among the Young
In this chapter I seek to get at the notion of cultural reproduction by examining the creation among the young of a "structure of feeling," particularly by means of schooling. This one aspect of cultural reproduction can illustrate how a culture can successfully imprint (i.e., reproduce) a social order in the consciousness of particular people. One of the best descriptions I have found of the end result of this complex process is offered by John Kavanaugh, who begins his analysis with the following scenario.
The man is a blue collar worker. He tells the story of his nine year old daughter. She said that the only thing she really wanted for Christmas was a pair of Vidal Sassoon Jeans. He explained to her that they really weren't wealthy enough to afford $40.00 jeans. Maybe Levis would do. "Forget it," she said. "If I can't have what I want, I don't want anything."
The man said that they saved up and got her the Sassoon jeans for Christmas. "But you know," he mused, "she judges the others in her class on what kind of designer jeans they have. They form cliques based on their clothes. It's their way of being somebody, being acceptable, being 'in.'"1
Kavanaugh goes on to probe the significance of what is happening to this girl and how it has happened. Explaining the agricultural etymology of "culture," he points out that culture "feeds" us the human meanings cultivated by a particular society. Since it feeds and sustains us, culture has an urgency in our lives analogous to food; it is a basic human need. Culture feeds us in ways that feel ultimate to us and that seem fulfilling. Culture should be formed in the image and likeness of human personhood, whereas in fact it can do the opposite and form persons in some other image