Introduction: Sociological interrogations of the turn to character

Anna Bull, Kim Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Among the many trends that have characterised education policy in the UK over the last two decades has been a preoccupation by successive governments with young people’s noncognitive skills and moral and social development. This has manifested in policy discourses including citizenship education and social and emotional learning (Davies and Chong, 2016; Gagen, 2015). A more recent mutation has been an investment in ‘character education’. Since the Conservative-led Coalition government came into power in 2010 (replaced by the election of a majority Conservative government in 2015 and 2017), the government have committed to nurturing children and young people’s ‘character’, with ‘character strengths’ such as optimism, resilience and grit located as key factors shaping academic and other life outcomes.This recent emphasis on, and investment in, character education needs to be understood as part of what we call a broader ‘turn to character’ within contemporary neoliberalism. Towards this end, this special section of Sociological Research Online explores current manifestations of this turn within education policy and provision, as well as welfare and employment, and across the terrain of popular culture. In this introduction, we briefly introduce the policy context for this agenda, before moving to introduce the articles, drawing attention to some of the key themes that cut across these.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-398
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

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