Children's Understandings of Well-Being As Expressions of the Moral Dimensions of Class Relations: A Comparative Study of Children in Frankfurt and Sydney

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Übungsraum 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Tobia FATTORE, Department of Sociology, Macquarie University, Australia
Susann FEGTER, Institute for General and Historical Educational Sciences, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany
In this article we develop a reconstruction of children’s understandings of well-being to explore how ‘agency’ is an affective experience which can be understood through a theory of subjective class practices.  Such practices are, we argue, expressions of possession of socially valued goods and recognition of one’s social value. They are also expressions of moral boundary drawing. In understanding these practices we make an explicit link between material conditions and valued ways of life, that is a concept of well-being. Individuals are likely to care a great deal about their class position in terms of recognition of their worth, including whether they are given forms of social recognition associated with the possession and demonstration of socially valued goods. However we show that this not only attends to how people ‘practice’ class, through ownership of material resources and expressions of taste but also practices of moral subjectivity, that is what individuals feel as though they need to do to be a ‘good’ and ‘worthy’ individual.

On the basis of two multi-stage, multi-method qualitative studies exploring what children define as important to their well-being, conducted in Sydney, Australia and Frankfurt am Mein, Germany, we reconstruct how children position themselves as moral agents within class relevant dynamics. In particular we demonstrate how practices of moral boundary drawing are involved in reproducing class distinctions that are critical to understanding children’s experiences of agency and sense of well-being. We do this through exploring four themes: children’s expressions of moral agency; shame; displays of competence and self-esteem; and expressions of disgust.