The Role of Education: Marxism

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Althusser claims the state consists of 2 elements which help to keep capitalists in power:

  • REPRESSIVE STATE APPARATUS - when necessary to protect the capitalist's interests, the state uses force to repress the working class via the police, courts and the army.
  • IDEOLOGICAL STATE APPARATUS - controls peoples ideas, values and beliefs. The ISA includes religion, mass media and education.

The education system performs 2 functions as an ISA:

1. REPRODUCTION - education reproduces class inequality by failing each generation of working class pupils in turn, thereby ensuring they end up in the same kinds of jobs as their parents.

2. LEGITIMATION - education legitimates class inequality by producing ideologies (sets of ideas and beliefs) that disguise its true cause. Education tries to convince people inequality is inevitable and that failure is the fault of the individual, not the capitalist system.

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Bowles and Gintis

  • Capitalism needs workers with obedient attitudes and submissive personality types that are willing to accept hard work, low pay and authority.
  • They see the role of education in Capitalist society as reproducing an obedient, exploitable workforce that will accept social inequality as inevitable and fair. To achieve this, sucessive generations of workers need these ideas firmly planted in their minds - this is the purpose of the education system.
  • There argue theres a close corresspondence between relationships in school and in the workplace - creates new generations of workers ready to accept their lot and serve capitalism.

Correspondence Principle - schooling takes place in the 'long shadow of work'. The relationships and structures found in education mirror those of work.

The Hidden Curriculum - the 'lessons' learnt in school without being directly taught, through the everyday workings of the school pupils accept: heirarchy, competition, alienation.

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Bowles and Gintis

  • The education system helps to stop people recognising their exploited position and rebelling against the system, by legitimating class inequalities. It does this by producing ideologies (set of ideas and beliefs) that explain why inequality is fair, natural and/or inevitable.

The myth of meritocracy - they believe meritocracy is a myth and in reality success is based on class background, not ability or educational achievement. By promoting the claim rewards are based on ability, the myth of meritocracy helps pursuade workers to accept inquality and their subordinate position as legitimate.

Role Allocation - their research found it was the most obedient students who got the best grades, not those who were non-conformist or creative thinkers. The education system rewards those who conform to the qualities required of the future workforce.

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  • Studied the 'counter-school' culture of 'the lads' - a group of 12 working class boys as they made the transition from school to work.
  • He found working class pupils may resist attempts to indoctrinate them in school - they are able to partially see through the meritcratic ideology that claims working class pupils can get on through hard work.
  • The lads formed a distinct counter culture that was opposed to the school by flounting the rules, disrupting class and playing truant.
  • By resisting the schools ideology, the lads counter schools culture ensures they will fail, thereby ensuring they end up in manual work that capitalism needs someone to perform.
    • Their resistance to school ends up reproducing class inequality.
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Evaluation of Marxism

POSTMODERNISTS - argue marxism is out of date. The correspondence principle no longer operates or at least is a too simplistic view.

    • They argue class divisions are no longer important in a post-Fordist economic system thats much more diverse and fragmented.
    • Where Marxists see inequality, there is diversity and choice. 

MARXISTS - Bowles and Gintis take a determinitstic approach and assume that pupils passively accept indoctination. But Willis rejects this simple 'brainwashing view' and shows how pupils may resist school and yet still end up in working class jobs.
schools not only reproduce capitalism, but patriarchy aswell. McROBBIE: females are largely absent from Willis' study. Willis' study has been the model for research into other educational inequalities, including gender, ethinicity and sexuality.
Willis' has been criticised for romantiscising the lads, presenting them as working class heroes, despite their anti-social behaviour and sexist attitudes.

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