Dissertation Abstracts

Legitimate educational Inequalities. Conceptions and Expectation of Middle Classes in Germany and Chile about educational Justice.

Author: Susann Hanspach, susannhanspach@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of Wuppertal, Germany
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Peter Imbusch
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: german

Keywords: educational justice , middle classes , Chile , Germany
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Stratification , Comparative Sociology


Education with its claim of meritocracy may be the main principle for legitimate social inequalities in the majority of the world. Specifically, in countries where middle classes form a broad and heterogeneous part of society, education plays a big role for their identity. On the one hand, middle classes had benefited from educational expansion like no other social group and still education is essential for their social reproduction. On the other hand, education perceived as culture, not only restricted to degrees and certificates, middle classes, particularly upper middle classes, distinguish from other social groups by means of their cultural habits and values. Hence, issues in educational policy attract attention primarily to middle classes like students and their parents, including teachers or other pedagogues who are the gatekeepers of education system. Educational reforms as well as the persistency of an education system may cause conflicts, which often manifest in protest marches, petitions or in turning away from public school system. Concepts of justice as a main value to evaluate the education system may help to understand these different conflicts about education among the heterogeneous middle classes. Talking about educational justice, addressing the legitimation of educational inequality through distribution of education as a good in society as result and its procedure in education system in the sense of fairness of treatments. Next to the widespread phrase, “Equality of opportunities”, main principles of justice in education system may be justice of achievement and demand. Against this background, educational justice has a huge political impact and furthermore the perception of justice is important for social cohesion in society anyway. The theoretical conception of education as a field of struggles (Bourdieu) allows analyzing different political actor groups of middle classes and their competing interests in (re)forming educational system. In a comparative perspective, the Chilean middle classes with their different conceptions and expectations about educational justice in a persistent neoliberal education system since military dictatorship will be analyzed with regard to German middle classes in an education system with its patchy reforms, which seems infected of blind actionism. Additional to expert interviews with their different political actors, like think thanks, NGOs, teacher associations etc., group discussions with parents of different middle classes will be realized to pursue the issues of separation and integration, equality and excellence in education system and the question: “Is education a public job or individual responsibility?”.

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