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Knowledge and Knowers

Towards a realist sociology of education

By Karl Maton

Routledge – 2015 – 244 pages

Purchasing Options:

  • Add to CartPaperback: $55.95
    March 3rd 2015
  • Add to CartHardback: $145.00
    August 14th 2013


We live in ‘knowledge societies’ and work in ‘knowledge economies’, but accounts of social change treat knowledge as homogeneous and neutral. While knowledge should be central to educational research, it focuses on processes of knowing and condemns studies of knowledge as essentialist. This book unfolds a sophisticated theoretical framework for analysing knowledge practices: Legitimation Code Theory or ‘LCT’. By extending and integrating the influential approaches of Pierre Bourdieu and Basil Bernstein, LCT offers a practical means for overcoming knowledge-blindness without succumbing to essentialism or relativism.

Through detailed studies of pressing issues in education, the book sets out the multi-dimensional conceptual toolkit of LCT and shows how it can be used in research. Chapters introduce concepts by exploring topics across the disciplinary and institutional maps of education:

-how to enable cumulative learning at school and university

-the unfounded popularity of ‘student-centred learning’ and constructivism

-the rise and demise of British cultural studies in higher education

-the positive role of canons

-proclaimed ‘revolutions’ in social science

-the ‘two cultures’ debate between science and humanities

-how to build cumulative knowledge in research

-the unpopularity of school Music

-how current debates in economics and physics are creating major schisms in those fields.

LCT is a rapidly growing approach to the study of education, knowledge and practice, and this landmark book is the first to systematically set out key aspects of this theory. It offers an explanatory framework for empirical research, applicable to a wide range of practices and social fields, and will be essential reading for all serious students and scholars of education and sociology.


'This monograph is best described as a guidebook—the journey is carefully signposted and there is much encouragement for the traveller—and I expect that its impact on higher education studies is going to be significant.' - Jennifer Case, Higher Education

'The book offers a different way of talking about knowledge and learning, and of reflecting on what makes a meaningful group learning session.' - Jill Thistlethwaite, Journal of Interprofessional Care

'Social inclusion and achievement for all learners can be enhanced as our knowledge about knowledge and knowledge building is enhanced. This book certainly helps us move towards realising this aim.' - Graham McPhail, Pacific - Asian Education

'Knowledge and Knowers is provocative, thoughtinducing and generative; offering a powerful, multi-faceted array of analytical tools to the project of cumulative knowledge building in the field of educational research.' - Fiona Jackson, Journal of Education

'This fascinating, wide-ranging, and internally coherent book will be of the greatest interest to sociologists and education policy scholars, and in particular to those appreciating the need to question how and why the state of the sociology of education and its impact can and should be enhanced.' - Ernst Buyl, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium, in Journal of Education Policy

'This tour-de-force will set the agenda for the future of the sociology of education. Maton’s writing is always engaging and thought-provoking. The book offers nothing less than a new approach to the morphology of sociological knowledge itself - a "must-read".' - Michael Grenfell, Professor of Education at Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland

'A truly majestic contribution that advances fundamentally the ideas of Basil Bernstein and Pierre Bourdieu. It is a formidable piece of work: imaginative, thought-provoking, intellectually out-reaching, and will surely constitute essential reading across the social sciences.' - John Evans, Professor of Sociology of Education and Physical Education, University of Loughborough, UK

'For decades sociology has been the missing link in discourse analyses of social context. Maton’s inspirational volume consolidates a sociology of immense theoretical insight and undaunted analytical precision to make this blind-spot obsolete. Theory is every scholar’s best friend; social theory of this order is a very best friend indeed.' - J.R. Martin, Professor of Linguistics, University of Sydney, Australia


1: Seeing Knowledge and Knowers: Social realism and Legitimation Code Theory 2: Languages of Legitimation: The curious case of British cultural studies 3: The Epistemic--Pedagogic Device: Breaks and continuities in the social sciences and mathematics 4: Knowledge--Knower Structures: What’s at stake in the ‘two cultures’ debate, why school Music is unpopular, and what unites such diverse issues 5: Gazes: Canons, knowers and progress in the arts and humanities 6: Semantic Gravity: Cumulative learning in professional education and school English 7: Semantic Density: How to build cumulative knowledge in social science 8: Cosmologies: How to win friends and influence people 9: Insights, Gazes, Lenses and the 4-K Model: Fiercely-fought struggles and fundamental shifts in fields 10: Building a Realist Sociology of Education: To be continued …

Author Bio

Karl Maton is Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Sydney, Australia, and Honorary Professor at Rhodes University, South Africa.

Name: Knowledge and Knowers: Towards a realist sociology of education (Hardback)Routledge 
Description: By Karl Maton. We live in ‘knowledge societies’ and work in ‘knowledge economies’, but accounts of social change treat knowledge as homogeneous and neutral. While knowledge should be central to educational research, it focuses on...
Categories: Sociology of Education, Theory of Education, Theories of Learning, Sociology of Knowledge, Critical Thinking, Epistemology