the  ‘certification effect’ (165).  Even if tests were entirely technocratic, the education system would still produce a scarcity of diplomates.  Diplomas clearly affect employment rather than skills and affect the position obtainable inside the company.  Different schools still have different prestige despite their apparently equal expertise.  The academic value of qualifications persists—the general value of a diploma prevents questions about specific contents which would therefore threaten the whole system.  The selection function is still more important than the skills content.  This is covered by the ideology of a ‘general culture’ and a denial that cultivated people also need proof of their technical abilities.  Ideology values an indefinable relation to culture, which produces a maximum returns to diplomas themselves.  This explains the persistence of ‘classical languages…  humanism, or the complacent drilling in every sort of formalism, literary, aesthetic, logical or mathematical’ (166).

So examinations have a dual technical and social function.  Only universities can manage dualisms and translate results into diplomas, then make diplomas essential for entry into the professions. Weber was wrong to see the possession of purely technical expertise as the secret of bureaucracy.  In practice, French civil servants at the top of the hierarchy tend to be the most generally educated. 

Surrendering this credentialising power to universities makes the action of universities seem neutral, and seemingly to be renouncing hereditary privilege, but universities reproduce privileged nonetheless.  Universities just seem democratic.  Some limited social mobility is permitted, and this further stabilizes the system.


Chapter four Dependence Through Independence

The education system displays a dual truth [an analogy has just struck me – this is exactly like recent criticisms of Sport England which claim that the public emphasis on participation and sports for all has quietly shifted towards the implicit policy of selecting elite athletes for future competitions].  There is an internal logic and an external function.  We need to look closely at how this system emerged: it is neither fully independent nor economically determined.  Instead, relative autonomy for the sector means that the external functions are discharged ‘under the guise of independence and neutrality’ (178).  The nature of the external function varies according to the relations between the social classes at a given moment.  Again, this is unlikely to appear from simple empirical synchronic analysis, nor from the conventional forms of economic determinism, nor from some functionalist notion of a common culture transmitted by education.  The simplistic economic analysis produces abstract statistics on performance and wastage, for example, but we need to see how the value of occupational hierarchies actually relate to the organisation of the education system.  We need a model describing transformations in the relations between functions and the structure of organisations.  In practice, this always depends on the balance of power between the social classes.

The aims of education are now fully equated with economic growth, even when discussing the expansion of educational opportunity.  It is really a question about what is objectively possible.  Technocrats see the history of education as a unilinear model of change, and develop a universal yardstick to assess different societies.  The abstraction of variables such as literacy rates, the amount of discrimination by sex and so on need to be read contextualised in the whole system of relations.  A fully rational system therefore for technocrats is one which has the lowest costs for the maximum output of needed skills, the most effective pedagogy and recruitment policies respond to merit, and there is a focus on ‘made to measure specialists’ (181) [as in recent UK government pressures on universities to turn out workers for a knowledge economy, or more scientists and technologists generally].  However, date or like the actual number of certificate holders produced by a given system only make sense when we consider additional factors such as market scarcity, and the workings of  ‘symbolic market’ as well.  Thus in some countries, possessing a certificate of literacy is enough to guarantee a good job.  Similarly, rates of femninisation may well be signs of growing economic rationality, or any indication of the development in the reproduction of division of labour between the sexes, where education is just seen as good upbringing for a female.  Western countries still show definite patterns of ‘choice of discipline and the rate of vocational use of diplomas’ for their women (182), and this feeds back to subsequent attitudes.  Lower rates of female entry into university might be a better sign of modernization, as in Muslim countries where there had been no enrolment at all previously.  Access alone does not mean equality of the sexes anyway.  Finally, occupations also vary according to their value, and this value could ‘steadily diminish as it is feminized’ (183).

