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Shaun Best
What is 'School Sociology' ?

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What is 'School Sociology'and why is he saying such terrible things about it?




This paper gives a critical outline of a range of A Level Sociology textbooks which are currently in use within post-16 education in the United Kingdom. A division between Sociology as an academic discipline and School Sociology is identified and a number of assumptions within School Sociology are categorised and possible consequences are discussed. In particular, that students who make use of textbooks are encouraged to come to conclusions with out familiarising themselves with an authors work and secondly that textbooks encourage plagiarism amongst students. The conclusion is that there is a need for a sociology benchmark, made up of central concept and ideas and that that A level sociology students should unlearn what they have come across in textbooks.

Key Words: Sociology, School Sociology, plagiarism, postmodernism, Durkheim.

The Two Sociologies:
What is School Sociology and why is he saying such terrible things about it?*

Adhering to the convention that two plus two equals four is like adhering to the convention that we drive on the right side of the road or the convention that red means stop and green means go. You do not because you are invested in its truth but because it is only if everyone adheres to the same conventions that automobiles wont crash and contracts will be enforceable.
Stanley Fish The Trouble with Principle (1999) p270

As the sociological field expands it becomes harder to map. In my view, this is a good reason to have more entry points into the discipline. In higher education there is diversity to Sociology that I believe is lacking at A level. In addition, A level Sociology textbooks are presented as New but the material contained within them often has a stale feel to it. As a reader I am often left with the feeling that I have read this all before, often a long time before. Moreover, the interpretations contained with textbooks often have little correspondence with the sources they claim to draw upon. Our textbooks are important; they provide the outside world with a window on our discipline. If the textbooks are poor, which I feel they are, they our discipline will be judged as poor. What do I think a textbook is supposed to do? My answer would be that we need diverse texts for diverse folks. There should be a rich diversity of text for teachers to choose from, with different styles of writing, presentation, and different theorists and theories. Sociology has a plurality of values and we have no mechanism for sorting them out. However, for the school sociologist, the expanding sociological field needs no reinterpretation. The more diverse forms of theorising merely reinforces their Manichean division between School Marxism and bourgeois sociologists - leading to the facile rejection of bourgeois works on purely ideological grounds. Every interesting question is answered in advance. Postmodernists reject Marxism so these pomos must be New Right bourgeois apologists. The same type of logic as: penguins are black and white, old films are black and white, so penguins must be old films - if you disagree with this you are a victim of hegemony, a fascist or both. Postmodernists are treated as an epistemological criminal class.
The motivation for this paper came from an interview that Mike Haralambos gave to S Magazine in September 1998 in which he said:
Far too many people write textbooks from textbooks and rely on the well-established structures and frameworks - and thats no good at all. (Haralambos 1998 page34)
Mike went on to describe some of the qualities that a good textbook author should have, my favourite is that: You need someone whos obsessed.... (Haralambos 1998 page34).

School Sociology tells us very little about what is happening in the world. Look at any major world event over the past decade and School Sociology is painfully inadequate at providing any type of answer. As a discipline it is irrelevant to the world, and we know it. Stephen Harris in his Longman exam practice kit: A-Level Sociology advice to students, both clearly and correctly states that: The AEB standard is based on the best that could be achieved by an 18 year old student who has studied the subject for two years. (Harris 1997 page 5) Followed by: You may be rewarded if you are able to refer to other theories which are currently less significant at A-level, such as:
New Right theories
Postmodernism. (Harris 1997 page 9)

Not only does School sociology fail to take into account development in social theory over the past decade, but it will provide little or no understanding of 18 years of Conservative Government, which as clearly dominated the life experience of the student doing the course. Any study of the social that does not fully and clearly engage Thatcherism is sadly lacking to the point of being totally irrelevant.

