Len Barton and Felicity Armstrong
The production of this book has been a difficult, disturbing and exciting task. It has involved struggles over how to describe, understand and make tentative connections between different political and economic systems, historical influences, cultural values, conceptual meanings, policies and practices. The realities of such dilemmas are, for example, expressed in the different theoretical and writing styles that the contributors have used in order to analyse the societies they are discussing.
In each society struggles are taking place within and between different interest groups contesting the rights to speak, to challenge particular perspectives and to offer alternative ideas and interpretations concerning these complex and fundamental issues of disability, human rights and education. In this context, the extent to which the voices of disabled people are part of this conflictual engagement for representation and change is of crucial importance.
All the contributors, including ourselves, are unsure, confused and exercised over a series of personal dilemmas in relation to several aspects of the agendas and questions raised in this book. None of us is complacent and we recognize the immensity of the work which still needs to be done. This includes the importance of a critical engagement with the material presented in this book.
One of the immense difficulties which each author has had to engage with is that of attempting to make connections between the wider structuring influences of economic conditions and political systems, globalization and the illuminating detail of micro, situational aspects of social experience. We greatly sympathize with Whitty etal. (1998) and their perceptive analysis of some of the key factors involved. They maintain:
Seeking to integrate the one with the other inevitably means that the
theoretical clarity will sometimes be politically obscured by empirical
messiness, while what appear to be significant details in particular