Towards a Definition of Social Equality in Education

  • Ann Margaret Doyle


How may one define social equality? A brief exploration of this concept within its philosophical origins is undertaken before moving on to a discussion of how it can be applied to education by examining the work of a selection of modern social theorists. How social justice theories have inspired educational policies and outcomes is discussed. In the latter half of the 20th century the dynamic relationship between education and the economy was examined and reproduction theories critiqued attempts to reform education within a structurally unequal system. Bourdieu’s analysis of ‘cultural reproduction’ and the inequalities due to the unequal social backgrounds of students provided further debate.


  1. Archer, M.S. 1979. Social Origins of Educational Systems. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Althusser, L. 1971. Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. In Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. London: New Left Books.Google Scholar
  3. Apple, M.W. 1982. Cultural and Economic Reproduction in Education: Essays on Class, Ideology and the State. London/Boston/Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  4. Ball, S.J. 2003. Class Strategies and the Education Market: The Middle Classes and Social Advantage. London: RoutledgeFalmer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bihr, A., and R. Pfefferkorn. 1995. Déchiffrer les inégalités. Paris: Syros.Google Scholar
  6. Boudon, R. 1974. Opportunity and Social Inequality. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P. 1977a. Cultural Reproduction and Social Production. In Power and Ideology in Education, ed. J. Karabel and A.H. Halsey, 487–511. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, P. 1977b. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bowles, S., and H. Gintis. 1976. Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  10. Cole, M. 1989. Education for Equality. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Cole, M. 2008. Marxism and Educational Theory. Abingdon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Coleman, J.S. 1990. Equality and Achievement in Education. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  13. Dupriez, V., J.-F. Orianne, and M. Verhoeven, eds. 2008. De l’école au marché du travail, l’égalité des chances en question. Bern: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  14. Duru-Bellat, M. 2002. Les Inégalités sociales à l’école: Genèse et Mythes. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fraser, D. 1973. The Evolution of the British Welfare Stat: A History of Social Policy since the Industrial Revolution. London: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Green, A. 1990. Education and State Formation: The Rise of Education Systems in England, France and the USA. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  17. Hall, J.C. 1973. Rousseau: An Introduction to His Political Philosophy. London: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hamilton, P. 1992. The Enlightenment and the Birth of Social Science. In Formations of Modernity, ed. S. Hall and B. Gieben, 18–58. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  19. Harrigan, P.J. 1980. Mobility, Elites, and Education in French Society of the Second Empire. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Hobsbawm, E.J. 1982. The History of Marxism, Vol 1: Marxism in Marx’s day. Brighton: The Harvester Press.Google Scholar
  21. Howe, K.R. 1997. Understanding Equal Educational Opportunity: Social Justice, Democracy, and Schooling. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  22. Jay, D. 1962. Socialism in the New Society. London: Longmans, Green and Co.Google Scholar
  23. Marx, K. 1964. Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy. Trans. S.W. Ryazanskaya. Moscow: Progress Publishers.Google Scholar
  24. Moore, A. 2000. Teaching and Learning: Pedagogy, Curriculum and Culture. London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  25. Nash, R. 2003. Inequality/Difference in Education: Is a Real Explanation of Primary and Secondary Effects Possible? British Journal of Sociology 54 (4): 433–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. O’Brien, M., and S. Penna. 1998. Theorising Welfare: Enlightenment and Modern Society. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Porter, R. 2000. Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  28. Power, S., T. Edwards, G. Whitty, and V. Wigfall. 2003. Education and the Middle Class. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Rasmussen, D.C. 2008. The Problems and Promises of Commercial Society: Adam Smith’s Response to Rousseau. Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Rawls, J. 1971. A Theory of Justice. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  31. Ringer, F.K. 1979. Education and Society in Modern Europe. Bloomington/London: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Rousseau, J.J. 1762. The Social Contract and Discourses. Trans. G.D.H. Cole, 1966. London: J. M. Dent & Sons.Google Scholar
  33. Smith, A. 1999 An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  34. Verhoeven, M., J.-F. Orianne, and V. Dupriez. 2005. Vers des politiques d’éducation “capabilisantes”? Une anlyse critique de l’action publique en matière d’éducation. Les Cahiers de Recherche en Education et Formation 47 (Novembre): 1–21.Google Scholar
  35. Willis, P. 1977. Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs. Farnborough: Saxon House.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann Margaret Doyle
    • 1
  1. 1.UCL Institute of EducationUniversity College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations