A counter to the global-loonies

29th August 1997 at 01:00
EDUCATION, GLOBALISATION AND THE NATION STATE. By Andy Green. Macmillan, Pounds 15.99. ISBN: 0333683161 (pbk)

This book is not another load of globaloney. Indeed, it counters claims that a new age of global capitalism is sweeping away nation states and their education systems. Typically, such claims are echoed by sociologists, ever quick to pick up the latest fad. Green, an historian, is more circumspect and his first chapter links the "sociology of globalisation" with the connected fashion for post-modernism.

Green compares the role of education in nation-building in Europe and East Asia. This develops his impressive study, undertaken while a lecturer in FE, of The Rise of Education Systems in England, France and the USA. In this thesis, he inverted the Whiggish view that education followed industrialisation by showing how mass state schooling preceded it as part of a process of state formation. Only in England, "the country which was last to create a national education system and which never quite completed the job", did education trail behind industrial development.

Here Green extends the argument beyond schooling to technical education and training, not only in Britain but also in Germany and France. He draws upon his recent research in a number of countries to demonstrate the superiority in terms of qualification rates of centralised, as opposed to decentralised, education systems.

In a chapter, written with Richard Aldrich, professor of education history and a colleague at the Institute of Education, he presents a fascinating and original examination of relations between education and national consciousness in what Frederick Engels called the "two islands peopled by four nations" Greater Britain.

It is his last chapter that tests Green's argument for the importance of state control over education against the wilder claims of the global-loonies. He points out that recent neo-liberal enthusiasm for marketeting education has not yet led to its denationalisation but - as in the case of FE - to its nationalisation. So, "despite the growth of supra-national agencies, the nation state remains the only viable site of democratic representation, accountability and legitimation". This is well argued for the European Union which is shown to have buttressed the nation states that originally composed it.

However, if this book does much to contest sociological fashion, Green could have revisited older sociological interpretations of capitalist states as necessarily selective in their functions.

Like the American historian of education, Robert Brosio, he might then explore the contradiction within mass education since the Enlightenment between its promise of opportunity for all and its relegation of a majority to increasingly mundane labour or no jobs at all. This connects the current prominence of education policy internationally with what old-fashioned sociology called a legitimation crisis in capitalist states.

Green's conclusion that "education must remain the public arena where tolerance, mutual respect and understanding and the ability to co-operate are cultivated to forge inclusive notions of civic national identity' needs to take this self-interest of the state into account."

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