The ‘New Paradigm' of the Sociology of Childhood: Reflections on Social Justice Through the Italian Alternative Pedagogies

The ‘New Paradigm' of the Sociology of Childhood: Reflections on Social Justice Through the Italian Alternative Pedagogies

Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7706-6.ch016
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This chapter aims at developing a critique of the so-called “New Paradigm” of the sociology of childhood, which was developed in British sociological schools between the 1960s and 1980s. The New Paradigm represented a substantial challenge to mainstream sociology of childhood and from this basis, Childhood Studies were capable of producing influential thinking about childhood and practices involving childhood. The main idea of this chapter is that the New Paradigm cannot constitute an adequate theoretical basis for ensuring the fulfilment of children's lives in terms of freedom and social justice. Its central point, that childhood is socially constructed, is not articulated coherently and is internally inconsistent. Italian alternative pedagogical practices are used to provide a concrete backdrop for the theoretical objections raised against the New Paradigm. These alternative critical practices commonly assert that theory cannot be separated from practice and that ideals of social justice for children are based on the struggles of marginalised communities.
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Childhood, Subjectivity, And Modernity

In this chapter, we will use general concepts such as ‘subjectivity' and ‘modernity', in order to advance the critique of the New Paradigm into the practical terrain. The question of subjectivity (and agency) is central. Subjectivity is considered against the forms of modernity as elaborated both in Critical Theory (Bonefeld 2014) and in the practice of alternative Italian critical pedagogy (see the previous section). The question is: how the agency may or may not emerge in the social context of modernity? The stress has to be in the dialectical relationship between the social context and the subject that is in process of formation. There is a particularity of childhood, as there is a particularity of family life that needs to be taken into account, and child's agency needs to be seen through and against the integration of childhood into social life. More importantly: theoretical matters (and the issues of ‘values’) must converge with considerations around practice, as we maintain that the field of ideas and values cannot be severed by social practice (Bonefeld 2014, but see also Zavalloni 2012).

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