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AS Unit 2 - Education

4) Marxist Perspective

Marxist believe that the main purpose of education is to retain the social inequality within a capitalist society.

French Marxist Althusser saw education as the man Ideological State apparatus. He said it is used to:

  1. Pass on ruling class ideology
  2. Select people for the different social classes, and equips them with attitudes and behaviour that makes them good, submissive employees. For example, education teaches workers to accept exploitation and always obey managers.

Bowles and Gintis: Schooling and the long shadow of work.

The long shadow of work, is a similar theory to Althusser’s. Bowles and Gintis too say that educations main focus is to reproduce a disciplined and skilled workforce to fuel capitalism. They say this happens in two ways:

  1. The school is run similarly to a business through the Hidden curriculum, so children become used to being a good workforce
  2. Justifying and replicate social inequality

So what is the Hidden Curriculum within school, and how does it reproduce a good workforce?

  • privileges given to sixth formers – teaches respect for elders
  • School rules; detentions, punishments and prizes, good marks etc – you must conform to the rules of society or be punished
  • Division in male and female education, for example different uniform and subject preference – justifies and encourages a sexual division of labour
  • Respect for teachers regardless of situation – respect for those in authority, such as managers and bosses
  • Doing schoolwork, whether or not its boring – teaches children to do boring tasks at work which most jobs involve
  • Punctuality – good-time keeping, a good work must be at work on time
  • Competition between pupils – teaches that workers must compete to get the best jobs
  • Pupils lack power and control – leads to an acceptance that they will have no power in the workplace

How does education justify and replicate social inequality?

It helps maintain, explain and legitimize the system of social inequality. Then through things like the hidden curriculum it helps people come to terms with their position and social class within society. And therefore helps to reduce discontent, anger and opposition to the inequality, meaning the workforce are happy to fit into their role in society and not challenge the ruling class.


About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


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