Politics, Power, and Social Hegemony
- William Kyle IngleWilliam Kyle IngleUniversity of Louisville
- and Lora Cohen-VogelLora Cohen-VogelUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
In education, politics, power, and hegemony pertain to the ways actors with competing values work to forward their perspectives on social policy related to schools and schooling. Central to politics is conflict over scarce resources and influence. Politics is endemic in the education system. In the United States and other federations, it is manifest at multiple levels of that education system; it operates at the international, national, state, district, and school levels. Adding to this complexity, a wide array of actors shape the politics of education. As a field of study, the politics of education draws from and contributes to theories that help unpack this complexity and answer questions about how governments work and policy decisions get made.
In the context of educational administration and organizations, power is a broad concept with many definitions, but at the core is control. There are many sources of power in schools as organizations, including reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, referent power, and expert power. Scholars in education have also classified power as formal or informal, personal or professional. Regardless of its source, there are problems and pitfalls with the use of power by educational leaders, and an overreliance of one source of power can come at the expense of another.
The overwhelming hold of power and domination of one group over another is the definition of social hegemony. Social hegemony in education has taken various forms, showing up in student-assignment and school-discipline policies, hiring norms and practices, and reforms that purport to broaden opportunity and expand civil rights. Scholarly approaches like critical race theory and feminist critical policy analysis have worked to expose hegemonic devices, procedures, and practices that help explain persistent inequities in educational systems around the world.