I’ve had over 45 years of experience working in higher education, and I have a large library. Now that I have a collection, I am looking through it and attempting to select which I will retain and which I will give to others. I was reminded of the specific works that helped shape me into a sociologist of education as I sorted the materials (Stephen J Ball, 2020). The 10 most important factors in that making are listed below.
1) B. Jackson & D. Marsden (1962). Education and the working class
This is the book that inspired me to pursue a career in sociology. My course instructor at Essex was Denis Marsden, and when I first read his book, it had a profound effect on me. It was all about me—my background, my training, and my struggles. The book examines the relationships between 88 working-class children who were “successful” and went to grammar school in Huddersfield; I went to school in London. For me, it transformed sociology into something tangible, current, interesting, and important—something I wanted to contribute to and was valuable. Later, Denis served as my Ph.D. external examiner.
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2) C. Lacey (1970). Hightown Grammar: The school as a social system
In my second year at Essex, this book was released. It was once more about me and my time at school, although this time the emphasis was more on school than on home. It was one of the first times a sociologist had attempted to investigate and challenge the “black box of education.” This is a thorough, exacting mixed-method investigation (decades before the term was coined). As a result of reading Hightown Grammar, I started to consider pursuing a doctorate myself to investigate the experiences of working-class children at comprehensive schools. Colin served as my mentor while I accomplished that at Sussex, and the Ph.D. became Beachside Comprehensive (1981).
3) C. Wright-Mills (1970). The sociological imagination
This book served as the foundational introduction to undergraduate sociology at Essex, and it continues to be essential to my work and way of thinking. I still suggest it to my students. The sociological imagination, as defined by Wright-Mills, is what “enables us to grasp history and biography and the links between the two within society…” These relationships, which were conceptualized in many ways during my career, served as the foundation for my work in sociology. As Wright-Mills continues, they have “the power to span from the most impersonal and remote alterations to the most intimate characteristics of the human self.” They appear in various ways in the texts below.
4) M. Foucault (1970). The order of things
This is arguably Foucault’s most difficult work, yet that was not where I began; that was Discipline and Punishment. The order is an intellectual tour de force, a rewriting of the intellectual history of western social science, and an entirely new way of thinking about knowledge. Its main claim is that all historical periods have had underlying epistemological assumptions, conditions of truth, and discourse that has governed what is considered to be scientific discourse. In other words, certain truth assertions are made conceivable by the possibilities of the mind while others are not.
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5) M. Foucault (1977). Discipline and punish
This was the first work by Foucault that I read, and it was a revelation because it offered a completely fresh perspective on education and the school. It contains Foucault’s quote, “Is it strange that jails resemble industries, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?” and has a lot to say about schools. This was the beginning of a 30-year relationship with Foucault’s work, one that forced me to reconsider what education is and may be from an ethical and practical standpoint.
6) M. Apple (1979). Ideology and curriculum
One of the earliest attempts to define a political economy of education—that is, to examine the connections between the cultural, political, and economic forces that have an impact on the school—was Michael’s book, which is currently in its fourth edition. The book discusses how “the forms of normative and conceptual consciousness “needed” by a stratified society” are dialectically tied to the kinds of cultural resources and symbols schools choose and organize. (p. 2). Once more, this is a discussion of structure and meaning, as well as of economy and daily life.
7) A. Strauss (1987). Qualitative data analysis for social scientists
The book by Anselm Strauss provides a means to define and practice ethnography as a methodical procedure without losing sight of its originality—as a type of representation as opposed to discovery. Through its use of useful coding tools, the book questions the epistemology of ethnography. I had the good fortune to meet Anselm several times.
8) P. Bourdieu (1986). Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste
The distinction is an incredible source of insights into what Bourdieu called “social class in the head” and the relationships between structural and subjective components of the class. The distinction is a vast toolbox of ideas and possibilities, both empirical and philosophical. It is a book that I have frequently looked to for ideas and that served as a crucial resource for a series of education and social class studies I worked on in the 1990s and 2000s.
9) D. Harvey (1989). The condition of postmodernity
This book, arguably, was the first to connect the socioeconomic effects of globalization and neoliberalism with the corresponding social, psychological, and emotional experiences. Harvey made explicit some of the ways the new global economic order affects and modifies our daily lives as employees and consumers – and interpolates us as global subjects – in particular through the concept of space-time compression. The world is both historic and commonplace.
10) B. Jessop (2002). The future of the capitalist state
In some ways, Jessop’s book is a companion piece to Harvey, but as the title indicates, Jessop’s concentration is on the state and the reworking of the forms and modalities of the state by and in connection to neoliberalism – the move from government to governance. This book presents a collection of ideas that were essential to my interest in educational reform and the function of non-state actors in the direction and delivery of education. Jessop offers a variety of entry points and options, as well as tools for inquiry and analysis, much like Harvey and Bourdieu.
Stephen J Ball (2020). The 10 books that made me a sociologist of education. https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/the-10-books-that-made-me-a-sociologist-of-education
TWH (2019). EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO AVOID PLAGIARISM IN THESIS. https://thesiswritinghelp.com.pk/everything-you-need-to-know-to-avoid-plagiarism-in-thesis