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Inheriting Possibility

Social Reproduction and Quantification in Education

2017
Author:

Ezekiel J. Dixon-Román

Inheriting Possibility

From the SAT to social mobility statistics, examining quantitative measurements of human learning and development while rethinking their possibilities

Inheriting Possibility rethinks methods of quantification and theories of social reproduction in education, demonstrating that test performance results and parenting practices convey the impact of patterns of differential possibility. Through analyses of empirical data and cultural artifacts, this book reconsiders how we conceptualize the processes of inheritance and approach social inquiry to sharpen understanding and address the reproducing forces of inequality.

In Inheriting Possibility, Ezekiel J. Dixon-Román establishes himself as a social philosopher, methodologist, and policy analyst. In short, he provides the two ingredients on which intellectuals since Marx have relied: theory and method. As a theorist, few scholars match his ability to deconstruct the false binary between nature and culture. As a methodologist, he possesses sophisticated, interpretive skills of psychometrics and measurement’s epistemological limits. Dixon-Román is not only the complete package, but stands out as one of the most creative intellectuals of our time.

Zeus Leonardo, author of Race Frameworks: A Multidimensional Theory of Racism and Education

How has the dominant social scientific paradigm limited our understanding of the impact of inherited economic resources, social privilege, and sociocultural practices on multigenerational inequality? In what ways might multiple forces of social difference haunt quantitative measurements of ability such as the SAT? Building on new materialist philosophy, Inheriting Possibility rethinks methods of quantification and theories of social reproduction in education, demonstrating that test performance results and parenting practices convey the impact of materially and historically contingent patterns of differential possibility.

Ezekiel J. Dixon-Román explores the dualism of nature and culture that has undergirded theories of inheritance, social reproduction, and human learning and development. Research and debate on the reproduction of power relations have rested on a premise that nature is made up of fixed universals on which the creative, intellective, and discursive play of culture are based. Drawing on recent work in the physical and biological sciences, Dixon-Román argues that nature is culture. He contends that by assuming a rigid nature/culture binary, we ultimately limit our understanding of how power relations are reproduced.

Through innovative analyses of empirical data and cultural artifacts, Dixon-Román boldly reconsiders how we conceptualize the processes of inheritance and approach social inquiry in order to profoundly sharpen understanding and address the reproducing forces of inequality.

Inheriting Possibility

Ezekiel J. Dixon-Román is associate professor of social policy in the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. He is coeditor of Thinking Comprehensively About Education.

Inheriting Possibility

In Inheriting Possibility, Ezekiel J. Dixon-Román establishes himself as a social philosopher, methodologist, and policy analyst. In short, he provides the two ingredients on which intellectuals since Marx have relied: theory and method. As a theorist, few scholars match his ability to deconstruct the false binary between nature and culture. As a methodologist, he possesses sophisticated, interpretive skills of psychometrics and measurement’s epistemological limits. Dixon-Román is not only the complete package, but stands out as one of the most creative intellectuals of our time.

Zeus Leonardo, author of Race Frameworks: A Multidimensional Theory of Racism and Education

How can a cultural theory of quantification become the starting point for a materialist analysis of socio-cultural forms of inheritance? Inheriting Possibility offers us compelling arguments for new ontologies of the number and radically challenges what we know about the use of statistics in education and socio-cultural analysis.

Luciana Parisi, Goldsmiths, University of London*

Inheriting Possibility

Contents
Preface
Introduction: Enumerating Difference beyond Anthropocentrism
1. Inheriting Possibility: Quantum Anthropologies and the Forces of Inheritance
2. Cultural Studies and Quantification: Toward a Diffractive Methodology
3. Parenting Performativities: Assemblages of “Difference” and the Material–Discursive Practices of Parenting
4. Inheriting Merit: The SAT as an Institutionalized Measuring Apparatus for Social Immobility
Conclusion: Enfolding Possibilities
Appendix A: Quantitative Methods and Results for Chapter 3
Appendix B: Quantitative Methods and Results for Chapter 4
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index