"We don't need the state" a study of the habitus formation process, through school choice, in the Peru's rising middle class

  • Maria Sanz

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This research investigates the reasons why there is so little public expenditure on educationin Peru at a time when the economy has been growing very rapidly. Although differentpossible causes have been identified, the study focuses on the role played by Peru´s risingmiddle class (RMC) with its increasing opting out of state services in education as acomplementary hypothesis. Drawing on the multilevel explanatory scheme proposed byBourdieu, who makes explicit the connections between system properties, the nature ofhabituated dispositions to act held by social members, and the effective practices they adopt(Nash 2010), the study explores how the disposition (habitus) to assume individualresponsibility in the provision of education services has been formed in a sample of RMCfamilies that have chosen private schools for their children.I argue that the structures of RMC life, specifically their historical relationship with thePeruvian state characterized by its weak and exclusionary practices, the political andeconomic neoliberalism that has prevailed in the last decade, has influenced the adoption ofthe RMC´s rejection of state education through the incorporation of a dominant „commonsense‟ in relation to the withdrawal of the state as guarantor of education provision, and thissocial group‟s view of itself as self-enterprising citizens. The research found that theassumption of this RMC position has also been strongly influenced by the rapidtransformation of this rising sector characterized by upward social mobility, where thepreference for private schools strengthens their position within a highly segmented socialhierarchy.A diverse range of conceptual tools are utilised mainly from Bourdieu´s theoreticalframework, with habitus as the central explanatory concept and its interaction with theconcepts of capital and field, for a better understanding of school choice and class formationprocesses. Likewise, the research explores the potential of the Foucauldian approach tostructuring subjectivities, expressed in his concept of governmentality, to explain the effect ofthe prevalence of a neo-liberal discourse in the construction of habitus. The study isqualitative using discussion groups and in-depth interviews with a sample of Peruvian RMCparents in order to explore the habitus formation process. An intergenerational perspectivethat takes into account the narratives of educational trajectories of RMC grandparents,parents and children offers a unique opportunity for a dynamic study of the process ofstructuring and re-structuring of habitus for education provision that shows relativemalleability throughout this group‟s trajectory. In turn, the use of a comparative approachregarding two fractions of the rising group allows us to arrive at an understanding of the fieldas a whole.
Date of Award1 Sept 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHugh Lauder (Supervisor)

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