Elite schools, class disavowal and the mystification of virtues

Jane Kenway, Michael Lazarus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Elite schools claim an enticing array of virtues–superior educational standards and an elevated morality. This paper examines their moral claims and their relationship to such schools’ social class practices. Through research at seven elite schools around the world, we distil their appeals to moral discourses and show how they involve both class avowal and disavowal. We incorporate insights from Karl Marx on the ideological functioning of capitalist social relations and Alasdair MacIntyre on modern moral understanding. We argue that while elite schools profess particular virtues in claiming and disclaiming their elite-ness, in both cases virtues are employed to assert status and to deflect criticism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-275
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2017


  • Elite schools
  • ideology
  • MacIntyre
  • Marx
  • social class
  • virtue

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