chapter  9
23 Pages

Corporatism, Self and Identity Within Moral Orders: Prestructuralist Reconsiderations of a Poststructuralist Paradox

Structuralist approaches are generically paradoxical. They initially promise much but fall away as the so-called positioning powers of a structure or a discourse conflict with the experienced situations of social actors as persons and the contexts of institutional life. Structuralism, in various reformulations, has directed educational research and theory. Its main power has been to explain positioning and distribution of agents within a culture, a social system, as a production of discourses and the reproduction of cognitive dispositions. Where early French structuralists such as Althusser negated the power of agents over structure, there has been an ongoing effort, beginning with Bourdieu (1977) and Giddens (1979), to recompose theory to show how subjects, selves, actors, everyday people and groups did, could, or might act back on given conditions. Poststructuralist theory in its present state represents a significant shift from early structuralism. Variance in the positioning by structures other than class are emphasized to the extent that relations of power and relative autonomy within structured conditions allow for differences in the construction of identity within them. This identity or self, is most often seen as positioned within a second order language and reliant on a voice, a new set of discourses, that will allow power and participation within first-order practices, conversations and institutional relationships. The possibilities inherent within poststructuralism relate to issues of: how the right combinations of interest groups can be assembled to influence knowledge and power over state policy; which types of social actors can be thrown into the debate; and, how these kinds of social actors can be grown within situations of rapid social change. If these questions are to be taken further, then it is necessary to return to prestructuralist problems about the relations between the self, the life world and the theoretical systems meant to bridge them. Such problems, as applied to identity, self and career within institutional settings, are exemplified in works by G.H.Mead, Vygotsky, Schutz, Burger and Luckmann, Goffman, Fromm, C.Wright Mills, Sennett and Cobb, Studs Terkel, Sartre and Raymond Williams. They can be taken to a new level and in new directions with the knowledge and the insights into the paradoxes of structuralism. This consideration of prestructuralist problems is not a ‘nostalgia for a past era’ but a reflexive ‘bending back’ of sociology upon itself, its theories, methods and practices, so as to buttress its future position (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992, p. 36). It is here that the oppositions between ‘being’ (permanence) and ‘becoming’, which Harvey (1990, p. 283) sees as being central to modernism’s history, should be reconceptualized.