The Fault Lines

This post was motivated by Al-Jazeera’s documentary, Fault Lines: The Top 1%.  The facts and opinions in this chilling documentary, i.e. the rising inequalities in the United States and their social implications, are familiar by now. So nothing new there.  An added aspect though is a strong note on the function/role of ivy league schools as exacerbating these inequalities. The documentary calls into question the assumption that it is only the hard work and ability that gets one a place in these institutions, and argues that networks and class matter.

Education, measured by years of schooling, or talent and ability alone, does not count for social mobility when a society is socially compartmentalised in ways that make mobility from one compartment to the other very hard, and when your place in a particular social compartment is guaranteed not by hard work and ability, but by your existing position in a ‘social network.’ The moral basis of capitalism, fairness etc., seems too fragile after all, and seems to be further eroding.

We know that in highly unequal societies, social mobility across the class barriers becomes more and more difficult.  This is an argument that I remember to have made in a totally different context, that of Pakistan, when examining the case for the Low Fees Private Schools in the developing countries.  Low cost private schools seemed no different than failing public schools insofar as their students were likely to remain in what Stephen Ball calls ‘social closures.’ [Ball, S. (2003). Class strategies and the education market: The middle classes and social advantage: London.] Free market enthusiasts see these ‘circuits’ or ‘points of closure’ as market inequalities, which are seen as ‘natural’ with no attempt to connect them with labour market access.

Yet already there is unease as clients realise that their qualification does not give them access to the labour markets they aspire to. The aggregate effect of social closure is particularly palpable in countries like Pakistan. But this is making itself felt in the largest economy of the world as well.

Watch the documentary here:

Disclaimer: The external websites are quoted on this blog to provide the readers with a range of opinions on any given topic to help them reflect on their own questions concerning the issue being discussed.  This blog does not endorse views expressed on external websites unless explicitly stated

About Irfan

I am an independent researcher and blogger interested in everything under the sun, but more so in the philosophy and history of education and education reform generally, and specifically in the so-called post colonial contexts

2 Responses to “The Fault Lines”

  1. How true Irfan. There are schools in Pakistan which promote this barrier to social mobility by admitting only children whose parents have studied in the institution where admission is sought. A new kind of apartheid. Also look up the British Council report on wht big businesses in Pakistan want when hiring people.


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    […] absence of advantage barriers [or presence of disadvantage barriers] are not addressing much [Also this and this previous post].  When these ‘disadvantage barriers’ are crossed by other […]

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