Sociology and Learning

Authored by: Martin Dyke , Ian Bryant

The Routledge International Handbook of Learning

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  May  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415571302
eBook ISBN: 9780203357385
Adobe ISBN: 9781136598562


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Sociology is often presented as a foundation subject for education; however, it will be argued here that learning is at the heart of a sociological dilemma. That concerns the tension between structure and agency and the extent to which external social, political, cultural and other factors constrain our practices. Text books in sociology address this tension directly; Bauman and May argued that sociology asks, ‘How do our individual biographies intertwine with the history we share with other human beings?’ (2001: 7). Giddens presents this tension between human action and social structure as an enduring area of ‘controversy or dispute’ (Giddens, 1997: 567). However, in his earlier work Giddens argued that a new consensus was emerging between most schools of thought in sociology:

That is to say they are unified in their rejection of the tendency of the orthodox consensus to see human behaviour as the result of forces that actors neither control nor comprehend, in addition (and this does include both structuralism and ‘post-structuralism’) they accord a fundamental role to language, and to cognitive faculties in the explication of social life.

(Giddens, 1984: xvi)

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