Education and equality: Debunking the myth of meritocracy

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This article explores how in the postwar years education was constructed as the main way in which a meritocratic society could be created in Britain (but also elsewhere). The concept of meritocracy, that is to say of a just society in which equality of opportunities and education for all, would ostensibly provide the basis with which labor market allocation would be realized. As this article argues, nothing in education operates outside the wider political economy, which in capitalism is inherently unequal as it is underpinned by the existence of antagonistically opposed social classes, separated from each other by unequal access to the means of production. As such, the circulation in the British social system that occurred in the early postwar years was not the result of decreasing inequalities within the class structure but rather the product of the occupational restructuring that fostered high rates of structural mobility. Consequently, “ascription” rather than “ability” continued to facilitate labor market stratification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-17
Number of pages15
JournalEducação & Formação
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Education
  • capitalism
  • Equality
  • labour market

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