Of course, personal initiative is the hallmark of the middle classes …
… the middle class has in many ways been the central symbol of twentieth-century life in the west, a reflection of western anxieties and hopes …
This introduction is an exercise of meta-writing, an attempt to draw some lines and limits around a piece of work that constantly goes beyond itself and at every turn 'stumbles against what it does not mean' (Foucault 1974:17). I therefore want to draw these lines in particular by accounting for what this book is not about, what it does not do. In this respect I shall endeavour, perhaps fruitlessly, to clarify the standpoints from which the book is written and guide the reader towards a position from which the book might be read as eclectic but nonetheless coherent. I do this in part because the book has some unconventional aspects to it, although in another sense it is a throw-back, a re-invention of old themes and concerns from within the sociology of education - in particular the multifaceted relationships between families, public institutions and educational inequalities. In this introduction then I will sketch in the general orientations of the project; specific aspects of these orientations are taken up in more detail in later chapters. Each of the substantive chapters focuses upon one or more key themes and works on these in interaction with empirical materials.
This is a book written between rather than against. 1 It defines itself as different from rather than opposed to and I am certainly not 'trying to reduce others to silence' (Foucault 1974:17). Neither is this an attempt to have the last word, far from it; no closure is sought or claimed and I will be working on rather than closing off these concepts. It is intended to be read as a set of statements to be worked on, to be developed further in relation to an obdurate and brute reality. My project here has a particular concern with 'appraising concepts as possibilities for future thinking' (Colebrook 2000:5).