The Illusion of Meritocracy and the Audacity of Elitism: Expanding the Evaluative Space in Education

  • Trevor GaleEmail author
  • Tebeje Molla
  • Stephen Parker
Part of the Education Policy & Social Inequality book series (EPSI, volume 1)


In the global context of increasing inequalities between advantaged and disadvantaged social groups, the role of education in achieving social justice has taken on new importance. In this chapter we consider two widely acclaimed books on social inequality, namely: Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century (2014) and Daniel Dorling’s Injustice: Why Inequality Persists (2010). We specifically focus on how the authors relate problems of social inequality with educational disadvantage, naming the relation in terms of meritocracy and elitism. We suggest that in the main, Piketty and Dorling hold to distributive accounts of educational disadvantage and to an income/wealth-based evaluation of social inequality. We also argue that the informational basis of Piketty’s and Dorling’s evaluation excludes an appreciation of social justice as ‘recognition’ and thus excludes the importance of ‘epistemological equity’ and of ‘agency freedom’ in pursuing social justice in educational contexts, particularly in higher education. It is through these two foci on recognitive justice that we augment Piketty’s and Dorling’s distributive account.


Social Justice Social Inequality Capability Approach Educational Inequality Unequal Access 
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GlasgowGlasgowUK
  2. 2.Deakin UniversityGeelongAustralia

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