Social control, power relationships and cultural appropriation in education

Issue 8

“Social control, power relationships and cultural appropriation in education”

Gitsa Kontogiannopoulou – Polydorides
Page 35-58


The present work investigates theoretical positions and empirical data in examining social control in Greek education and aims to bring to the fore new dimensions of the issues at hand. The empirical analysis (in the light of relevant theory) indicates that the approaches, which present the state control of education with respect to the knowledge transmitted in school, as paramount, may be quite simplistic.

The explanation offered in the present work is that it is plausible to identify changes in the ways social control is applied in education. The source of social control is changed and transformed from the autocratic authority to the state power and, in recent years, to power and control exercised within the social body. It does not evolve as the institutional replacement of state power through the mobilization of civil society groups and institutions. It is ad hoc and exercised by fellow teachers and parents. So, surveillance in education is exercised within and by the social body and does not consist one-sided oppression by the central power, derived from the above. It is the result of individual actors who, nevertheless, act in an extremely homogeneous way, providing the illusion of collective activity. The actors formulate and adopt, often in an identical way, the prevailing notion of what constitutes useful knowledge. Such practice provides them legitimacy and massive impact, so that the practice or its effects have not been so far seriously investigated, let alone challenged.

Such changes in the exercise of power do not evolve as the empowerment of social agents/groups and the emergence of an active civil society. They evolved precisely as a result of the lack of ability of the state and the state mechanisms to retain their legitimate role in exercising social control in education. In this case, not only is the state less able to exercise social control, it is also less able to delegate and institutionalize the mode in which social control in education will be enacted. As a result, it is certain social classes or, rather, certain social strata that constitute the pool for the agents of social control in education to evolve, in spite of the intensions of the central authority.