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Materialism and deconstructivism: education and the epistemology of identity

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Chris Haywood, Professor Mairtin Mac an Ghaill


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Identity is one of the defining terms of the 1990s in England. Currently, academic, political and popular discourses highlight the pervasiveness of the term. However, what is missing from these accounts is an awareness of its philosophical roots. Consequently, most of these accounts are theoretically under-developed, marked by conceptual confusion and conflation. This paper is concerned with the formation of identities within the context of educational arenas. More specifically, we focus upon the philosophical positions of materialism and deconstructivism, highlighting the particular dynamics of their epistemologies of identity. We suggest that at a time of political retreat and and intellectual self-doubt among educationists, critical social scientists are making available productive conceptual frameworks within which to explore identity formations in educational sites. Recent theoretical developments in sociology and cultural studies provide an opportunity for philosophy of education to play a vital role here, in engaging with new ways of thinking about old philosophical problems. Within the context of an increasing reductionist policy focus on managerialist solutions, philosophy helps us to challenge the ideological conversion of moral and political questions into technicist 'problems'.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Haywood C, Mac an Ghaill M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cambridge Journal of Education

Year: 1997

Volume: 27

Issue: 2

Pages: 261-272

Print publication date: 01/06/1997

ISSN (print): 0305-764X

ISSN (electronic): 1469-3577

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/0305764970270209


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