AQA Sociology: The Role of Education (2) Marxism

What are the main features of the Marxist view of society?

What do marxists see as the role of education in modern society?

What criticisms have been made of Marxist views?

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  • Created by: Chloe
  • Created on: 23-05-12 14:18

What is Marxism?

  • A conflict view that sees society as being based on class divisions and exploitation.
  • 2 classes - bourgeoisie and proletariat.
  • Capitalist class own means of production & make their profits by exploiting the labour of the working class.
  • Creates class conflict that could threaten the stability of capitalism or even result in a revolution to overthrow it.
  • Social institutions to reproduce class inequalities & play an ideological role by persuading workers that inquality is justified and acceptable.
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Althusser (1971)

Claims that the state consists of 2 elements which help to keep capitalists in power.

  • The Repressive State Apparatus (RSA) - using force to repress the working class via police, courts & army when protecting capitalist interests.
  • The Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) - controls peoples ideas, values & beliefs. Includes religion, the mass media & the education system.

Education performs 2 functions as an ISA.

  • Reproduction - reproduces class inequality, by failing each generation of w-c pupils in turn & thereby ensuring that they end up in same kinds of jobs as parents.
  • Legitimation - legitimates class inequality by producing ideologies (sets of ideas and beliefs) & disguise its true cause. Tries to convince people that inequality is inevitable & that failure is fault of individual, not capitalist system.
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Bowles and Gintis (1976)

> The Correspondence Principle

There is a close likeness between school and the work place. Education mirrors those of work with alienation, hierarchy, competition and divisions, fragmentation, extrinsic satisfaction.

> The Hidden Curriculum

The correspondence principle operates through the hidden curriculum. Everyday workings of the school, pupils accept hierarchy, competition, alienation etc. Becomes the normal way to think.

> The Myth of Meritocracy

It ligitimates class inequality. Prevents people from recognising their exploited position by ligitimating class inequalities. Produces ideologies. In reality, success is based on class background, not ability or educational achievement. Persuades workers to accept inequality and their subordinate position as legitimate.

> Role Allocation

Obedient students got the best grades, not those who were non-conformists or creative thinkers. The education system rewards those who conform to the qualities required of the future workforce.

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Willis (1977) - Learning to Labour

Rejects Bowles and Gintis's version of the correspondence principle.

Studied the counter-school culture of 'the lads' - a group of 12 working-class boys - as they made transition from school to work.

The counter-school culture

Lads formed distinctive counture-culture that was opposed to the school. Flouted the school's rules.

Anti-school culture similar to the shopfloor culture of male manual workers. Lads counter-school culutre guarentree that they will fail, ensuring they end up in manual work that capitalism needs someone to perform. Resistance to school ends up reproducing class inequality.

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Evaluation of Marxism

Postmodernists - argue that Marxism is out date. The correspondence principle no longer operates or is at the very least simplistic view.

  • Class divisions are no longer important in a post-Fordist economic system that is now much more diverse and fragmented.
  • Where marxists see inequality, there is really diversity & choice.

Feminists - argue that schools reproduce not only capitalism but partiarchy too.

Marxists disagree among themselves - Bowles & Gintis take deterministic view. Willis rejects this simple view & shows how pupils may resist & yet still end up in w-c jobs.

Romanticisation - Willis criticised for romanticising the 'lads' presenting them as w-c heroes despite their anti-social behaviour & sexist attitudes. & study was small therefore not representative. 

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