‘In Defence of Childhood’: Against the Neo-Liberal Assault on Social Life

  • Michael Lavalette


Writing a chapter entitled ‘In Defence of Childhood’ no doubt seems provocative, especially in a book of essays overwhelmingly drawing on theorists from within the traditions of the ‘new sociology of childhood’. It is common for writers within this approach to stress the fact that childhood is a social construct, one that has the effect of constraining and restricting children’s social activities. Within the British academy, such themes have been shaped by both postmodernist and cultural relativist approaches — which further emphasize the ‘liberationist’ concerns of writers on childhood (for a critique see Goldson et al., 2002, and Lavalette, 1999b). Childhood is viewed as a ‘cultural constraint’, a historical creation that imposes limits on children’s social roles and activities. A position that has led some radical rights advocates (Holt, 1974, and to a lesser degree Franklin, 1995) to argue that we should liberate children from childhood — a position James, Jenks and Prout come close to endorsing in their important intervention to the debate Theorizing Childhood.


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© Michael Lavalette 2005

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  • Michael Lavalette

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