Moreover, students who participate in School Sociology are often done great harm by it. There only hope to succeed as undergraduates is to forget the basic assumptions of School Sociology at the earliest opportunity, one route to successfully doing this is to blame their School Sociology teacher. Our teacher did not tell us this, Out teacher did not do things like this become common thoughts. Many sociology undergraduates have problems understanding social theory. This difficulty to grasp social theory may well be a factor in why so many undergraduates fail to complete their Sociology courses. School Sociology may be a potential factor in accounting for poor retention on Sociology degree courses. We need to look closer at our own practice as Sociologists, and in particular at the major divide between Sociology the academic discipline and School Sociology. They are not one and the same.

So what is school sociology?
School Sociology, is the term I give to the sociology found within the covers of A level Sociology textbooks, is built upon a very different set of assumptions, looks at very different problems and with a distinct terminology. What we perceive as lack of understanding, may well be the confusion that any person would have when faced with two incompatible idioms.
School Sociology has the habit of: incorrectly categorising theorists into unauthentic positions.(Kidd, 2000 page 19). The categories used in our textbooks should be seen for what they, are gestures of exclusion. Textbook writers should think again about the often patronising and insulting categories that they use to label ways of theorising. It is easy to invent an offensive label and apply it - so I did, in the hope that the next time a textbook author is forcing some way of thinking into an inappropriate and offensive category, I hope they will recall how they felt when they were labelled school sociologist. However, there is a serious point here; successful A level Sociology students go to university with an understanding of social theory which is incompatible with Sociology the academic discipline. This reinforces the need for a Sociology benchmark that is composed of central concepts and ideas.

Students who participate in school sociology are often done great harm by it.
The textbooks contain what I consider to be highly selective and often highly inaccurate accounts. However, the selectivity and the inaccuracy are not random. It is very rare to find a critique of Marxism in School Sociology textbooks, Barnard and Burgess in their Sociology Explained (1996), ask the question: So is Marxism dead? (Barnard and Burgess 1996 page 11) but do not provide an answer to the question.

A level texts offer uncritical versions of Marxism. In particular School Marxism (Marxism as presented in A level Sociology textbooks); is a Marxism in which the labour theory of value has been removed. The labour theory of value is the foundation of the Marxian Analysis; it provides the theory of exploitation, the foundation for the theory of power, the basis for the Marxian conception of class. Without an understanding of this theory you will be unable to understand what Marxism is about. However, the labour theory of value is the Achilles heal of Marxism; it is also seriously flawed. Only one text on the market makes any reference to the theory, and that is the Kirby text. However, the Kirby team only make reference to this theory in passing, its significance is not explained and it is not subject to any evaluation critical or otherwise.
Our textbook authors need to answer this question: Why do you not include a critical evaluation of the central plank of the Marxian analysis in your textbook?

Marxism without the labour theory of value is either:
a form of deception - keep it secret from the students or well be dead in the water
a form of moralising Dont be bad to the working class - Be excellent to each other
Alternatively, Marxism without the labour theory of value is Post-Marxism in the same vein as Jameson (1991) - a position one textbook author, Paul Manning, has shown some sympathy for (SST Vol25 No 3 1996 page 25).

Jameson also redefines the relationships contained within the labour theory of value into a linguistic account. In contrast to the traditional Marxist analysis of the labour theory of value, Jamesons view is that, value emerges as something independent of the labour power that went into making it. This value is an abstraction or concept and the market place becomes a place of the symbolic exchange of value.

In other words, value is said by Jameson to be independent of the labour power that produced it. Value is a concept, it is an idea, and must be explained in cultural terms. Concepts which are free of the terminology of the traditional Marxists, most notably, the concept of economic exploitation; the significance of this is that Jameson has collapsed the economic base into the superstructure, and suggested that we can only make sense of the world in cultural terms. The economic bases, including the relations of production, are irrelevant in the postmodern condition. The economic base is no longer the force that moves history forward; it is culture and ideas that generate future social change.

It can be noted then that, although Jameson does not reject the labour theory of value, he rejects its traditional form, and redefines it as a cultural or superstructural thing. Taking my lead for Paul Manning I would argue that the Kirby team place the labour theory of value outside of the traditional Marxian analysis, because they are pomos in the same fashion as Jameson. Have the Kirby team become Post-Marxist PoMos like Jameson? If the Kirby team told us where they, and their textbook, stood it would avoid a great deal of confusion.

