Challenges and Experiences
Edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Donald Hislop and Christine Coupland
Chapter 15: How my grandad, the Churches of Christ and the Steam Engine Makers’ Society lifted our family into the professional classes: an essay in social science biography
Harold Perkin’s (2002) The Rise of Professional Society: England since 1880 charts the transformation of an old ‘class society’, redefined by the Industrial Revolution, into one dominated by educational qualifications and private and public professional groups. In this new type of society, higher education is the key to serious wealth and power, even for the managerial elites that dominate large public and private organizations. My own family is a middling, provincial one, far removed from the real centres of wealth and power, yet we are clearly part of this professional society. In my generation of the Ackers family, three brothers and one sister, we entail two university professors, a primary school headmaster and an administrator for a global international organization. Through a mixture of state and private schools we completed social science degrees and went on to Masters and PhDs. In Perkin’s eyes, we embody the credentialist route of the public sector professions. This is hardly surprising since our parents were a medical general practitioner and a primary school teacher. In this sense, we followed the predictable path and are now sending our children off along similar routes. So far, this is the familiar tale of the middle classes reproducing themselves, drawing on and building up the standard range of economic, social, cultural and symbolic capital (Bourdieu, 1986).
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