Svetlana M. Bardina

MSSES, Moscow, Russia

The article deals with one of the key issues in the new social study of childhood. Scholars pay attention to the fact that biosocial dualism remains a leading principle in childhood studies, and childhood is examined through the lens of either culture or nature. As stated by many authors, biosocial dualism in childhood studies originated from the Modern Age, when nature and society were distinguished as two separate zones. Overcoming the dualities of Modernity is seen as one of the main tasks for contemporary childhood studies. In this paper, the author analyzes Thomas Hobbes’ conception of childhood. It is shown that the role of the child in modern thought was ambiguous. On the one hand, children — along with fools and madmen — are placed outside civil society, since all of them lack reason. On the other hand, children play a crucial role for maintaining social order. Three features of modern childhood are most important. First, children belong to a particular area of parental dominion which itself is neither natural nor civil. Second, they help transform the nature of power within this area. Third, childhood functions as a way of representing a political
“outside zone”. This reconstruction demonstrates that modern childhood was not exceptionally natural and opposed to society, as Alan Prout and other theorists claim. On the contrary, childhood was crucial for the existence
of the “mixed zone”. Moreover, it was highly significant for the defining boundaries of the political sphere.
Keywords: childhood, dualism, Hobbes, The Age of Modernity, new social study of childhood, unreason