The whole area of social theory in textbooks needs to be reworked. It needs to be balanced with critiques of Marxism, and a clear focus of what has happened to social theory in the past ten years. In particular, a full outline and critique of all of Giddens work, with an account of why it is so influential. A much fuller outline and evaluation of recent development in Radical Feminism, Queer Theory and theories about the Black experience; this did not end with Weberian accounts, as most textbooks assume. The discussion of postmodernism needs to identify that the postmodern writers are, outline what have said, with some effective and informed critique. Passing reference to Derrida, which is the most one can expect from almost all textbooks, is not enough by a long way. The debate about the End of History needs to be included - it usually is not. Finally, the use of the words structural and structuralist should only be applied to structuralist works, not as a general term for Marxism and Functionalism.

Firstly, it is clear that most textbook writers do not have a grasp of the work of Durkheim, Weber and Marx and they are unfamiliar with theories and debates from the 1990s. Most Theory chapters read as if it is largely drawn from secondary sources. Most theoretical positions are presented as caricatures, except for Marxist accounts that are stated with a baldness that verges on the contentious and inaccurate. Kirby et al not only want to have their cake and eat it, they want to take the cake shop and the bakery into public ownership. Kirby et al have no doubts what so ever as to the usefulness of the Marxian analysis as a tool of contemporary social analysis. However, a person would need the faith of a follower of David Koresh not to have some doubts. The textbooks need a clearer focus on what Durkheim, Weber and Marx actually said not what authors wished they had said to make Weber and Durkheim easy to criticise from what authors think is a Marxian point of view.

What are contours School Sociology ?

Taking their starting point from Philip Jones (1985) most Sociology textbooks take Durkheim, Marxism and Functionalism to be structural theories with the further division described as: Structural-conflict theory (Marxism) and Structural-consensus theory (Functionalism). Barnard and Burgess, for example, describe Functionalism and Marxism as: ..examples of the structural viewpoint. (Barnard and Burgess 1996 page 1) and on the next page describe Durkheim, Marxists and Functionalists as the structuralists (Barnard and Burgess 1996 page 2). In a similar fashion, Jorgensen et al (1997) explain:
.. we can classify social theory into two types:
v Structuralist theories - These stress the way that society and social rules constrain and control what we do. These include theories that argue:
- that social consensus is normal
- that social conflict is normal.
Sociologists influenced by Durkheim usually see structure and consensus as central; those influenced by Marx usually emphasize structure and conflict.

v Social action theories - These emphasize the role that individuals and groups play in making society and social rules. They include a whole range of theorists influenced by Weber and Mead and include symbolic interactionism and ethnomethodology theories. (Jorgensen et al 1997 page276)

This approach is common and is found in a range of texts: Ivor Morgans A Level Sociology Revision Notes (1998); Harris (1996); and sadly Haralambos (1995), after a introduction which does not use the typology reverts back to something similar in the last chapter.

This approach of describing theories as Structuralist when they are not causes students a great deal of problems when they come across Structuralism in their university courses. Because the terms structural and structuralist are used in an inappropriate way in relation to Marxism and Functionalism, as structural -conflict theories and structural-consensus theory; logically, Saussure, Levi-Strauss etc., should be called structural-structuralists! The reader coming to this for the first time would think that, Saussure, Levi-Strauss and the rest must be Functionalists or Marxists - of course they are neither, they are structuralists. On the basis of this, you might want to reflect upon what post-structuralism might mean? Most textbooks get around such problems by not having a discussion of Structuralism.

In addition, this leads to perhaps one the strangest aspects of School Sociology, which is the almost total absence of any discussion of Anthony Giddens work, which is odd given that Giddens is the most influential, widely published and discussed Sociologist in the world today. In Barnard and Burgess (1996) Giddens get a brief mention in the postscript. In Jorgensen et al (1997) Giddens gets only one mention in the chapter on Theory and Method. Kirby et al (1997) and Haralambos (1995) have a short discussion of Giddens (1984) with a very short summary of Archers critique, but there is only passing reference to Giddens work in the 1990s.

