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December 26, 2008 / C H Thompson

Subcultural explanations (different social-classes having different cultural values)

What Douglas and others have identified is different social-class have different values, expectations, and lifestyles which can affect a child’s attainment at school. Sugerman (1970) and Hyman (1967) identified several key differences between the social-classes which could affect a child’s attainment at school. The flowing presentation identifies the key aspects of Sugerman and Hyman’s points.

Along with Douglas’ work Sugerman and Hyman identify how working-class children are seen to be culturally deprived (compared to the middle-classes) when preparing their children for school. It’s worth point-out that many government policies are created to try and overcome this material deprivation in one form or another through cello-boyzcompensatory education schemes. For example SureStart programme is a mechanism for getting working-class toddlers ready for school and so are parenting-classes which seek to improve the parenting skills of parents.

This concept of cultural advantage was developed further by Bourdieu (1971). He was a French Marxist who saw the culture of school as one which benefits middle-class children. In the same way subcultural theorists above talked about the different expectations of working and middle-classes. Bourdieu argued that each social class has its own ‘habitus’ or put very simply their unique habits.

For Bourdieu the middle and upper-class ‘habitus’ was to be socialised to identify with listening to classical music, reading quality books and newspapers and watching and discussing intellectual television programmes. By doing this Bourdieu argued the middle and upper social-classes acquired what he termed cultural capital (they gained more culture from all the books, music, and intellectual discussions they had at home with their parents).

And this cultural capital helped the middle and upper-classes at school because schools are run by the middle and upper-classes. Therefore schools are set up to recognise the cultural values of the middle-classes rather than the working-classes. And possession of cultural capital significantly improves a child’s chances because teachers and schools prefer people with middle-class values. So these children are encouraged while the working-classes are discouraged or placed into lower status schools.

Now we’ll move onto the final aspect of cultural influences by looking at ‘speech codes’.

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Leave a Comment
  1. DoubleN / Mar 6 2015 1:29 pm

    What is crisis of masculinity according to mac an ghail ?

    • C H Thompson / Mar 6 2015 2:10 pm

      When men can no longer express their masculinity. In the past this would have been achieved through their occupations such as ship building; mining; steel industry. Unlike now where very few occupations are masculine instead most jobs are ‘feminine’ such as office work; nursing; teaching etc. Indeed the crisis of masculinity is made worse by women starting to encroach on traditional male occupations by becoming plumbers; builders; you even have female boxers!


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