Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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'It's either Maccas or uni': A Bourdieusian analysis of working-class youth in New Zealand

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posted on 2021-11-23, 12:26 authored by Lockyer, Orin

School to work transitions is often presented as a binary choice. You either pursue a university education that is framed as a sure-fire pathway to both social and economic mobility, or you pursue a ‘lesser’ form of industrial and vocational training, with little of hope of advancement. However, this thesis argues that this assumption must be contested, as it obscures the complexity of all school to work transitions and the potential for social mobility in these ‘lesser’ forms of education. Through interviews with young men and women who are training as an apprentice or have recently completed their apprenticeship, this thesis hopes to provide a more complex snapshot of school to work transitions, focusing on how apprentices find and adapt to their new trade.  My overall argument centres on Bourdieu’s theory of practice which is often discussed concerning the specific class-based outcomes of education for students from different class conditions (Bourdieu 1977). While this approach is useful to showing the complexity of school to work transitions from supposedly ‘lesser’ pathways, this approach is overly reliant on habitus, presenting a type of individual agency that is primarily reproductive and non-conducive to any potential transformation. Instead of focusing on just habitus in understanding this transition, a greater emphasis is placed on Bourdieu’s concept of ‘field’. Specifically, how field conditions can influence both the degree and the type of agency within a field, presenting a more complicated conception of agency that can be simultaneously reproductive and transformative.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Arts

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Snyder, Benjamin; Taylor, Dylan