I can understand the need to have clarity and simplicity. However, what textbooks do is to present Sociology as a series of compartmentalised boxes that present a series of irreconcilable divisions. Sociology then becomes set of inflexible caricatures. Most textbooks will contain openly started assumptions that Functionalists and Marxists, with their structural perspective are Positivists and look at society from a scientific point of view. Whereas in contrast, Interpretavists with their anti-structuralist and anti- positivistic perspective look for meaning in society; to illustrate this let us take a look at the way in which Durkheims analysis of suicide is presented in the textbooks. The reason why I have picked on this example is because all textbooks contain a discussion of Durkheim on suicide, which allows us to make some comparison and generalisation.

Durkheim on Suicide

People who have clearly never read Durkheims book on suicide write the textbooks on the market at the moment. Rather, textbooks have a self referential nature latter textbooks are written from previous textbooks. The descriptions of sociologists work become further and further removed from what the originals said. There are very few quotes from Durkheim, and those that do appear are taken from other textbooks, for example see Kirby et al (1997) page 17. As we shall see, it is a big mistake to assume that such textbooks are authoritative sources on Durkheim, or anyone else for that matter.

Kirby et al attempt to force Durkheims analysis into the rigid caricature of structural-consensus Functionalism that bears no relationship to the subtlety and persuasiveness of the original Durkheim. All the textbooks invite the reader to assume that Durkheim had a very poor grasp of human agency, that people were pushed about by forces outside of their control and that Durkheim made assumptions about the validity of official statistics that was beyond belief in its native acceptance. Also it is assumed that the critiques from Douglas (1967) and Atkinson (1978) are without question, valid critiques.

Kirby et al informs his reader that the social fact is a: a product of social construction: it does not create or mould the individual, but rather, individual action creates the social reality. (Kirby et al 1997 page 462).
Durkheim in his Rules of the Sociological Method clearly states in his discussion of social facts that: It results from their being together, a product of the actions and reactions which take place between individual consciousness.... (Durkheim 1966 p9).

In Suicide, at several points, Durkheim states the relationship between agency and structure, as he did in each of his works. Replying to a critique from Tarde - not unlike the one from Kirby et al, but published almost one hundred and fifty years before - Durkheim replied:
We clearly did not imply by this that society can exist without individuals, an obvious absurdity we might have been spared having attributed to us. But we did mean: 1. that the group formed by associated individuals has a reality of a different sort from each individual considered singly; 2. that collective states exist in the group from whose nature they spring, before they affect the individual as such and establish in him a new form a purely inner existence. (Durkheim 1952 page 320)

The Kirby et al text goes on to cite in an uncritical fashion the view that Durkheim made an uncritical use of official statistics to justify his deterministic view of suicide which failed to take into account that suicide statistics were put together by officials who may have their own point of view concerning the causes of sudden death.

In a similar fashion, Jorgensen et al (1997) informs his readers that, unbeknown to Durkheim, but not unbeknown to clever people like Douglas, Atkinson and others who:
.. suggest that such statistics are only a reflection of the officials working in the organizations that produce such statistics. These do not reflect the truth or reality of such events. Foe sociologists, the proper study of suicide must involve an examination of the work on the part of officials in arriving at definitions of what is or is not a suicide. (Jorgensen et al 1997 page 310)

Even a more informed text such as Fulcher and Scott (1999) maintain that:
The main problem was that the suicide rates on which he [Durkheim] based his study were calculated from official statistics. (Fulcher and Scott 1999 page 9) This is followed by twenty-seven-word evaluation of the Douglas and Atkinson position.

