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Feinstein School of Education and Human Development


This paper shows that emergence of modern childhood can be explained by a need to secure unpaid labor of school-aged children by means of extra-economic coercion. The pre-modern Europe needed to compel a growing segment of population to participate in unpaid work of schooling. The task was accomplished by creating a group with limited rights, and by convincing everyone that the labor of schooling is actually a kind of service provided to children. Ultimately, the modern conception of childhood was born of power relations formed by economic necessity. To support the claim, I rely mainly on Philippe Aries's account. Michel Foucault and Karl Marx provided ways of thinking about mechanics of power.

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