Wastage rates also need interpretation.  They reflect both their social and technical or educational selection.  Wastage rates do have a transformative effect, for example when failure leads to changed dispositions towards education and occupations (183).  [precisely as I’ve tried to argue with the effects of failure for open university students, who feel that they really must be thick if even an open university can’t teach them properly].  Wastage rates also vary according to the degree of selection in the first place and this process itself varies, with simple exclusion in France compared to the gentler ‘cooling out’ in the USA [ they use this actual phrase, 183].  High wastage rates might indicate low technical efficiency, but a close connection in legitimating the social order, and a form of profit on cultural capital for the successful ones.

So the education system represents ‘the general interest’ as well as ‘specialist ones’ (184).  This shows the connection between the education system and the social system through the ‘mediation of class ethos, the principal determining the level of occupational aspiration’ (184).  [this is really getting quite socially determinist!].  It is this rather than some rational mechanical link between the supply of labour and demand that connects universities to the economic system.  The system itself affects the ‘needs’ of individuals and the labour market.  The education system is never simply a means to supply skilled labour but has ideological functions as well.  ‘Unproductive’ elements of the education system [non vocational subjects] are explicable in terms of their wider social function in helping to articulate school and class values.  The class relations are missed by a technocratic analysis [a kind of critique of positivism in the Marxist sense, where analysts first of all abstract the economic system from class relations, then see demand for skills to some independent factor split from class relations, and then go on to discover the technical function of the school, failing to examine its reproductive function].  The whole system is glossed by ‘an idealism of the “general interest”’… a ‘pan econometric monism’ (186).  Critics are condemned for offering only ‘negative sociology which…  Can see only failures and shortcomings’…  And ‘pedagogic specificity and historical particularity’ are ignored (186).

We need to capture some notion of the originality of educational culture ‘like the configurationist school’ (186).  However for them, culture is too independent, merely expressing some ‘generative formula, a “spirit of the age” or “national character”’ (187).  For that school, each subsystem is also an expression of this principle, leading to a ‘philosophy of totality which sees the whole in every part’ (187) [compare this with the Althusserian criticisms of expressive totality in Lukacs].  This ignores how the system comes to discharge particular functions within its overall structure: education does not just expressed national values [the authors criticised here include those who see educational groups as prototype communities or as expressions of ‘la France éternelle’ (187).  They actually read a bit like Parsons on the functions of the school system in introducing children to the wider values of democratic (but American) society].  There is no notion of pedagogy as ‘reproducing the structure of relations between classes by reproducing the unequal class distribution of cultural capital’ (188) which leads them into ‘unexplained homologies, inexplicable correspondences’ which they grasp through a ‘leap of pure intuition’ (188).

In fact schools have ‘the essential function of inculcating a cultural arbitrary’ in specific historical circumstances (188).  So the emphasis on giftedness and charisma is not just a vestige of aristocratic values, but secures legitimacy for pedagogy at current universities.  The specifics of these beliefs very according to the position of the agents who hold them, whether they are for example ‘teachers and students, higher education or secondary education staff, Arts students or Science students’ (188), and how the classes relate.  This is usually denied in favour of developing historical abstractions and some supposed continuity of cultural themes, the ‘vicious circle of thematic analysis’ (189).  One example here is Crozier’s work on bureaucracy: he adds some cultural specifics in order to avoid technological determinism, but it is still an expressive totality.  It is also reductionist since abstract principles of bureaucracy are deployed.  However, routinization and the use of production manuals, for example, is common in non bureaucratic schools like Koran schools; we find charisma in the classical Greek schools and in Zen ‘disconcertion techniques’ (119).  It is simply a matter of maintaining pedagogical authority.  University autonomy similarly is based on both legal exemptions and claims to be able to interpret the demands of society, together with an ‘ideology of “mastery”’ (191).

The education system has differential functions according to differential relations between parts of the system, not universal principles.  For example the values of meritocrats come from their class position as well as their educational background.  Class dispositions include a characteristic feature of the elite of the grandes ecoles—a ‘distance from role, a flight into abstraction’ [another description of deep learning?], typical of the dominant classes.  An emphasis on ‘probity and meticulousness together with a propensity towards moral indignation’ is clearly associated with the sort of bureaucratic career typical of petty bourgeois.  Meanwhile, the middle rank of students and teachers exhibit ‘cultural willingness or esteem for hard work’, a typical combination of middle class ethos and scholastic values.  It is these dispositions that are the source of homologies between class and educational characteristics [possibly with class relations as the ultimate determinant].

