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Unit 2: Education and Research Methods
Topic 6: The Role of Education - Marxism…read more

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Unit 2: Education and Research Methods
Topic 6: The Role of Education - Marxism
Where Functionalists see society and education as based on value consensus, Marxists
see it based on class division and capitalist exploitation. Karl Marx (1818-83) described
capitalism as a two-class system:
· The capitalist class or bourgeoisie are the minority class. They are the employers
who own the means to production (land, factories, machinery, offices etc). They make
their profits by exploiting the labour of the majority ­ the working class.
· The working class are forced to sell their labour power
to the capitalists since they own no means of production
of their own and so have no other source of income. As a
result, work under capitalism is poorly paid, alienating,
unsatisfying and something over which workers have no
real control.
This creates the potential for class conflict. For example, if
workers realise they are being exploited, they may
demand higher wages, better working conditions or even
the abolition of capitalism itself. Marx believed that
ultimately the working class would unite to overthrow the
capitalist system and create a classless, equal society.…read more

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Unit 2: Education and Research Methods
Topic 6: The Role of Education - Marxism
Althusser: The Ideological State Apparatus
Marxists see the state as the means by which the capitalist ruling class maintain their
dominant position. According to Althusser (1971), the state consists of two elements,
both of which seem to serve to keep the bourgeoisie in power:
· The Repressive State Apparatuses (RSAs) which
maintain the rule of the bourgeoisie by force or the
threat of it. The RSAs include the police, courts and
army. When necessary, they use physical force to
repress the working class.
· The Ideological State Apparatus (ISAs) maintains
the rule of the bourgeoisie by controlling people's
ideas, values and beliefs. The ISAs include religion,
the mass media and the education system.…read more

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Unit 2: Education and Research Methods
Topic 6: The Role of Education - Marxism
Althusser views education as an important ISA arguing that it performs two functions:
· Education reproduces class inequality by transmitting it from generation to
generation, by failing each successive generation of working class pupils in turn.
· Education legitimises class inequality by producing ideologies (set of ideas and
beliefs) that disguise its true cause. The function of the ideology is to persuade
workers to accept that inequality is inevitable and that they deserve their subordinate
position in society. If they accept these ideas, they are less likely to challenge or
threaten capitalism.…read more

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Unit 2: Education and Research Methods
Topic 6: The Role of Education - Marxism
Bowles and Gintis: Schooling in Capitalist America
The American Marxists Bowles and Gintis (1976) developed these ideas further. They
argued that capitalism requires a workforce with the kind of attitudes, behaviour and
personality type suited to their role as alienated and exploited workers willing to
accept hard work, low pay and order from above. In their view Bowles and Gintis
argue this is the role of the education system in capitalist society ­ to reproduce an
obedient workforce that will accept inequality an inevitable.…read more

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