Codes, Pedagogy and Kapital 2.0

Reading Codes, Pedagogy and Knowledge, by Hoadley and Muller, it struck me that despite the value of Bernstein’s analysis on codes, he unfortunately had it back-to-front.

Bernstein’s Codes
Bernstein’s Elaborated and Restricted Codes – the distinction between ‘middle-class’, explicit, context-independent meanings, and ‘working-class’ implicit, contextual meanings, respectively) were based on the functional linguistics of Halliday (and others).

Actually, it is the elaborated code that is ‘restricted’ in form and mode (context and subject stripped, and dis-embodied), and the restricted code which is elaborated (overcoded, embedded and embodied). What many people ‘felt’, intuitively, turns out to be correct: Bernstein had it back-to-front, not only politically (‘elaborated’ is by definition of higher value than ‘restricted’, Halliday would surely have pointed out this tacit valorisation to Bernstein?), but conceptually too: elaborated codes are by definition reduced, boiled down, often to numbers, or algorithms, whereas the process of contextualization and embodiment is richer, more elaborate.

Contextual modes realize solidarity with and in a particular context; context-stripped modes realize solidarity only within an abstract set of processes, and a hyper-class, whose solidarity has always been, precisely, across contexts – nationally and internationally (the ‘1%’). It would be more logical to say that contextual modes are elaborate, and context-stripped modes are restricted. But its more than just a choice of modes. The modes are based on the fundamental distinction between semiotics and meta-semiotics, i.e. the distinction between a discourse of objects, predictability, command and control, on the one hand, and a discourse of subjects, identity, and community on the other hand.

The difference is between objects, whose identity is defined by (the gaze of) others, and by (impersonal) markets, which define them as members of an objectively defined set, on the one hand; and subjects, who create and maintain their own identity, on the other hand. Subjects need to be consulted, objects can (and should?) be controlled.

Ultimately, the choice of modes is the choice between objects for exchange and capital, versus subjects for engagement. This can be, and is, applied to animate and inanimate actors. So there can be no solidarity with objects, only solidarity amongst people prosecuting a discourse of objects. There can on the other hand be solidarity with and between subjects.

Das Kapital 2.0
Schooling as enculturation: learning a context-stripped discourse is not, primarily, a technical and intellectual issue. It is a matter of learning to be (at home) in a discourse in which value is created by stripping out subjectivity, context, and local colour and culture, in the production of metasemiotics: i.e. artefacts and objects as capital and exchange value.

The forms of meta-semiotics include finance (Marx) the functional linguistics of science and money (Rossi-landi), law and regulation (in bureaucracy, Weber), representative democracy, and digitalized data and metadata (stripped off social and financial e-‘commerce’). Metasemiotics is in many ways just Das Kapital 2.0.

For the working class, there is thus always a threat of ‘class suicide’ in this enculturation, unless one can retain one’s cultural ties and roots, and become discursively ‘bilingual’ ('polyontologies' perhaps?). In other words, education is not just a “specialisation of the consciousness of young people”, it’s their enculturation and in-corporation (literally, in the sense of being absorbed into the embodiedments of context-stripped discourse). Its primarily an ontological, not an epistemological transformation.

(Cross-posted to here )