Holistic philosophies are also clearly ideological [the target here are people developing philosophies involving ‘”homogenisation”, “massification”, or “globalization”’ (192)].  They display ‘silences and reticences, denials and slips, or, conversely, displacements and transfers’.  Their obedience to intellectual conventions [abstraction and idealisation?] means obedience to dominant ideology (193).  Class relations are decried as a solecism, provincialism: they are seekers of trends in modernity, hoping to find new classes.  They deal in platitudes.  This stances even found in advocates of class struggle, where, even here, allegiance to intellectual values outweigh their [adopted] class values [exactly what happened in designer Marxism, with its curious susceptibility to philosophical fashion and argument].

Radical critics of the education system may well be in to ‘contestation’, but this is often based on a notion of a general frustration inherent in all socialization [which is what lies behind ‘struggling man’ in appalling anthropologies like Fay’s].  These people seem unaware that frustrations like this bear differentially on the different social classes.  Instead, they denounce all pedagogic action as repression (193).  They deal with abstract ‘generic alienations, spuriously specified by tragic reference to “modernity”’ (194).  They see nothing specific to the education system, no notion of relative autonomy [note that N15, page 213, singles out those specializing in youth, all those blaming the mass media and general consumerism].

So what sort of theoretical model would be adequate?  How do schools achieve relative autonomy, balancing pedagogical and social functions?  How concealed is their ideology?  Simple class analysis is clearly seen as flawed because it is too ‘instrumentalist’ [presumably in the sense that Poulantzas wants to take on Miliband on how to analyse the class nature of the state] (195).  Analysing the education system should not be limited by the assumption that education is itself neutral, but simple class reductionism for all the elements in it is too convenient.  Relative autonomy is important, but we need an analysis to show the social functions nonetheless, just as we do with the state.  Durkheim saw the relative autonomy of the education system in terms of its power to translate external demands and to take opportunities to deepen its role [in his analysis of the evolution of French pedagogy—still in French?].  Pedagogic work does produce ‘durable, transposable training (habitus)’ (196) [so it is not just early socialisation in social classes then?], and these are then reproduced, especially since the education system is permitted to select new recruits as teachers of university values.  It is this that produces relative autonomy.  But Durkheim was unable to see factors other than educational history itself as responsible.

Objective conditions are also important, especially class relations.  Universities are both autonomous and dependent ‘in the last instance, on the structure of class relations’ (197).  Schools are conservative because this helps social conservation [reproduction].  Cultural conservation is analysed by Durkheim as central, but this is only one specific combination of two functions.  Socially conservative periods leads to pedagogical conservatism as their best ally.  A perfect connection would offer an ‘illusion of complete autonomy’ (198), and universities would be able to concentrate simply on their own reproduction, because the reproduction of the social order would be automatic.  This would explain considerable support for educational traditions [in this period] such as the teaching of Latin, literary culture and the humanities, from the ‘most conservative factions of the dominant classes’ (199).  University interests are the interests of the social order, and they reproduce hereditary transmission of cultural capital and conceal their social functions underneath absolute autonomy.  In this sense they are ‘masterpieces of ideology’ (201).

In other periods the two functions can be actually contradictory, and the ‘lordly contempt for the laboured virtues of the intellectual worker [itself aristocratic]…  Can be allied with…  punctilious defence of status rights, even against the right of competence’ (202), producing a characteristic anti academicsm, a celebration of ‘brilliance without originality, and heaviness without scientific weight’ (202).  Universities are able to promote ‘ethical justification by merit’ (202).  This sort of tension really arises from relations ‘between the petty and the grand bourgeoisie’ locked in an ‘antagonistic alliance’ (202).  The role of the petty bourgeois especially is to serve in the middle against both classes [N27, page 216, refers to classic middlemen like NCOs or foremen and notes that people gain charisma by disparaging them].

