Building Powerful Knowledge: The Significance of Semantic Waves

  • Karl Maton
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Excellence and Equity in Global Education book series (EXE)


What is ‘powerful knowledge’? Some social realists (Young, 2012a) and educationalists (Department for Education, 2011) argue that ‘powerful knowledge’ should be universally accessible, but what is this to call for? The term itself is powerful emotively, conjuring notions of something worth demanding for all. Yet, the idea is as yet less powerful intellectually — we are only beginning to explore what ‘powerful knowledge’ might comprise. Following Bernstein’s (2000) account of ‘knowledge structures’, one characteristic highlighted is a capacity for ideas or skills to extend and integrate existing ideas or skills. However, the nature of such cumulative knowledge-building and how it can be enabled in practice remain opaque. The notion of ‘powerful knowledge’ thereby raises a valuable series of theoretical and empirical questions for research. In this chapter I will explore how Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), a social realist framework that builds on the sociology of Basil Bernstein. is helping to shed light on these issues.


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© Karl Maton 2014

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  • Karl Maton

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