Education and the Politics of Envy

Ahier, John and Beck, John (2003). Education and the Politics of Envy. British Journal of Educational Studies, 51(4) pp. 320–343.



This paper addresses the somewhat neglected topic of envy and its relationship to education and social inequality in Britain. Drawing on the work of Rawls, Runciman and Crosland, the paper proposes a distinction between envy as a vice and 'justified resentment' aroused by perceived injustices in the social distribution of primary goods, including education. Various pejorative uses of the term 'the politics of envy' in UK politics are examined. The conditions necessary for a politics of justified resentment are then analysed. Current developments in higher education in the UK are discussed with reference to signs of the emergence of new social resentments among the relatively highly educated. Prospects for a wider politics of justified resentment are assessed in relation to a range of emergent policies and priorities of New Labour in government.

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