So, we need to trace both internal and external functions.  There is no need to assume any sort of harmony or homology.  It is a matter of interests and alliances, various ‘affinities of habitus’, demonstrated throughout this book.  Those relations which produce actual structures, and the practices which exemplify them, need to be studied.  We need empirical work here rather than either ‘pan-structuralism or humanism’.  For example the best way at the moment to ‘serve the pedagogic interests of the dominant class’ is ‘pedagogic laissez faire’ (206) [which means the current disdain for any attempts to modernise pedagogy or to criticise it].

Education is not reducible to indoctrination.  The varied disdain towards indoctrination helps the ideological function, covered by claiming neutrality or even hostility to the state.  The claim here is that the education system alone is able to create order [not far from the squeals about funding cuts from university vice chancellors in the UK]. The state must recognise the legitimacy of the education system, but this power relation misrecognises the social role of the education system [I think—there is some dreadful writing on page 206, and see below].  Sociologists themselves are not immune from this misrecognition—the objective conditions of universities also affect their aspirations and lead two rather uncritical analysis and defence of the education system, seen for example in support for recruitment policies excluding even talented members of the working class.  The ideology here is that the social order ‘refuses to hurt them [working class students] by calling them to overambitious destinies as little suited to their abilities as to their aspirations’ (207) [the same used to be said of married women with children at my college].

The new optimistic philosophers simply see social order is natural.  They just assume social reproduction.  Selection appears as necessary, even expressing some personal choice.  This is better than standard theodicy, since the whole system is legitimated.  Very rational selection systems are seen to be best [compare with the highly paternalistic and highly developed selection system at the UK open university].  The denial of class bias, and the devising of new systems of selection would only be a waste of time and money.  In practice, schools certify people through an ‘ostentatious and sometimes hyperbolic length of apprenticeship’ (209).  Delayed selection [contest mobility] is similarly used to convince the excluded that they are right to be excluded, it is merely a more soft approach (209), as in cooling out [my term this time].  However, the system is quite prepared to develop new techniques to exclude people if self elimination tapers off.

Schools are in the business of naturalising social inequality.  Straightforward hereditary principles are unpopular with the bourgeoisie, and so is simple enterprise.  Certification and credentialism, giving more power to the school, is a more ‘discrete succession…  a bourgeois sociodicy’ (210). Those eliminated are persuaded that it is their fault because they lacked gifts.  If it works well, ‘absolute disposition excludes the awareness of being dispossessed’ (210).

[This is a really difficult read.  I have done you a great favour, O reader of this file!  The writing just gets more and more obscure throughout this chapter.  Let me give you just one example, on page 206:

Legitimation of the established order by the School presupposes social recognition of the legitimacy of the School, a recognition resting in turn on misrecognition of the delegation of authority which establishes that legitimacy, or, more precisely, in misrecognition of the social conditions of a harmony between structures and habitus sufficiently perfect to engender misrecognition of the habitus as a product reproducing what produces it, and correlative recognition of the structure of the order thus reproduced

Appendix: The Changing Structure of Higher Education Opportunities: Redistribution or Translation

Democratisation of the system is being discussed in a very ideological way.  There is still a great deal of hesitation in measuring the social class of students, and lots of variation in the way this is done an official statistics.  These display the usual problems, in ignoring the effects of selection in a career as well as origin as such.  We need to see what percentage of university entrance are really survivors of selection, and how this varies according to social origins.  We need to look at relations rather than single attributes.  Thus it avoids the naivety of, say, celebrating the numbers of working class students in science, as above.  It is especially important to measure this at different periods, since disciplines and social categories change despite their ‘identity of names’ (232).  By contrast,  relations between the classes persist.

