Policy as Practice: Toward a Comparative Sociocultural Analysis of Educational Policy

By Margaret Sutton; Bradley A.U. Levinson | Go to book overview

Introduction: Policy as/in Practice—
A Sociocultural Approach to the Study
of Educational Policy

Bradley A. U. Levinson and Margaret Sutton


OVERVIEW

Over the past 20 years, approaches to educational policy analysis have gradually opened up to qualitative research methods and to sociocultural perspectives on schooling. The growing focus on policy implementation, in particular, has conferred legitimacy upon some constructs and approaches that derive more broadly from fields like anthropology and cultural studies. Still, we would argue, a more grounded sociocultural approach to educational policy studies, let alone a fully anthropological approach, has yet to be developed. Such is the project initiated by this book and the series that it launches. In this project, we ask: What would educational policy studies look like if they reconceptualized the notion of policy itself as a complex social practice, an ongoing process of normative cultural production constituted by diverse actors across diverse social and institutional contexts? In this inaugural volume, we bring together a collection of studies that view educational policy from a variety of angles and at different levels of social life. The studies share a common concern to explicate policy as a practice of power, and to interrogate the meaning of policy in practice. Drawing on work in anthropology (Douglas, 1986; Shore & Wright, 1997), sociology (Ball, 1990; Borman, Cookson, Sadovnik, & Spade, 1996), and feminist and critical theory (Bourdieu, 1991; Calhoun, 1995; Giddens, 1984; Habermas, 1984; Marshall, 1997; Mohanty, 1991; Smith, 1987)—and thereby anchored in qualitative, comparative re-

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