At the bottom left?

Special report: Relationships to school, relationships to the state
The differentiated effects of the institutional socialization of subordinate public sector workers
By Yasmine Siblot

This article focuses on the groups located “at the bottom left” of the social space and aims to characterize the educational, institutional, and professional components of their cultural capital. Based on an ethnographic survey conducted in a Parisian suburb, it proposes an analysis centered on a professional group: female school workers (“maintenance and catering workers” and “specialized local authority nursery school workers”). The approach adopted is based on an analysis of their relationships to “the school” and “the state” (i.e., to public institutions) by observing their practices and discourses in the workspace—in their case, schools. The statutory and professional socialization of these workers has a cultural and symbolic dimension that places them “at the bottom left” of the social space, even for those with the lowest educational capital (as shown in the case of Portuguese workers in this study). Nevertheless, the cultural capital of these groups of the working classes is not limited to educational resources, but also includes institutional and professional resources. Finally, because of the diversity of the trajectories leading to these low-skilled public sector jobs and the level of precariousness within them, it is accompanied by a heterogeneity of moral and political positions.

  • working classes
  • cultural capital
  • public sector
  • female school workers
  • institutional socialization
  • Portuguese migration
  • female labor
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