So will expansion lead to real democratisation?  They can still be a perpetuation of the status quo, or even a decline in class chances.  For example by increased representation of older students rewards more schooling [in France].  We should be examining the proportion of different birth cohort to get to university rather than absolutes.  There is been an overall rise in particular birth cohorts as well as changes in proportions, so that certain social categories of age are simply more common in the population.

The table cited on page 225 shows disparities in terms of the likelihood of access to higher education [for 1961 and 62].  For example, the sons of farm workers have a 1.2% chance of getting to university, while the son of an industrialist has a better than even chance.  There has been an increase in the chances of all categories, but no relative change.  The sons of working class groups have doubled their chances, while those of industrialists ones’ have risen by only 160%, but these rates are still very advantageous in relative terms.  An ‘upward translation’ of educational chances has occurred.  What is needed is to change aspirations, but here, particular thresholds seem to be at work [you need to have a particular proportion of the social group attending university before attitudes change].  Educational chances affect the social image of university education.  It may be ‘an impossible, possible, probable, normal, or banal future’ (226), according to the proportions of each group who go.  In this way, quantitative differences produce qualitative differences.

Thus the very high rates of entry to university by industrialists sons—74%—lead to an experience ‘of the quasi certainty of higher education’ (226).  Those sons are already over enrolled in suitable forms of preparation, such as private schools or preparatory classes.  The expansion between 1962 and 66 simply ‘consecrated the cultural privileges of the upper classes’ (227).  Education at university became a typical future.  For working class groups, the increase was still not enough to normalise university entrance, even though chances doubled from 2% to 4%.  Middle class aspirations  are rising, since getting the baccalaureate is no longer enough to secure a good job.  We are witnessing a translation of aspirations again rather than a radical change.

Gender is an important factor as well, as is the differential access to the disciplines.  Chances are not random or proportionate to the university population, but rather express ‘a systematic distortion…  students from less well to do origins gravitate towards the art and science faculties rather than law and medicine’ (228).  So increases in access overall seem to be combined with a severe ‘restriction of choice’ (229).  This remains despite the increased likelihood of going to university overall.  Indeed, the gender gap in terms of choice and discipline has widened.  There has indeed been a general drift from hearts, but more so for upper class males.

[So there seems to be a kind of buffer zone thesis here].  Access has increased, but into a‘ “modern stream”…  Objectively situated at the bottom of the academic hierarchy’ (229).  The French working class has been channelled into science.  They have the same chances of studying law, while the chances of the upper class students in studying this high status discipline have increased, and it is the same with medicine.  These disciplines lead to subsequent success ‘both academic and social’ (231).

Thus our overall statistics need more detailed examination to take into account hierarchies.  There should not be focused on the individual student.  They should examine both social origin and changes of selection to elite disciplines.  We have translation rather than a redefinition of criteria, and thus no challenge the those factors producing rarity.  Expansion has been neutralised ‘by means of a ramifying differentiation which conceals its own hierarchical structure…  Artfully contrived and shrewdly dissimulated gradations which run from the full recognition of academic citizenship to the different shades of relegation’ (231).

[Note there is a useful glossary to explain the terms in the French education system, including:

Aggrégation—a concours in each subject to select secondary education teachers and, in effect, higher education lecturers

Classes preparatoires—preparatory classes for the concours of grandes écoles [aka khagne and taupe]

Concours—a national annual competitive exam for Aggrégation or for a certificate of suitability for entry to the teaching profession.  Each grande école has its own.

Concours general—a national competition for secondary school pupils

Ecole National d’Administration – a grande école for the civil servants

Ecole Normale Superiore Ulm—the top Grande Ecole, specializing in arts and science, taking 50 students per year and leading to careers and secondary higher education or research in science

Grandes écoles—seen as the top of the hierarchy rather than faculties in universities.  They include the two examples above, the Ecole Polytechnique, leading to careers in state administration, and several others including the Ecole Des Mines, the Ecole Centrale, and ‘Sciences Po’ (for political science.  There is also the HEC, the Ecole Des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, specializing in management in industry and commerce.

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and check out the update on reproduction in the 1970s and 1980s in State Nobility