Maintaining the Momentum
Delorenzi, Simone and Robinson, Peter
Institute of Public Administration, Dublin
The subtitle of this book is somehow more explicit than the title itself that will be clarified only when the reading is completed. 'Promoting social mobility and life chances from early years to adulthood', that is the main objective of that collective books that brings together 8 contributions. Not surprisingly this book, edited by the Institute of public Administration is not a research book. It is not the restitution of a series of research on social inequalities, social mobility or poverty. It is an attempt to present in a synthetic way few reflection on the outcomes of the long well established tradition, this book fit in the field of the works aiming at improving research based policies. In this respect, there is no outstanding scientific discovery or outcome to expect from this collection of articles but an interesting and useful synthesis of the most recent investigation dealing with this major political issue: the permanence of social inequalities , with regards either to job opportunity, social mobility from parents to children, or wages. The first and foremost interest of this publication resides in the 'synthesis' dimension. But many books related to social policy follow the same route. However many other points deserve e retaining attention? One of the most interesting is, in my opinion, the 'life course perspective' that goes through the various chapters that make up this work. It is unfortunate that the traditional division of labour that is present within the university has led to divide the 'life course' by small pieces: childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, etc… with for each category, its community of experts who hardly communicate and exchange. Here, even though it is repeatedly argued that the game is almost over before entering the primary school, the contributions presented in this book, scrutinize the genesis of social inequalities at various points of the first part of the life course. This includes the critical moment of the entry in activity when the potential asset acquired at school is revaluated following the rules of the labour market.
That brings us to the second dimension that deserves to be put in bold, that is to say, the social class dimension. Indeed when some scholars have at length forecast the 'end of social the decline of the class system, or with a lower emphasis the reduction of the social back ground impact, it is worth mentioning and underlying that the offspring's' position is still strongly correlated to the parents' position and both by a direct effect of transmission of the social status and through the mediation of the of the diploma, education, or skill acquired in the school system. It is worth also underlying the fact that social class does not mean only 'wages', incomes and financial resources but that it also implies social and cultural capital that may turn to be more important, more decisive that the strict and mere financial dimension resulting of the parents' social position.
The third and – due to space constraint – the last dimension I will mention here, is related to the cohort or 'generational approach. It is a pity that so little effort has been made by the academic milieu in UK and in Europe alike to put individual destiny issues, social mobility, social inequalities, in lithe light of the generation issue or to take up the title of a French scholar's book, the 'destin des generations'
One last remark on this bright book. Personally, I should regret that the Gordian knot existing between Labour Market dynamic and Education has been so little explored, even though several papers mention that is one of the key issue of any social policy aiming at reducing social inequalities and improving social justice. Tenant of the 'job first policy' are facing the 'human capital defenders'. To some extent that opposition summarize the gap that exists between France and UK with respect to the societal choice made by these two societies.
To what extent this opposition could be overcome in a productive synthesis that appears to be a matter for further research or at least for further thinking.
Jean Charles Lagrée
European Sociological Association