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Saturday, 04 May 2013 20:07

Education, Linguistic Codes, Social Mobility: The Impostor Syndrome

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Society as we know it is structured around issues of class, race, gender etc. Cultural Theory – and in particular the works of people like the late French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu have identified that these structures are mediated by codes – symbolic codes (dress, demeanour, displayed wealth etc.) and linguistic codes. The latter serve as both boundaries and marks of distinction between the different levels of society and are in general the operational manifestation of the exercise of power. In order to move up or between different spheres of the social scale, it is necessary to learn and to adopt the social and linguistic codes, and for this adoption to be recognized and accepted by the members of that class or sphere. The psychological consequences of this process can be traumatic and can leave a lifelong sense of inadequacy, of being an imposter, with the person who successfully makes such a change in their lives. For many, the barriers to personal advancement are simply too great and they remain rooted in their culture of origin despite a despite do otherwise. In such cases, the symbolic and linguistic codes succeed in preventing upward social mobility, in maintaining the status quo power, and in admitting to the upper levels of the social order only those individuals who can or are prepared to substitute the new codes and values and to abandon those codes and values of their lower-class origins.

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