- Hardcover: 340 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1st Edition edition (February 12, 1976)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465072305
- ISBN-13: 978-0465072309
- Package Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #652,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Schooling In Capital America Hardcover – February 12, 1976
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Pages have no markings or folds. Binding is solid. Dust jacket has fairly heavy wear around the edges. Poly bagged for extra protection.
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Relying heavily on historical information, much of it provided by Michael Katz's 1968 book The Irony of Early School Reform, Bowles and Gintis presented a powerful argument on behalf of the notion that schooling was not an effective agency of progressive social reform. Instead, they made clear that education was a secondary institution, the nature of which was determined by more powerful social agencies, especially the economy. Bowles and Ginitis' position is sometimes rendered as follows: whatever educators' intentions, schooling reproduces and legitimates an inequitable social class structure from one generation to another.
In addition to historical material, Bowles and Gintis used census data, imputed values for the variable IQ (Bowles and Nelson, 1974), and multiple regression analysis to make unmistakably clear that family background factors -- the class or status group into which one was born -- had a great deal more to do with subsequent attainments than measured ability. Their easy-to-understand graphs illustrating the case that the U.S.is not an intelligence-intensive technocratic-meritocracy are reproduced in Riordan's (2003) popular introduction to the sociology of education titled Equality and Achievement.
In spite of its conspicuously Marxist theoretical framework, Schooing in Capitalist America was favorably reviewed by Mark Blaug, then a very influential economist of education. Blaug had been openly critical of mainstream human capital theory, but he was definitely not a person on the left. Nevertheless, he went so far as to say that he enjoyed the book so much that he wished it had been longer.
Over the years, Bowles and Gintis' account has been judged too deterministic, denying rational choice to everyday participants. Some of those who offered that critique contrasted Schooling in Capitalist America with Paul Willis' ethnography Learning to Labor, claiming that the latter book acknowledged election. On close reading, however, both books present nominal choices as closely circumscribed -- determined -- by contextual factors. This is, after all, the orthodox Marxist point of view.
Sadly, Bowles and Gintis' now out-of-print book seems to have been largely forgotten. Jean Anyon's (1997) excellent case study of schooling and its social context in Newark is exactly the sort of research that one would expect to follow from Schooling in Capitalist America. Nevertheless, Anyon does not cite it even once. [A reader of this review has kindly informed me that Bowles and Gintis' contribution is conspicuously acknowledged in Anyon's more recent work.]
Social reproduction theory, in my view, is as pertinent today as it was when Schooling in Capitalist America was first published. People who work for a living are being socialized to expect even less, and capital is in control, propped up by the federal government with citizens' tax dollars. Perhaps what I take to be a softening in Bowles and Gintis' position is just demoralization, one product of writing a telling critique only to have things continue in the same direction with ever-greater intensity.
Unfortunately, Bowles and Gintis have moved on to another set of projects, but both thinkers deserve to be thought of as innovators in the fields of education and political economy.