Barnard and Burgess similarly argue that:

Durkheims (1897) analysis of the official statistics is regarded by positivists as a masterpiece of sociological enquiry. Durkheim argues that rigorous analysis and comparison of the official suicide statistics provide social facts. But according to interactionism they are social facts compiled by humans - doctors, coroners, the police and the families and friends of the dead person - who all have an axe to grind. Taking these official statistics at face value, they argue, is to ignore the interactive processes which contribute to their creation. (Barnard and Burgess 1996 page 32-33)

In the preceding discussion of Durkheims analysis on page four, Barnard and Burgess (as with most textbooks) use the term collective conscience which is not an adequate translation of conscience collective which is always left untranslated in Durkheims work because it might be misunderstood for collective conscience! Even a passing familiarity with Durkheims work would be enough to avoid these problems.

The Durkheim Myth is similar found in all textbooks, some of the better examples as Ivor Morgans A Level Sociology Revision Notes (1998); Harris (1996); and sadly Haralambos (1995) that does have a slight trace critical response to Douglas and Atkinson only to fall back into the myth on methodological grounds.

In summary, the School Sociology version of Durkheim is of a positivistic/functionalist/structuralist - these terms are after all used interchangeably to mean the same thing in School Sociology. Who was naive in terms of his staunch belief that official statistics were absolute facts? He had no understanding of the process by which statistics were created. He was deterministic, in the sense that people were pushed about by a collective conscience made up of social facts, over which individual people had no control. Individuals people were so incapable of exercising any control over their lives that their individual psyche was of no use to them what so ever, and could not even prevent them from killing themselves if the collective conscience so demanded it. The role of the sociologist was simply to identify which of the four rigid types of suicide (three for some textbooks!) a sudden death should be placed into.

In terms of simple good practice, perhaps our textbook writers should ask, why we should accept without question the interactionist view. After all, by what criteria can interactionists say that coroners definitions and interpretations of suicide are wrong? Interpretations are neither right nor wrong. So unfamiliar are some textbook writers that they end up supporting their own parody of Durkheim whilst attempting to summarise their critique of him. Kirby et al conclude their view of the interactionist critique of Durkheim by saying: Viewed in this way, suicide statistics are created and shaped through strong social and cultural forces. Yes, but this is not a critique of Durkheim, it is Durkheims own view!

If we have a look at Durkheims book we find an analysis that is unrecognisable from the textbook accounts. Durkheim did look at individual forms of suicide; he did this in the chapter entitled Individual Forms of the Different types of Suicide. In addition, Durkheim did not rely solely upon official statistics he looks at some length at the work of Brierre de Boismont, who in De suicide et de la folie-suicide (Germer Baillier Paris 1865) who analysed the personal papers of 1,507 people who had committed suicide. In addition, Durkheim was conscious of the problems involved in the social construction of official statistics. As Durkheim explains:

But as Wagner long ago remarked, what are called statistics of the motives of suicides are actually statistics of the opinions concerning such motives of officials, often of lower officials, in charge of this information service. Unfortunately, official establishments of fact are known to be often defective even when applied to obvious material facts comprehensible to any conscientious observer and leaving no room for evaluation. (Durkheim 1952 page 148).

In addition, Wagner referred to in the above quote did start something of a debate about the validity of a whole range of official statistics in the 1860s following the publication of part two of his Die Gesetzmassigkeit in der scheinbar willkurlichen menschlichen Handlungen (Hamburg 1864). Some of the contributions to this debate are to be found in Annee Sociologique. Durkheim was fully aware of issues of validity and reliability in relation to official statistics. Perhaps the people who write textbooks might look at the reasons that Durkheim gave for using the statistics given their problematic nature.

In addition, apart from one line in Fulcher and Scott (page 9) there is no discussion in the textbooks of combined types of suicide; in which say anomie and egoism are evident in the same sudden death. Hence, the textbooks give a neat and tidy but, in the last analysis, a rather simplistic caricature of Durkheimss four types of suicide. In contrast, what Durkheim describes is a situation in which any individual is faced with a range of contradictory pressures and forces from range of different sources that the individual has to come to terms with in some fashion to be in a position to continue with their everyday life.

