Structure, Culture, and Subjectivity:
The Elements of Practice
can only gain a clear understanding of the relation of individual and
society if one includes in it the perpetual growing up of individuals within a
society, if one includes the process of individualization in the theory of society.
The historicity of each individual, the phenomenon of growing-up to adult-
hood, is a key to an understanding of what ‘‘society’’ is.—Norbert Elias, The
Society of Individuals
Throughout this narrative text, I have attempted to weave the theoret-
ical perspectives informing my study. Here I provide a more explicit state-
ment about theory. I begin with a review of the literature that inspired my
initial research design and move on to clarify my own approach. I finish
with an extended discussion of key terms in critical cultural analysis. My
goal here is to outline su≈ciently reformulated concepts of structure,
culture, and subjectivity that can provide useful tools for thinking about
the strategic practice students enacted in their cultural game at esf.
When, in 1987, I first conceived of doing research in and around a
socially diverse Mexican secondary school, I had a set of comparative
questions in mind. Critical scholars of education in the United States and
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