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Social Paralysis and Social Change

Social Paralysis and Social Change: British Working-Class Education in the Nineteenth Century

Neil J. Smelser
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 540
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  • Book Info
    Social Paralysis and Social Change
    Book Description:

    Neil Smelser'sSocial Paralysis and Social Changeis one of the most comprehensive histories of mass education ever written. It tells the story of how working-class education in nineteenth-century Britain-often paralyzed by class, religious, and economic conflict-struggled forward toward change. This book is ambitious in scope. It is both a detailed history of educational development and a theoretical study of social change, at once a case study of Britain and a comparative study of variations within Britain. Smelser simultaneously meets the scholarly standards of historians and critically addresses accepted theories of educational change-"progress," conflict, and functional theories. He also sheds new light on the process of secularization, the relations between industrialization and education, structural differentiation, and the role of the state in social change. This work marks a return for the author to the same historical arena-Victorian Britain-that inspired his classic workSocial Change in the Industrial Revolutionthirty-five years ago. Smelser's research has again been exhaustive. He has achieved a remarkable synthesis of the huge body of available materials, both primary and secondary. Smelser's latest book will be most controversial in its treatment of class as a primordial social grouping, beyond its economic significance. Indeed, his demonstration that class, ethnic, and religious groupings were decisive in determining the course of British working-class education has broad-ranging implications. These groupings remain at the heart of educational conflict, debate, and change in most societies-including our own-and prompt us to pose again and again the chronic question: who controls the educational terrain?

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91154-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables and Charts
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 General Considerations
    (pp. 1-6)

    Elementary education in society commands our attention for many reasons, not the least of which is the ambivalence with which it is often regarded. On the one hand, it is valued positively as a medium for instilling into coming generations the cultural ideals, values, and idols that its host society treasures. It is also the medium for establishing the fundamentals of rational thought—language and logic—that are believed to be essential conditions for intelligent participation in civilized society. On the other hand, it is often the target of negative emotions, primordial jealousies, and heated controversy. There are two reasons...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Accounts of Educational Change
    (pp. 7-38)

    By all measures, English education in the nineteenth century produced a scene of interminable talk, conflict, and frustration, both on the part of partisans and observers in that century and among contemporary historians. In 1867 John Stuart Mill observed that education was “one of the most inexhaustible of all topics.”¹ Several years later he described his age as one in which “education, and its improvement, are the subject of more, if not profounder study than at any former period of English history.” ² Throughout the century, members of Parliament worried and debated endlessly over the subject, intertwined as it was...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Primordial Imagery in the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 39-63)

    In the preceding chapter I laid out several available accounts of educational development and generated a synthetic perspective that is both different from and inclusive of these accounts. That perspective will guide my accounts and interpretations of working-class education in the nineteenth century. This chapter is also introductory, but in a different way. In it I record several primordial dimensions of British life that constitute “givens” within which Britain’s educational system evolved. These dimensions were not the sole determinants of that evolution; in chapter 8, for example, the direct impingement of the capitalist economy—especially its labor market—in shaping...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Truce Points and Moments of Change (1)
    (pp. 64-97)

    This chapter and the next present a history of British working-class education in the nineteenth century that is consonant with the perspective developed in chapter 2. I identify a number of dates in the first seven decades of the nineteenth century, each of which was decisive with respect to prolonging a stalemate, changing the definition of the educational situation, stimulating growth, or triggering an institutional innovation. (Making such identifications is scarcely an original act on my part: some of these dates—for example, 1839, 1846, 1862—coincide with those recognized by consensus among historians as the critical moments in British...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Truce Points and Moments of Change (2)
    (pp. 98-144)

    The years 1843–46 were mixed ones for those pressing for an extension of working-class schooling. On the one hand, the heated competition among the religious groups, with the assistance of a few minor improvements under the Peel administration, gave an impetus to growth within the voluntary system, supplemented as it was by subsidization. The government began what was to become a steady program of annual increases in level of support. The grant, held at roughly £30,000 through 1843, was increased to £39,000 in 1844, £54,000 in 1845, and £58,000 in 1846—a doubling, though the amounts were still small...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Case of Wales
    (pp. 145-193)

    For the student of comparisons, Wales holds a special fascination as one of those “near cases”—near to, even an integral part of, England in many cultural and social-structural respects, but different in others. It was also near to Scotland and Ireland in that it shared Celtic influences, but had distinctive features of its own and differed from the other two in its relations with England.

    To commence, then, it is helpful to note some ways in which Wales presents a distinct picture in comparison to England, Ireland, and Scotland in the nineteenth century.

    With respect to polity, Wales had...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Cases of Ireland and Scotland
    (pp. 194-253)

    To deepen the analysis of elementary education in nineteenth-century Britain, I now turn to two other facets of it, Ireland and Scotland. Both were under the rule of the British Parliament in London but had either a degree of autonomy or separate administrative arrangements in several institutional areas, including education. As a case for study, Ireland represents a more extreme version than Wales of cultural (including religious), institutional, and political differences from England. These included antagonism to and religious alienation from the established Anglican Church of Ireland; a fusion of social class with religious and ethnic differences; and a developed...

  12. CHAPTER 8 The Family Economy and Working-Class Education
    (pp. 254-295)

    Until now the analysis has taken the perspective mainly of those pressing for or providing working-class education: reformers, the ruling classes, the religious societies, community subscribers, and the state administration. This emphasis has concerned the supply side of education, with little consideration of its impact on its recipients or their interest in it. I have touched on the ways in which conditions of supply facilitated the spread of education—for example, sectarian competition among religious groups and sustained pressure on the part of the state. I have also noted how educational progress was impeded, for example, by difficulties in raising...

  13. CHAPTER 9 New Roles: Pupil-Teacher, Teacher, Inspector
    (pp. 296-346)

    One feature of the institutional structures that appear in the “modernization” process is their new and more specialized roles. Industry, for example, generates new managerial and supervisory roles, as well as engineering, sales, personnel, counseling, and other staff roles. Modern schooling systems are no exception. The system of British working-class education produced managers, full-time male and female schoolmasters and schoolmistresses (including mistresses of infant schools), monitors, pupil-teachers, teachers-in-training, inspectors, assistant inspectors, and numerous roles in the growing bureaucracy of the Committee of Council and the Department of Education. Some of these, such as manager and teacher, were not new, but...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Conclusion
    (pp. 347-370)

    From time to time in this study, I have interspersed remarks and interpretations that touch on the general historical and sociological points embedded in the story of British educational development. In this brief concluding chapter, I shall make some of these points more explicit.

    In chapter 2, I laid out the components of a general framework for the analysis of social change, qualified to apply to educational development. The model involves the specification of certain starting and ending points in historical sequences (labeledmoments of changeto signify their transient character andtruce pointsto underscore that they are usually...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 371-454)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 455-486)
  17. Index
    (pp. 487-499)