A School Sociology Myth in the making - the critique of postmodernism

As we saw in the quote from Harris above, School Sociology cannot, or will not, engage with a discussion of postmodernism. Instead postmodernism either buries its head in the sand, assuming that postmodernism is not there. Alternatively, School Sociologists lay down some modernist assumptions about the nature of the world and the nature of truth, as ground rules, and claim that postmodernism fails. Take for example what I consider the bizarre question asked by Madry and Kirby (1996):
Is postmodernism true?
This question appears to be becoming more and more central to more and more areas of sociology. ... But there is one final problem with the postmodernist analysis: the logical fallacy that any doctrine that declares that there are no truths must find itself included in that statement. If postmodernism is true, the postmodernist idea that there are no truths cannot be true. (Madry and Kirby 1996 page 192)

In other words, there is no attempt to engage the postmodern position. School Sociology is based upon the assumption, questioned by Richard Rorty and many others, that the truth is our there. Whatever postmodernism is about, it involves going back to the question that philosophers have never adequately answered: What is is? What is the nature of being? What are the foundations to our practical everyday activities? I find the answer as honest and appealing as any possible answer I have heard before. We simply do not know the answers to these questions. We have to assume that there is no unified ontological foundation to the world. There is nothing that we are all agreed upon in this area; instead we have ontological insecurity and epistemological plurality. We cannot plunge our flag into the ground and state this is the truth, and if we could it would not be Marxism that we would look to provide an answer. However, this is not to say that such a postmodern position is not both informative and liberating. Replacing truth with discourse gives people a voice that previously we did not hear because it lacked objectivity or fell down because of some other modernist ground rule. We can now have a Black Womens History etc. Whatever you think of this position, it needs to be engaged not dismissed in such a simplistic and patronising way as the work of misguided pioneers.

In a similar fashion, when textbooks discuss, or attempt to discuss, social theory in the 1990s, they have a tendency to produce lists of names etc., but with no explanation, discussion or evaluation, in some cases, for example Kirby et al the author claims to have knowledge which he does not posses. In their discussion of postmodernism the following point is presented as part of a critique:
First, several critics [names not given] have argued that postmodernism, particularly in the work of Baudrillard, merely rehearses the old Frankfurt schools manipulation theory. Accordingly it is vulnerable to the same criticisms. It is too pessimistic and underestimates the capacity of the audience to think critically. Alternative research presents a picture of a much more critical audience. (Kirby et al 1997 page 416)

This and the other critiques are founded upon a total lack of understanding borne out of unfamiliarity with the work of all postmodernists, and Baudrillard in particular. Let us have a look at one of Baudrillards central concepts to see if the Kirby et al critiques hold water.

Baudrillard on Implosion

According to Baudrillard (1993) the mass media is opposed to mediation, it is concerned with one-way communication, there is no exchange. This simple emission/reception of information can be viewed as the forced silence of the masses. This stupor that the masses appear to be in is said by Baudrillard to make the masses radically uncertain as to their own desires. The media images are no longer differentiated from reality or human nature, not because of some simple manipulation in a Marxian sense, the masses have an almost infinite abundance of entertainment and other forms of useless information. The masses have a greater and greater desire for spectacle, and it is because of this demand by the masses that films become more and more expensive to produce, have better and better special effects, the promotion and hype is more intense, the merchandising covers all possible commodities. We have a televisually created politics of disillusion and disaffection. The end result is a series of implosions: class conflict between labour and capital; politics and entertainment; high culture and low culture. All such divisions collapse in on themselves to form a political void. The end result of this is often the sudden crystallisation of latent violence (Baudrillard 1993 page 76), which appear as irrational episodes. Spectators turn themselves into actors they invent their own spectacle for the gaze of the media. Baudrillard discusses examples such as violence at the Heysel Stadium; the Real Madrid-Naples European Cup Final and Thatchers conflict with the miners. Interestingly, these are some of the very conflicts and questions that School Sociology has provided no discussion about.
It is also important to note When I read the Kirby et al, text I did not know who had written which chapter. Therefore, I was unable to deduce if the person who had written chapter ten, which contains the flawed account of Baudrillard, was Paul Manning rehashing the points he made in his earlier article (SST Vol25 No 3 1996 page 22) or if another author was plagiarising him. If I were a hostile critic I would state: Either way, the original article contains very little reference to Baudrillards work. As Paul Manning makes crystal clear in his references to the 1996 piece, he had done little more than dip into two readers about Baudrillards work. Instead of doing his homework and reading Baudrillard, Paul chooses to rely on decorative accounts of people whom he feels support his view. I dont care if Paul likes Baudrillard or not, but I would like him to read it before imposing his views upon us.

