Samhällskunskap för alienerad elit: Observationsstudie av Särskilda läroverket

Janna Lundberg

Forskningsoutput: AvhandlingDoktorsavhandling (monografi)

6272 Nedladdningar (Pure)


This thesis is built around an observational study of a class at an elite school. The study follows the class through their upper secondary school education (ages 16-19), focusing on social science lessons. I have used ethnographic methodology to describe and problematize how social science and value-based ambitions of equality conflict with the student role of superiority cultivated at this school. This study of an elite uses a fly-on-the-wall distanced position of an included stranger. In the perspective of research on elite schools, the school is characterized as performing in the shadow of a more classic elite school tradition. The more traditional national boarding and cathedral schools use characterizations of age and tradition to legitimize their elite status. This is a characterization that the studied free school (approx. charter school) is trying to mimic despite its recent establishment.

A concept of alienation including superiority frames the performed excellence noted during the observations. A concept of alienation without powerlessness is developed theoretically in this dissertation and used to analyse the material from the observations. A contemporary kind of stoicism is investigated within the concept of alienation. Stoicism within alienation describes the students’ ways of distancing themselves from what they learn, not giving any expression of whether what they learn influences what choices they make as they shape their lives and values. The social science subject at the elite school is characterized by a “dialectical didactics of turning away”, or of abandonment.

In several ways the dissertation relates to power: a social hierarchy where supremacy and subordination becomes less black and white. The dissertation concludes by discussing the limited freedom of students who must negotiate egalitarian contra elite values in their social sciences education. In understanding egalitarian values in the perspective of power, Simone de Beauvoir’s (2018 [1947]) concept of freedom is useful: one’s own freedom is not freedom when others are unfree.

Research on the democracy-promoting mission of the social science education subject, as well as the recommendations and directions of the school authorities, argues for a pluralistic classroom where different views and experiences meet. A deliberative democracy is also promoted. At the Distinct Grammar School, observations have been made of a classroom without pluralism and without deliberation. This has consequences for the teaching of social science in the school: the social science teacher’s authoritarian leadership style is motivated, in a contradictory way, with ambitions of promoting democracy and a democratic distribution of power. A complex dynamic of power between the teacher and the students plays out during the observations. The ethnography in the intersection of elite school research and social science didactic research has exposed a didactical dialectics of the exile, or exclusion. The turning away is inspired by Hannah Arendt’s (1998 [1958], 2006 [1961]) concept of World Alienation, a concept elaborated for understanding loss of love for the world as a threat to the promise of the political. This is framed as a social science didactics for alienated elite.
Tilldelande institution
  • Utbildningsvetenskap
  • Persson, Anders, handledare
  • Saether, Eva, Biträdande handledare
Tilldelningsdatum2020 jan. 31
ISBN (tryckt)9789188899774
ISBN (elektroniskt)9789188899781
StatusPublished - 2020 jan. 31

Bibliografisk information

Defence details
Date: 2020-01-31
Time: 13:15
Place: LUX C121
External reviewer
Name: Maria Törnqvist
Title: docent
Affiliation: Uppsala universitet

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Utbildningsvetenskap


  • Social Science
  • Education
  • Alienation
  • Elite Education
  • Ethnography
  • Civics

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