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Marxist and Critical Approaches to Education

3. Pierre Bourdieu and Educational Inequality

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In this module, we think about Pierre Bourdieu’s more complex account of the role of education in reproducing inequalities in society. In particular, we focus on: (i) Bourdieu’s focus on individual agency, in contrast to the more structural Marxist approach, and his ideas of subjectivism and objectivism; (ii) his notions of field and capital and how these can be used to understand inequality; (iii) his work on the roles of culture and taste in sustaining class distinction, particularly through the ideas of cultural capital and habitus, and how education upholds this distinction.


In this course, Dr Eric Lybeck (University of Manchester) explores Marxist and critical approaches to education. In the first module, we consider some classical theories of education and its role in society, such as those of Karl Marx, Max Weber and Talcott Parsons. In the second module, we look at Marxist analyses of education from the 1960s, including the work of Louis Althusser and Bowles and Gintis. In the third and fourth modules, we think about the ideas of Pierre Bourdieu and how they have been taken on in both qualitative and quantitative critical education research. In the final module, we look at some recent developments in the field, such as critical pedagogy and analyses linked to globalisation.


Dr Eric Lybeck is Presidential Fellow at the Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester. His recent research focuses on the sociology of education, especially the university sector. He is author of The University Revolution: Outline of a Processual Theory of Modern Higher Education (2021) and Norbert Elias and the Sociology of Education (2019), and co-editor of Reconstructing Social Theory, History and Practice (2017).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Lybeck, E. (2021, August 23). Marxist and Critical Approaches to Education - Pierre Bourdieu and Educational Inequality [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lybeck, E. "Marxist and Critical Approaches to Education – Pierre Bourdieu and Educational Inequality." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Aug 2021,

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