Class Strategies and the Education Market: The Middle Classes and Social Advantage

Class Strategies and the Education Market: The Middle Classes and Social Advantage

Class Strategies and the Education Market: The Middle Classes and Social Advantage

Class Strategies and the Education Market: The Middle Classes and Social Advantage


Class Strategies and the Education Market examines the ways in which the middle classes maintain and improve their social advantages in and through education. Drawing on an extensive series of interviews with parents and children, this book identifies key moments of decision making in the construction of the educational trajectories of middle class children. Stephen J. Ball organises his analysis around the key concepts of social closure, social capital, values and principles and risk, while bringing a broad range of up-to-date sociological theory to bear upon his subject. From this thorough analysis, valuable and thought-provoking insights emerge into the assiduous care and considerable effort and expenditure which goes into ensuring the educational success of the middle class child The middle classes are a sociological enigma, presenting the social researcher with considerable analytic and theoretical difficulties. Class Strategies and the Education Market provides a set of working tools for class analysis and the examination of class practices. Above all, it offers new ways of thinking about class theory and the relationships between classes in late modern society.


To try to advance merit and retract class advantages as a basis of selection in a system that remains highly selective is likely to rankle too many entrenched interests. Those who lose privileges could be expected to fight to retain them …

(Raftery and Hout 1993:60).

The middle class is a social class that has become a historical actor …

(Eder 1993:164).

The purpose of this chapter is to explore the relationships between social class and education policy. I intend to argue a case for two related propositions; first, that currently, in developed societies around the world, education policies are primarily aimed at satisfying the concerns and interests of the middle class. in effect, policy thinking is classed in particular ways and particular policies present the middle class with strategic advantages in education. Second, I will argue that the middle class is active in various ways in influencing and effecting education policies in their own interests. This takes place at various levels from national to local, and institutional. I shall explore and exemplify the workings of middle-class interest at each level. Embedded in these propositions are a number of different conceptualizations of policy - I see these as complementary rather than as competing. They overlay one another and reinforce patterns of social advantage. They are: (a) a pluralist view which focuses on the direct actions of parents in contesting or effecting policy directly by expressing and advancing their preferences; (b) a view of policy as non-decision-making, 'in which decisions are prevented from being taken on potential issues over which there is an observable conflict of (subjective) interests' (Lukes 1974:20). One prime example here is the English DfES' steadfast exclusion of issues of poverty and social class from debates concerning educational achievement and 'failing schools' and the substitution of School Effectiveness/School Improvement policies which give primary emphasis to institutional factors to explain performance differences (see Thrupp and Ball 2002). I suggest that this can be seen as representing and legitimating a more general re-working of the meaning of and priorities related to educational need which facilitate the movement of resources from those with social

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