A sociological deconstruction of childhood for justice

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Notwithstanding the multiplicity of constructions of childhood in various disciplines, the prevailing view is that children are incompetent in the sense of lacking rationality, maturity, or independence. In this paper, I first examine how this dominant view is constructed in the field of sociology, highlighting the constructions of children as playful, vulnerable, and passive. Then, following Jacques Derrida who conceives justice as a source of meaning for deconstruction, I deconstruct these dominant constructions and argue that they do not do children justice. To return justice to childhood, I suggest that children should neither be constructed as workfree, in which case the building of the “playing-child” image of childhood reinforces a worrying tendency to downplay the reality of the prevalence and complexity of child labour; nor as innately innocent and vulnerable, arising from which the protectionist approach to childhood is often not really protective but even counter-protective. Moreover, I suggest that the common practice of legally fixing a chronological identity for adults within the life course should be challenged. In order to explain properly how children can act as social agents rather than passive objects under the dominating influences of adults, I further suggest that the relationship between social structures and agency should be understood in terms of relational rather than co-deterministic theories, and thus that the evolution of the social world should be interpreted as the result of trans-actions between various interdependent actors rather than of inter-actions between social structures and agency. Copyright © 2009 Inter-Disciplinary Press.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCreativity and the child: Interdisciplinary perspectives
EditorsWendy C. TURGEON
Place of PublicationOxford, England
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781848880061
Publication statusPublished - 08 May 2009


Lam, C. M. (2009). A sociological deconstruction of childhood for justice. In W. C. Turgeon (Ed.), Creativity and the child: Interdisciplinary perspectives (pp. 15-24). Oxford, England: Inter-Disciplinary Press.


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