Re: [xmca] Fwd: from a valued colleague

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Sat Mar 11 2006 - 08:48:34 PST

Thanks for your always stimulating thinking,
Bill. Yes, I am suggesting expanding the concept
of prolepsis to social class and entertaining the
claim that the kinds of things Lareau and many
others observe about differences between child
raising and child education in different social
classes can be explained by the class-based
expectations parents, teachers and others have of
what social class the children are going to wind
up in. This claim includes the ideas that
different social classes play distinctly
different roles in society, and consequently have
deep social antagonisms which create
(historically speaking) different political and
psychological expectations at the class level of
themselves and the other classes. This
conceptualization of society is not generally
agreed upon in modern social science. The idea
the writer of the op-ed piece David Brooks ends
his article with that Mike objected to "... the
core issue is that today's rich don't exploit the
poor; they just outcompete them" is much more
common, and is often summarized in the term
"meritocracy." To the extent the latter concept
is accepted, the application of prolepsis to
class relations becomes vague or wrong.

Cole 1996 (Cultural Psychology) quotes Webster's
on prolepsis as "the representation of a future
act or development as being presently
existing." Wertsch and others applied the
concept of prolepsis in the 1980's to describe
the way teachers "presuppose that the children
understand what it is they are trying to teach as
a precondition for creating that
understanding." Mike cites Ragnar Rommetviet
(1974) for pointing out that human discourse in
general is proleptic, quoting RR as saying it is
proleptic "in the sense that the temporarily
shared social world is in part based upon
premises tacitly induced by the speaker". Mike
expresses the idea that prolepsis is a
"ubuiquitous feature of culturally mediated
thought" (The above passages are from pg 183, 185 of Cole 1996).

I am suggesting we can expand the idea of
prolepsis further than to just teaching,
discourse, and even culturally mediated
thought. I am suggesting that prolepsis is a
ubiquitous feature of class society itself, and
plays an essential role in the reproduction of
the social classes. The concept of prolepsis -
applying assumptions of future outcomes based on
past experiences to present situations - also
applies with equal effectiveness to racism,
sexism and other forms of oppression and
discrimination, which I believe are part and
parcel of a self-reproducing class system. A
meritocracist of course would object to such statements.

I only know of Lareau from this little op-ed
piece and can't judge the accuracy of her
observations, so Phil might be right to distrust
them as reductionist. Sounds like we indeed
should find a way to read some of her material and talk about it.

- Steve

At 12:53 PM 3/11/2006 +0000, you wrote:
>Not an example of prolepsis, really, but perhaps
>prolepsis can play an explanatory role in how
>those class differences reproduce and persevere. Nice insight.
>Perhaps we can find some of Lareau's work to discuss.
> -------------- Original message ----------------------
>From: Steve Gabosch <>
> > Annette Lareau's intriguing observations, to pick
> > up on a reference bb made earlier today on
> > another topic, strikes me as an excellent example of prolepsis.
> > - Steve
> >
> >
> > At 05:30 PM 3/10/2006 -0800, Mike wrote:
> >
> > > This op ed piece was forwarded by a valued
> colleague who works tirelessly
> > > > to overcome the consquences of rascism and social inequality.
> > <snip>
> >
> >
> > From March 9, 2006 NY Times Op-Ed page:
> > >*Both Sides of Inequality*
> > > > *By DAVID BROOKS*
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > For the past two decades, Annette Lareau
> has embedded herself in American
> > > > families. She and her researchers have sat on
> > > living room floors as families
> > > > went about their business, ridden in back
> > > seats as families drove hither and
> > > > yon.
> > > >
> > > > Lareau's work is well known among sociologists, but neglected by the
> > > > popular media. And that's a shame because
> > > through her close observations and
> > > > careful writings in books like "Unequal
> > > Childhoods" Lareau has been able
> > > > to capture the texture of inequality in America. She's described how
> > > > radically child-rearing techniques in
> upper-middle-class homes differ from
> > > > those in working-class and poor homes, and
> > > what this means for the prospects
> > > > of the kids inside.
> >
> > <snip>
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > xmca mailing list
> >
> >
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