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Constellation Analysis

A Methodology for Comparing Syllabus Topics Across Educational Contexts


Bryan Cunningham

Jason Nicholls’ Constellation Analysis is an important contribution to studies in Comparative Education. From a deeply philosophical perspective (drawing in particular on the work of Hegel, Gadamer and Foucault), the author explores the ways in which topics in history education may be analysed and compared across international contexts. Utilising the Second World War as an «exemplar topic», the depiction of this crucial historical event in three countries, Japan, Sweden and England, is subjected to a highly novel form of interrogation. The book provides the reader not only with important insights into the nature of the books in use in classrooms across these contexts, but also into the educational – and indeed broad socio-political – environments beyond the classrooms.
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Chapter Nine: Conclusion – Labour, Consciousness and Agency


…it is this form of philosophy that, from Hegel, through Nietzsche and Max Weber, to the Frankfurt School, has founded a form of reflection in which I have tried to work.

Michel Foucault, Politics Philosophy Culture, 1988, p.95

The relationship between labour and consciousness, class and agency is explored by Hegel in the Phenomenology; and by that most famous and radical of all Left Hegelians, Karl Marx.1 Mind is active, engaging with the task of production. The researcher exercises agency, in the conscious endeavour to contribute to knowledge. Yet the agent – Hegel’s bondsman – is constrained by particular material and social relations, as well as rules set by custom and tradition. As the agent struggles with intellectual and material hurdles, periods of doubt and confusion may frequently take hold. But conscious self-realisation on the part of the researcher may come about as their work takes shape as a result of the subject’s labours. The self-consciousness and identity of the agent is tied to the work they have created.

This book represents the hermeneutic unfolding of a researcher’s self-consciousness as a subject through labour. Indeed, it could even be argued that this development constitutes the book’s crux. Essentially, an evolving consciousness of objects by the researching subject consolidates itself, as manifested through its pages. This movement may be understood expressing the dynamic between active mind and this researcher’s engagement with objects as an agent through time. Interactions with new objects demand conceptualisation. Yet with each new...

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