The “Misère De l’Éducation” in the Age of Neoliberalism

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Elena GREMIGNI, University of Pisa, Italy
Over twenty years after the publication of La misère du monde (Bourdieu 1993), Pierre Bourdieu’s work is still highly relevant. The social order that has led to a proliferation of the “small miseries” of the world seems to have prevailed: Pierre Bourdieu’s micro-sociological essay highlighted the symptoms of a disease that has gotten worse in the past few years, and prophetically predicted many of its current consequences. This paper aims to analyse the consequences on the educational field where practices of “service-sector Taylorism” are emerging alongside the usual mechanisms of social reproduction. These practices are allegedly inspired by meritocracy but actually aimed at the utilitarian exploitation of human resources. The students’ potential is thus trivialised, dumbed down to a few measurable variables on which teaching and selecting are based, according to a view that treats humans as merely means to an end. Thus, by concealing the social fabric in which individuals are rooted, any failure can be surreptitiously blamed on individual responsibilities. Sociological research has the crucial task of revealing the peculiar logic of these kind of mechanisms, more and more common in several fields, and their ideological implications, typical of neoliberalism: because, as Bourdieu says, “what the social world has done, it can, armed with this knowledge, undo” (Bourdieu 1993: 629).