At least there is a misguided discussion in Kirby et al, other writers such as Harris (1996) in a section of his book given the title Essential Principles, simply dismiss postmodernism as: ..little more than an apology for the individualism and greed associated with the Thatcher-Reagan years. (Harris 1996 page 232)

Reproducing stuff: we have read it all before!

More importantly than exchanging ideas, is the issue of textbooks reproducing stuff we have seen before in texts that are readily available to students and teachers. Plagiarism is common within A level Sociology textbooks. Let us compare pages 323 - 330 of Jorgensen et al with a number of other sources; this is not the only example of reproducing stuff we have seen before, but a full investigation would require an article in itself.

Compare and contrast the following:
Example One

'Globalisation is a relatively new idea in sociology, though people who work in and write about the transnational corporations and international business have been using it for some time.' from Sklair (1993) p7

Compare the Sklair above with the Jorgensen below:

'Globalization is a relatively new concept in sociology. However, economists and others who work in and write about the transnational corporations and international business have been using it for some time.'from Jorgensen et al (1997) p323

Example Two

'..the journal Theory Culture and Society (TCS) edited by Mike Featherstone (1990). Writers associated with TCS working in this area include Featherstone (1991) on consumerism, Urry (1990) on tourism, Robertson (1992) on culture in general, and Turner (ed) (1990) on modernity and post modernity.'from Sklair (1993) p8

'..the journal Theory, Culture and Society, edited by Mike Featherstone, who has made his own contribution in the area of consumerism. Other writers on the globalization of culture debate include Roland Robertson on culture in general, Bryan S Turner on modernity and postmodernity, and J Urry on tourism.'from Jorgensen et al (1997) p329

Example Three

'..they are all interested in the question of how individual and/or national identity can survive in the face of an emerging 'global culture'. Second, they tend to prioritise the cultural over the political and/or the economic.'from Sklair (1993) p8

'*They are all interested in the question of how individual and national identity can survive in a 'global culture'
*They tend to emphasise the cultural over the political and/or the economic'from Jorgensen et al (1997) p329

Example Four

'The transnational corporation (TNC) is the most important institution for economic transnational practices; the transnational capitalist class (TCC) for political transnational practices; and the culture-ideology of consumerism for transnational cultural-ideological practices.a conception of the global system based on transnational practices.Transnational practices are practices that originate with non-state actors and cross state borders. They are analytically distinguished in three spheres: economic, political and cultural-ideological'from Sklair (1993) p9

'..a conception of the global system based on transnational practices. Transnational practices are practices that originate with non-state actions and their cross-state borders. Sklair's analysis places them in three spheres: the economic, the political and the cultural/ideological.* TNCs are the most important institutions for economic transnational practices.* The transnational capitalist class (TCC) is the most important institution for political transnational practices.* The culture/ideology of consumerism is the most important institution for transnational cultural ideological practices.'from Jorgensen et al (1997) p329

Example Five

'process of 'McDonaldization': 'the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world' (1993: 1, italics deleted). The principles are as follows (1993: 7-13):* efficiency: McDonaldization compresses the time span and the effort expended between a want and its satisfaction;* calculability: it encourages calculations of costs of money, time and effort as the key principles of value on the part of the consumer, displacing estimations of quality; * predictability: it standardizes products so that consumers are encouraged not to seek alternatives;* control of human beings by the use of material technology; this involves not only maximal deskilling of workers but the control of consumers by means of queue control barriers, fixed menu displays, limited options, uncomfortable seats, inaccessible toilets, and 'drive-through' processing.'from Waters (1995) p143-44

