Musings on the Veneration of Childhood

I was just thinking about the notion of childhood, and looking into the history of child labour discovered that it started to be outlawed or at least frowned upon when technology advanced (following the industrial revolution) to the extent that education became necessary to operate such technology and keep the economy going. (See Wikipedia article on child labour which is very thoroughly referenced with a comprehensive bibliography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_labour#The_Industrial_Revolution)

So one could then link the idea of preserving childhood to the need for education, in order to keep a strong economy, ironic when considering Marx stated that the British economy “could but live by sucking blood, and children’s blood too.” Certainly in a capitalist society, one could argue that children are educated so that they can later feed the capitalist machine.

Just some thoughts to complicate the reasoning behind preserving childhood.

2 thoughts on “Musings on the Veneration of Childhood

  1. Thanks for this, Ryushi. I do think that it’s worthwhile investigating a bit the historical emergence of childhood as a concept, and what you suggest clearly gives an explanation that is more grounded in economics. The capitalist reading of this certainly raises interesting questions about the further linkage of childhood and purity.

  2. “So one could then link the idea of preserving childhood to the need for education, in order to keep a strong economy… Certainly in a capitalist society, one could argue that children are educated so that they can later feed the capitalist machine.”

    Ryushi, that’s a great point which might facilitate a more critical look at the classic ‘development geography’ perspective on childhood and the rights of the child (brought up a few meetings ago). The focus on protecting the child/childhood belonging to the “less economically developed” society is iterated through things like education (see the UN’s MDGs), which is in turn awarded direct connotations to the preservation of child’s innocence for longer (i.e. a girl whose family sends her to school is less likely to become a ‘child bride’).
    I quoted that piece of your post above because it suggests a form of exploitation of the child which is economic/socio-economic, rather than sexual. I suppose we could evaluate our own research on a point like this too, since our project largely responds to the theme of sexual exploitation of the child that often eclipses the exploitative capacity of other systems (like capitalism).

    Rosa mentioned above: “The capitalist reading of this certainly raises interesting questions about the further linkage of childhood and purity.” – Considering the above point, perhaps the essence of childhood being hinged to purity has allowed for a stronger reaction towards sexualisation than, say, economic marginalisation which coerce children into laborious work.

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