Sylvia Nasar's Problem with Inequality

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Mon Apr 5 08:14:17 PDT 1999

Nasar's article ended with a noxious implication. As long as those who are over-represented among those whose relative standing is falling fast are not blacks and women, the new inequality is legitimate. I think this suggests how inequality can become legitimate today if among the losers the high school educated and high school dropouts are over-represented. The theory of human capital now provides the arsenal for invidious distinctions, though among its proponents racism probably remains an auxilliary hypothesis. Perhaps we can use Bourdieu's writings about education and credentials (*reproduction*, *state nobility*) to piece together a critique of the ideology of human capital. The high brow reformists Bowles and Gintis make the interesting argument that the demand for college educated workers has increased even where the 'cognitive skills' for the tasks at hand are easily met by lower wage high educated people because the college degree has come to represent higher levels of punctuality and respect to authority, qualities employers can afford to care about given how cheaply college educated workers can themselves be had nowadays.

yours, rakesh

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