chapter  9
Thinking About the Cultural Studies of Education in a Time of Recession: Learning to Labor and the Work of Aesthetics in Modern Life
Pages 12

In this essay I call attention to a specific thematic dimension of the conceptualization of work and reproduction in modern life raised (but also repressed) in Paul Willis’s germinal ethnography Learning to Labor, (first published as Learning to Labour, 1977) and in the cultural studies of education research literature that Willis’s now legendary volume precipitated. This aspect of work and reproduction concerns the role of the imagination and aesthetics in critical cultural and economic processes central to modern existence: that is, the mobilization and organization of capitalism and its late-20th century and new millennial global transformations, as well as the historically variable counterhegemonic response of the working-class poor of both the metropole and the periphery to these developments. This essay engages Willis’s Learning to Labor as a critical point of departure for thinking about the work of aesthetics in the fates and fortunes of the marginalized proletariat in the peripheries of the First and the Third Worlds.