'.process of 'MacDonaldization', 'the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society, as well as the rest of the world'.The principles of such a process are as follows:* Efficiency MacDonaldization compresses the time-span and the effort expended between a want and its satisfaction.* Calculability It encourages calculations of costs of money, time and effort as the key principles of value on the part of the consumer, displacing estimations of quality.* Predictability It standardizes products so that consumers are encouraged not to seek alternatives.* Control of human beings by the use of material technology This involves not only de-skilling of workers, but control of consumers.'from Jorgensen et al (1997) p330

What do I think a textbook is supposed to do? A simple answer is: Not this. There should be no formula for a textbook good or otherwise, we should have a rich diversity of texts. This would allow the teacher to choose the text that they feel is most appropriate for the students in their class. At the moment textbooks appear like petrol stations! If there is a successful petrol station then a competitor will build one that looks exactly the same on the opposite side of the road. This situation has got much worse I believe with the recent trend of Awarding bodies recommending particular texts for specific specifications.


There is a high level of cyclical reinforcement within School Sociology, with its accelerated networks and circuits. Syllabuses are written to attract teachers, publishers write textbooks to fit into syllabuses that attract teachers, and teachers buy the textbooks for their students. Once a myth, such as all Functionalists (Structural-Consensus theorists - for fluent School Sociology speakers) are positivists, enters the circle then: the myth appears in textbooks, teachers are expected to teach it, students are expected to learn it, examiners expect to see it, reward when they do see it, penalise candidates when they do not see it, syllabuses become revised around the myth, exam questions take quotes from the textbooks and textbooks make use of exam questions in their advice to students to better prepare them for examinations. Myth becomes fact without foundation. The imaginary becomes the real, more real than real, more true than true, hyperreal, endless simulation. And so it goes on, endless duplication, like the behaviour of the cancerous cell. Sociology as an academic discipline is never really involved, it provides only the backdrop. Sociology as the great voyage of discovery is no more; it becomes little more than a Playstation or arcade game, with no depth or substance. Students go through a number of pre-set manoeuvres as they would in Tomb Raider III, Tekken II or Crash Bandicoot, self enclosed, with its own game rules, divorced from everyday life picking up meaningless points as they go along.

Students do not learn Sociology; they learn how to pass a sociology exam. With its own language - the language of the list. Students are rewarded for writing responses to questions which involve little more than saying Structural-Consensus theory suggests, but Structural-Conflict theory suggests otherwise, whilst Interactionists say otherwise again.. Evaluation becomes little more than attaching the appropriate label and the appropriate mythical sloganised insult. Which in most cases involves pointing out that somebody is a positivist - a damming critique in itself for the school Sociologist. Excellent contrast, great evaluation says the Chief Examiner, grade A, excellent work - I dont think so. Because textbooks do not tell the student in any detail what Functionalists, Marxists or anybody else has to say in any detail, our students are left ill equipped to read Sociology books. Moreover, the temptation to fake understanding is well rewarded. In the same fashion, if I play football badly and Im criticised for it, I can reply that I am content to play football badly. However, once a student passes the A level Sociology exam they should reasonably expect to be a competent Sociologist when they get to university. Not so. To continue with my Wittgenstein inspired example, at university our students become like Wittgensteins talking lions. They can speak but nobody can understand them. They become fluent in the gibberish of School Sociology.

Theory, practice and commitment are real problems for School Sociology. As it currently stands, school Sociology offers no insight into the richness of sociology as an academic discipline. Looking for anything of value in School Sociology is like looking at a flee down a microscope. We may see a large object, but the magnification merely reinforces the insignificance. Although School Sociologists emphatically and oppressively know their own mind, School Sociology is both conservative and conserving, with a self important immersion in self generated problems, divorced from the world of everyday life. Moreover, it depends upon apathy and simple-mindedness and for both teachers and students to be unadventurous. It is for this reason that School Sociology promotes such characteristics so consistently. However, there is a discipline called Sociology out there, which is both stimulating and rewarding and School Sociologists might find it equally so. School Sociologists fear that letting down the drawbridge will lead to personal annihilation. It will not, life will go on.

Note: * in the style of Stanley Fish.

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Shaun Best