Marxism in Education

MARXISM: The state as a means of the capatalist class retaining their dominance

ALTHUSSER - The Ideological State Apparatus

BOWLES & GINTIS - Schooling in Capitalist America

WILLIS - Learning to Labour

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ALUTHESSER - The Ideological State Apparatus

According to LOUIS ALTHUSSER (1971) the state uses two apparatus to keep the bourgeoisie in power;


  • The Repressive State Apparatus (RSA) - This is how they keep control by force (the Police, Army etc.)
  • The Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) - This is how they keep control through controlling values and beliefs and included EDUCATION.

Althusser's View of Education He argues that Education performs two functions;

REPRODUCES class inequality by transmitting it through generations. They do this by failing the working class every time.

LEGITIMIZES class inequality by teaching that it is the way that the world works. This prevents people challenging the system

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BOWLES AND GINTIS - Schooling in Capitalist Americ

The American Marxist Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis (1976) develop ideas further.
-They argue that the workforce that the capitalist class wants has to have certain values and these are brought out in education.
-Primarily, pupils were awarded for 'submissive' behavior' and the students who showed imagination got lower grades.
They say therefore that education limits a students personal development. 

THE CORRESPONDENCE PRINCIPLE AND THE HIDDEN CURRICULUM They argue that schools have a structure that corresponded with the workplace and therefore is preparing students to become submissive workers within the workplace.
They also argue that there is a hidden curriculum. This is lessons that are not directly being taught. 

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WILLIS - Learning to Labour

All Marxists agree that a capitalist society cannot function without a submissive workforce. They also all agree that education is a key factor in obtaining this workforce. 

WILLIS (1977) did a survey of working class 'lads' within a school who were trying to resist the control that their teachers were subjecting them to.

However, while resisting control, they were failing with their schoolwork and this means that they were automatically failing with their education. This means that they could only end up in low skilled jobs. Ultimately, they were doing exactly what the capitalist class would want.

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There are a lot of people who contest the views of the Marxists.

-Some people say that there is less manual jobs, so more people are having to get some qualifications to work

-They say that schools promote diversity, not capitalism

-Feminism argue that schools still spread patriarchy as well.

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