Education - Marxist explanations

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A conflict view that sees society as being based on class divisions and exploitations. Marxists argue that:

  • In capitalist society there are two classes - the ruling class and the subject class.
  • The ruling class own the means of production and make their profits by exploiting the labour of the working class.
  • This creates class conflict which could result in a revolution to overthrow it.
  • Social institutions (such as the education system) reproduce class inequalities and play an ideological role by persuading exploited workers that inequality is justified and acceptable 

Althusser - the role of ideology

Althusser sees the education system as part of the ideological state apparatus. He claims that education, along with other ideological state apparatuses such as the family and the mass media, reproduce class-based inequalities by creating the belief that capitalism is somehow 'normal' and 'natural'. 

Bourdieu - cultural capital 

Like other Marxists, Bourdieu argues that the main function of education is to reproduce and legitimize ruling class power and culture. Another important function is to socialise the working class into accepting 'a culture of failure' to they take up…


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