Class Matters, Then and Now

Adult Education, Class and the Psychosocial; Auto/Biographical Narrative Perspectives




class, auto/biography, écriture feminine, recognition


Class once mattered in adult education, and still does in a neo-liberal world. But it can be difficult to define in the fragmentation of the organised working-class and the casualisation/manualisation of many middle-class occupations. Historically, in industrial societies class could be seen as shaped by productive relations, while class consciousness was a cultural phenomenon, partly forged by workers themselves in educational and political struggles. But those older industrial societies have fragmented and a more individualised culture and diversity politics have taken centre stage. Class as a living phenomenon can be neglected as gender, race and sexuality are foregrounded. Notwithstanding, class continues to shape experiences between people, and perceptions of education, levels of physical, mental health and life expectancy. And the neglect of class dynamics and social inequality has been challenged in forms of working-class auto/biographical research. This is inspired by the women’s movement, the biographical/narrative turn and challenges to the neglect of the experiencing human subject in social and cultural studies. The research and writing especially encompass working-class women in diverse settings, and intergenerational dialogues. Class intersects here with other oppressions. The work illuminates how adult education requires holistic reconceptualisation as a relational, embodied, emotional, narrative, psychosocial, intellectual and even spiritual process, in which the dynamics of self/other recognition, love and the feminist notion of the gift are central.


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Author Biography

Linden West, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Education, Canterbury Christ Church University, United Kingdom

Professor Emeritus at Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, England. He jointly coordinated the European Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA) Life History and Biography Network over many years and has written widely on adult education, lifewide and lifelong learning, using psychosocial perspectives. His book, written with Laura Formenti, Transforming perspectives in lifelong learning and adult education, a dialogue won the Cyril O. Houle 2019 prize for outstanding literature in adult education. Linden was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame in 2020. He also works as a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist.


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