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All middle class now? Evolving representations of the working class in the neoliberal era: the case of ELT textbooks

Gray, J; Block, D; (2013) All middle class now? Evolving representations of the working class in the neoliberal era: the case of ELT textbooks. In: Harwood, N, (ed.) English Language Teaching Textbooks: Content, Consumption, Production. (pp. 45-71). Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

The global explosion of commercial English language teaching (ELT) is largely coterminous with the birth of the neoliberal era dating more or less from the late 1970s. It is a period which has been characterised not only by the deregulation of financial markets, the abolition of trade barriers, and the imposition of structural readjustment programmes on developing world countries, but also by an ideology that promotes and celebrates individualism over class-based and other collective identity inscriptions. Central to the exponential rise in commercial ELT is the development of a sizeable and financially lucrative publishing industry in which textbooks aimed at the global market are core products. This chapter takes the view that such materials can be seen not only as mediating tools of subject knowledge, but also as organs for the ideological reproduction and legitimation of a worldview which is largely neoliberal in orientation. The chapter begins with a short discussion of class and argues the case for its relevance in discussions about second language learning. It then explores the marginalisation of class in ELT materials (in the sense of the assumption of middle class identity only), alongside the concomitant move towards much greater gender and race inclusivity. Drawing on a data base of UK-produced ELT textbooks dating from the 1970s to the present, the chapter traces the evolving representations of class, while at the same time punctuating the discussion with extracts from materials produced in earlier decades when class differences were more explicitly addressed. The analysis shows a progressive move towards a focus on spectacular personal and professional success in which aspiration is firmly focused on the individual with scant regard for ideas of the collective - a view the chapter suggests is deeply problematic.

Type: Book chapter
Title: All middle class now? Evolving representations of the working class in the neoliberal era: the case of ELT textbooks
ISBN-13: 9781137276278
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1057/9781137276285
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9781137276285
Language: English
Additional information: Selection and editorial matter © Nigel Harwood 2014. Individual chapters © Respective authors 2014.
Keywords: Social class, politics of representation, interdisciplinary approaches to textbook analysis
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Social Research Institute
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1475721
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