Meritocracy through education and social mobility in post-war Britain: A critical examination

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After the Second World War, education in advanced capitalist societies has been perceived as the main 'saviour' of the meritocratic ideal. In this paper I will investigate some of the implications of the lasting emphasis that has been placed upon education in Britain, in the pursuit of a more just and equal society. Initially, I will present two main strands of thought vis-a-vis meritocracy. I will then show how these different approaches have shaped the pertinent debate. The main line of reasoning will be that the 'meritocracy through education' discourse can potentially conceal inequalities and injustices in contemporary market-driven British society. This contention will be supported by evidence from social mobility research, which clearly indicates that the expansion of educational provision and the increase in educational qualifications of the past 60 years has done little to eliminate social class differences and associated privileges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-438
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2008

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