The central purpose of any brand of application of sociology is to look behind' the surface reasons for our social arrangements.

This makes it a dangerous craft. Quite often the danger seems to be turned inward as sociologists of differing persuasions lacerate one another in paradigmatic battle. When they look out at schools or families or the state or whatever, they seem, even more often, to offer explanations of events in terms of some deified ideal, either of a methodological

or theoretical kind. This is somewhat inevitable, of course, in any young and self-conscious discipline, where scepticism is liable to become either rather disorganised or tied to a dominant orthodoxy. It is made doubly so in sociology the objects of whose interests are numerous as human activities and include the processes of social change and stability themselves. This takes any version of sociology deep into the problems of power and legitimacy (questions about existing patterns of rights and obligations), which are at once both moral and disturbing issues, given that no society exists without hierarchy and that part of the meaning of social hierarchy is invidious ranking of social attributes. Sociology therefore exerts a powerful and disproportionate attraction on those who would change these arrangements, usually in egalitarian directions. Such change is easier theoretically 'said' than practically 'done' and sociology tends, at

in the eyes of some by claiming that knowledge itself is reducible to some aspect of the social or material world. This clearly outranks the accusation liable to be laid at the door of any social science of being simply 'jargon-laden'. Many merely liberal sociological practitioners, not least within education, are exhibiting the inclination to 'retire hurt', weary of being regarded, by turns, as parvenu or devil. However, the sum of their analyses of education, no more or less than those of their more radical bedfellows, seems to incline to the view that schooling changes little in social terms.