Reproduction Revisited: Comprehending Complex Educational Trajectories

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25 Citations (Scopus)


Pierre Bourdieu’s famous theory of educational reproduction is often depicted by critics in simplistic terms: individuals either have plenty of cultural capital, and thus symbolic mastery and school success, or they do not and develop practical mastery and vocational interests instead. Social mobility, deviant trajectories and resistance, on the other hand, are seemingly impossible. The nature of Bourdieu’s writing fuelled this perception, but implicit in his early work, and elaborated in his later writings, is the idea that class and capital possession are fully relational, gradational and refracted by family dynamics, thereby suggesting the existence of all manner of possible shades of difference between the two poles of reproduction. This paper, whilst acknowledging that reproduction is still the major feature of the education system in the UK, thus revisits Bourdieu’s thesis and sketches some of the manifestations of this intermediate zone of educational performance, namely social space travel, the Icarus effect, recovered trajectories and pathways born of dispersed family fields. In so doing it draws on a qualitative research project examining the life histories of adults from a variety of class positions in Bristol.
Translated title of the contributionReproduction Revisited: Comprehending Complex Educational Trajectories
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)734-52
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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