Friday, October 23, 2009

Bourdieu and Passeron 5: The Pedagogocratic Ambition

This week I will be blogging on Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron's Reproduction in Education, Culture, and Society, which we are studying in my macrosociological theory class.

The learned classes have “the pedagogocratic ambition of subjecting all acts of civil and political life to the moral magisterium of the University.”

They made up the word pedagogocratic. It is a lovely word.

It is not wrong to wish that smart people run society. What is wrong is being arrogant about being smart or educated. The moral magisterium of the University is properly one voice in the argument about how things should be run. I think it proper that it be one of the most influential voices. But pedagogocracy would not be superior to democracy, or more precisely, republicanism.


randy said...

one thing i've noticed again and again is how often those public figures who most vehemently and uncompromisingly critique the capitalist ruling class and it's system of controls and manipulations-people such as naomi klein, howard zinn, michael parenti, noam chomsky et al-display many of those traits which are markers of membership in the dominant class: ambition, goal-setting, follow-through, gratification-deferment, impulse control, punctuality, personal confidence, etc...

that is to say, they are in many ways VERY LIKE the folks whose actions and policies they decry.

i geuss that's what bourdieu and passeron may be getting at here; you may teach or study in the most leftish dept. of lefty schools-ccny, uc-berkeley,'re still serving to shore up capitalistic power.

Black Sea said...

"ambition, goal-setting, follow-through, gratification-deferment, impulse control, punctuality, personal confidence, etc..."

These are the characteristics of people who accomplish things. Wonderful things, terrible things, inane things, amusing things. I don't get how these characteristics necessarily shore up capitalist power.

I'd bet that Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Mihn, and for that matter, Pol Pot, all possessed most of these attributes.

Well, maybe not deferred gratification, particularly.

Gruntled said...

The question that I have been asking the students is, can you describe a realistic alternative to the social structure that we live in? Even if you think the educational system bolsters and inculcates the class system, you still have to decide "therefore, what?"

randy said...

black sea; i geuss my point was more that the folks i mentioned always, always contend that the privileged maintain their power NOT by genuine ability and effort but by coercion and chicanery...and that the downtrodden are where they are NOT because they lack ability and effort, but primarily because of oppression. AND YET these leftist/radical leaders and thinkers THEMSELVES employ tried and true methods of achieving success; such as hard work.

gruntled; you can take it further than that. ask HOW one would go about changing it. HOW would one 'dismantle captalistic control'? i'll encounter some discussion on whether or not the present system of oppressive capitalist imperialism should or should not be done away with, and i'll think; that's like me asking myself-'should i attack and defeat mike tyson.'

aint gonna ever happen...

Black Sea said...


I agree with the re-statement of your point. Criticizing the status quo is just as viable an avenue to power as defending it. In fact, we live in a culture in which defense of the status quo is generally confused with complacency. You'll rarely hear any ambitious person say -- publicly anyway -- "You know, all things considered, our irrational, unplanned, sometimes arbitrary and sometimes unjust social order is about the best we can hope for." However, it may well be the best we can hope for. People have certainly lived and died under far worse.

As far as the question of describing a realistic alternative to the current social structure, I think this is a useful thought exercise for students, and for anyone else, from time to time. I believe that most efforts to actually implement such alternatives have tended toward catastrophe rather than liberation. I believe that human beings are necessarily hierarchical creatures, and that their hierarchies are constructed on the grounds of power, which - under favorable conditions - translates to status, which - under favorable conditions - translates to leadership, which - under favorable conditons translates to something approximating social responsibility , or if you prefer an older term, noblesse oblige. And of course, that series of refinements of power is itself a kind of idealization.

The problem with large scale social engineering is that it fails to take into account human nature. Well, at least until the killing starts.

Gruntled said...

Black Sea, I half agree with you about the power structure at the heart of the social order. But I also think that servant leadership is ultimately even more powerful than command authority. That is something that Weber was also "unmusical" about.