Residualisation as an explanatory theory of educational inequalities: an exploratory analysis of schools in the Glasgow region

Mack, Colin Joseph (2023) Residualisation as an explanatory theory of educational inequalities: an exploratory analysis of schools in the Glasgow region. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis focuses on an understanding of the State and its implications for social equalities promised through the education system. Studies of educational inequalities tend to focus on either social class inequalities and their effects on education or inequalities generated within the education system itself. Whilst there are a few studies on the historical genesis of the modern state education system (e.g. Green, 1990; Archer, 2013), the State itself is an invisible backdrop: there are no studies of educational inequalities which look at the State in state education. The main contribution of the thesis then is in developing an account of the State in the education system, which explains educational inequalities in a way that is neither reducible to class inequalities alone nor to inequalities generated within the education system itself.

The reason for developing such an account relates to an impasse of sorts in sociological and educational theory. Namely, in explaining why, given the widespread consensus on the importance of education in generating social equalities, such little progress has been made. The sociologist Diane Reay (2010: 396) expresses the paradoxical nature of this:

So we are confronted with a conundrum. How is schooling to be understood in relation to social class?

The contribution of the thesis to explore why this is not the right question to ask and why the relations between schooling and social class in themselves are necessary but not sufficient to explain educational inequalities. The answer to what these other relations are is itself an answer to a gap in educational theory, therefore. And the answer is provided by the addition of the State.

Methodologically, the approach is a Critical Realist one. This means an ontological focus on structures and their causal powers which generate actual events. And since this ontological level cannot be accessed directly, it means – at the epistemological level - developing a theoretical model based on the relevant structures and causal powers involved in the research object. This is then applied to a concrete empirical case, enabling the explanatory model to be validated or, in most instances, modified and augmented to a greater or lesser degree. This methodological sequence of retroduction-retrodiction-retroduction (or Real-Empirical-Real) shapes the structure of the thesis as follows:

• Retroduction: In Chapters 2-4, the building of a theoretical model of systemically linked inequalities, expanding the concept of residualisation in the housing literature.

• Retrodiction: Working out the specifics of applying this theoretical model in terms of a Critical Realist research design (Chapter 5) to a specific empirical case, using the secondary schools of Glasgow Region (Chapters 6-10).

• Retroduction: Returning to that initial theoretical model enables an integration of the empirical findings and, at the same time, the refinement and augmentation of it into a final, causal model (Chapter 11), which explains the persistence of educational inequalities in terms of structures and their causal powers.

Theoretically, no one approach is applied as one of the contributions is to build a new approach. The is done through retaining David Lockwood’s (1964) account of the conflict model of strategic-functionalism found in Karl Marx and developing it. It is developed by adding in the State as the key relation missing. In doing so, Lockwood’s model is elaborated in two ways. Firstly, his account of a core institutional order is developed through an account of institutional compatibilities in the Varieties of Capitalism (VOC) literature (Hall and Soskice, 2001). Secondly, his account of contradiction is developed through Claus Offe’s (1984) structural Marxist approach to the crisis management of the State. The latter supplies the critical relation missing in both Lockwood and the VOC literature: the State. Thirdly, the structural relations of a Liberal Market Economy (LME) in the VOC literature combined with Offe’s structural analysis of the post-Keynesian state means the final elaboration: the LME State. It is argued that this is what produced the phenomenon of residualisation analysed in the housing studies literature In the early 1980s (for example, Forrest and Murie, 1983), and is just one specific instance of the residualisation produced in residual, LME States more generally, a process which is cumulative in its linked poverty traps. It is this then that is used to explain educational inequalities. Empirically, the main finding is that there is a quasi-privatisation of the state secondary system in Glasgow Region, despite the distinctiveness of Scottish Education and its commitment to the welfare state. The key implications of this and the thesis overall are:

• Theoretically, an alternative approach to educational inequalities. It also points to a way beyond the theoretical impasse in the sociology of education and a route past the overreliance on Bourdieu, as well as a move past the functionalist issues in the simplified Marxist Base-Superstructure model. In addition, addressing the omission of the State in the skills literature and the VOC literature means a contribution to these other two literatures.

• Methodologically, better theoretical conceptualisation of this problem based on structures of System Integration and the State would enable approaches that are necessarily multidisciplinary, taking into account the cumulative nature of inequalities, which cannot be explained by a focus on schooling or social class alone. This requires developing a better understanding of how inequalities work in modern states and a move away from education alone being able to solve them.

• Empirically, this opens up a potential programme of research which enables further testing of the theoretical model of residualisation within Scotland and the UK. Further, extending this from countries in the UK to a more comparative international approach, such as in those regimes identified in the Varieties of Capitalism literature, would develop the theory of systemic poverty traps in Liberal Market Economic States. It would also help to develop a better understanding of the relation of the State to education and develop a better understanding of state education more generally.

Finally, in terms of the ‘story’ of the thesis, the conundrum of how schooling is to be understood in relation to social class is instead replaced with how education is to be understood in relation to the state.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Kintrea, Professor Keith, Houston, Dr. Muir and Osborne, Professor Michael
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83693
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2023 14:21
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2023 14:22
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83693

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