Control the school, instrumentalize the state?

Special report: Relationships to school, relationships to the state
Relationships to school and public institutions among the upper classes
By Lorenzo Barrault-Stella, Cédric Hugrée

Taking their relationships to school as a starting point, this article studies the French upper classes’ relationships to administrative and political institutions. The observation of their symbolic and practical uses of state institutions makes it possible to analyze their relationships to the state. By bringing together representative statistical material and a qualitative analysis, our study first shows the strong hold of the educational institution on all social groups. But it also sheds light on the singularity of conceptions of school among the upper classes, formed of a mixture of mastery, anticipations, and ease of arrangements, both in routine situations and in periods of uncertainty. Beyond school, by following various respondents from the upper classes in different social scenes (school, professional, family, residential, political) where they are likely to experience the state, this article paves the way for a sociological analysis of relationships to the institutional order. The economic and private sector part of the upper classes seems to be characterized by forms of relative homogeneity, evoking a mistrustful and instrumental relationship to school as to other state institutions. But such a combination cannot be generalized to the upper classes in their entirety: dispositions toward the administrative and political institutions that make up the state prove to be plural and only partially transferable.

  • school institution
  • administrative procedures
  • inequalities
  • institutional work
  • materiality of the state
  • configuration
  • arrangements
  • politicization
  • institutional order
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