This book offers a critical realist intervention into the field of Marxist Sociology of Education. Critical realism, as developed by British philosopher Roy Bhaskar, is known for its capacity to serve as a conceptual underlabourer to applied fields like education. Indeed, its success in clarifying and resolving thorny issues of educational theory and practice is now well established. Given critical realism’s sympathetic Marxist origins, its productive and critical engagement with Marxism has an even longer history. To date there has been little sustained attention given to the application of critical realism to Marxist educational praxis. The book addresses this gap in existing scholarship.
Its conceptual ground clearing of the field of Marxist Sociology of Education centres on two problematics well-known in the social sciences: naturalism and the structure-agency relation. Marxist theory from the days of Marx to the present is shown to also be haunted by these problematics. This has resulted in considerable tension around the meaning and nature of, for example, reform, revolution, class determinism and class struggle. With its emergence in the 1970s as a child of Western Marxism, the field continues to be an expression of these tensions that seriously limit its transformative potential. Addressing these issues and offering conceptual clarification in the interests of revolutionary educational practice, Critical Realism for Marxist Sociology of Education provides a new perspective on education which will be of interest to students, scholars and practitioners alike.
Table of Contents
Preface Introduction: Critical Realism, Marxism and Education 1. Marxism: Philosophy, Science and Revolution 2. Western Marxism: From Marx to Marxism 3. The Old and the New: Stirrings from the Long Calm 4. Critical Realist Tools for Marxism and Education 5. The Problem of Naturalism 6. The Problem of Structure and Agency 7. Conclusion: Critical Realism for Revolutionising Practice
Grant Banfield is currently an academic worker at the Flinders University of South Australia. He researches and writes on the application of Marxian social theory to educational praxis and intellectual work. He is an editorial advisor of the Journal of Critical Education Policy Studies and founding convenor of the Australian Sociological Association’s thematic group, Social Activism.
Meticulously researched and cogently argued, Critical Realism for Marxist Sociology of Education is an outstanding work of scholarship that makes a powerful case for the centrality of Bhaskar's work in the field of critical education by advancing a critical realist Marxist method and revolutionary Marxism. This is one of the most important contributions to Marxist education in years and will stand as a classic work for years to come.
Peter McLaren, Author of Capitalists and Conquerors and Pedagogy of Insurrection
Distinguished Professor in Critical Studies, Chapman University
Critical Realism for a Marxist Sociology of Education has a significant and timely intention. It aims to clarify the condition of theoretical, research and praxis effort among those of us in the field of critical sociology of education. It assists us pursue deeper and clearer understandings of social-structural inequalities that transect schools and society, and the ways in which we and other living actors have agency to transform those inequalities. This book is very carefully wrought to make difficult concepts and philosophical argumentations accessible. It is to be read slowly and carefully, matching the slow care of the author’s thought work. But the labour of reading is so greatly rewarded. The writing makes it possible, without priori versification in the literatures, to grasp the argument and indeed the literatures. I feel seriously educated by this book.
Dr Lew Zipin, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia
Banfield’s Critical Realism for a Marxist Sociology of Education takes a unique approach building a project on an educational reading of Marx drawing on Bhaskar’s Critical Realism, not to replace Marx, but rather, to offer a conceptual ground clearing. As Critical Realism is a philosophy only, it winds up working as a laborer for a Marxist revolutionary educational practice, offering significant ontological insights regarding the nature of reality from which a socialist alternative must emerge. Toward these ends Banfield offers a naturalistic interpretation of Marx’s emphasis on working class agency because people are not mere passive receivers of history, but are the active agents who either reproduce or subvert capitalist society and production relations as they really exist. Critical Realism for Marxist Sociology therefore offers invaluable contributions for challenging the rule of capital through a radical educational project, and is a must read for radical educators struggling to revolutionize practice.
Dr Curry Mallott, Assistant Professor, Educational Foundations, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, USA.
This is a ground-making book in the sociology of education. Hopefully, it will open up the frield to a long overdue, serious engagement with classical Marxism...the author has certainly shown the former's potential for socialist teachers, researchers and students who want to defend the role of education in revolution.
Gail Edwards, International Socialism