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A transformational theory of socialisation and cultural reproduction

Webster, David C H


David C H Webster


The thesis begins with two apparently empirical questions:
(1) why do those in subordinate positions within the social order acquiesce?
(2) how does the existing cultural order persist?
The thesis is an attempt to provide a single coherent framework within which these two questions may be addressed.
It begins with a critical analysis of the substantive findings and theoretical positions of three major writers in the study of socialisation and cultural reproduction who, though differing in other respects, are seen to operate with a 'generative principle' by which 'deep' and 'surface' levels of social reality are related. The writers, however, neither make explicit their commitment to this principle, (which has to be reconstructed from their work) nor justify it.
The relationship between structuralist thought and the generative principle is then explored. Structuralism is seen to have a number of weaknesses which make it inadequate for the task in hand. Four problem areas are identified and the work of a number of writers in such diverse areas as linguistics, history, ethnomethodology and sociology is examined in an attempt to resolve them. This culminates in an attempt to recontextualise the 'generative principle' in a 'transformational' theory of socialisation and cultural reproduction. Among its key features are: a modified version of Giddens' conception of the duality of structure and an explicit commitment to a complex determinist position which nevertheless examines the uniqueness of indexical acts.
The theory is then exemplified in an analysis of seven sets of empirical data, based on transcripts of interviews with school pupils and their parents. In each case, viewed here as an exercise, a cultural grammar is constructed which forms the basis of an ideological analysis of the link between the production and reproduction of social life.

Publication Date Jan 1, 1985

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