The sociology of education in Britain is generally regarded as having gone through a paradigm shift in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A supposed ‘new direction’ in the sociology of education was seen to emerge from the work of Basil Bernstein and Michael F. D. Young and their colleagues and students at the Institute of Education in London. This shift, but also the lack of a single-minded adoption of any one of a number of possible lines of development, was symbolized in the sub-title of the first major publication by this group – Knowledge and Control: New Directions for the Sociology of Education (Young 1971a). In so far as there was anything that had a coherent claim to be termed a ‘new sociology of education’ (Gorbutt 1972), its approach was one that sought to make problematic that which had hitherto been taken for granted in education (Young 1971b). As, at least initially, many of the writers associated with these developments chose to make the nature of school knowledge one of their central problems (Esland 1971; Keddie 1971), this period is often seen as opening up for the first time the possibility of a genuinely sociological approach to the study of the school curriculum. As early as 1970 Young defined the central project of the group associated with him as an attempt to relate the ‘principles of selection and organization that underlie curricula to their institutional and interactional setting in schools and classrooms and to the wider social structure’ (Young 1971b). This fairly ambitious and catholic definition of the task of a sociology of the curriculum is worth bearing in mind throughout our exploration of the way in which different elements of the 8formulation received emphasis at different times during the following decade, as different figures in its somewhat eclectic intellectual heritage of phenomenologists, interactionists and Marxists gained ascendancy.