From Randall Collins, The Credential Society. New York:Academic Press, 1979, pp. 191-204.


THE LATE TWENTIETH-CENTURY CREDENTIAL CRISIS


As of the 1960s, the credential system went into a state ofexplicit crisis. The rising credential price of jobs had been goingon for many decades, but at this point the change began to beconsciously seen as inflationary. With near-universal high schoolcompletion and one-half the youth cohort attending college, theseformerly valued goals lost much of their appeal. They no longerguaranteed a respectable job, at the high school level, or an eliteone at the college level. At the same time, there was tremendouspressure from subordinated ethnic groups, especially blacks and LatinAmericans, for integration into the dominant educational andoccupational institutions. The result has been a multifaceted crisisin confidence in the system and a variety of reactions andcriticisms.

Initially, in the context of a militant civil rights movement forminority integration, mass student rebellions broke out within theuniversities. The rebellions took advantage of the state of growingdelegitimation of credential to demand revision of traditionalcurricular requirements. Such demands were usually put in the form ofa shift to greater relevance,'' or toward the cultures of the ethnicminorities themselves. But in fact, the alternatives lackedsubstance; their principal appeal was negative, a reaction againstthe traditional requirements that were now recognized as purelyprocedural formalities of the process of gaining a credential. Morerecently, the idealistic rhetoric of curricular alternatives has beenreplaced by a manipulative cynicism. Students electing to remainwithin the system have adopted the goal of high grades, irrespectiveof content and by any means whatsoever, producing an inflation incollege grades, while at the same time achievement levels have beensteadily dropping.

Similarly, educators have reacted to their increasinglyuncomfortable position of attempting to control masses of students ina situation in which previous legitimating ideals were no longeraccepted. Most of the reformers' schemes--those of Holt (1964), Kozol(1972), even one of the most radical Ivan Illich (1970)--assumed thatthe real problem was to make education more relevant, less structuredby academic status systems, closer to everyday concerns, and lessregimented by bureaucratic requirements and compulsion. In theserespects, they reflected the rhetoric of student activists. None ofthem came to grips with the underlying issue: the fact that educationis part of a system of cultural stratification and that the reasonmost students are in school is that they (or their parents on theirbehalf) want a decent job. This means that the reasons for going toschool are extraneous to whatever goes on in the classroom. Reformersexpecting that intellectual curiosity can be rearoused by curricularreforms or by changes in the school authority structure wereprojecting their own intellectual interests onto a mass of studentsfor whom education is merely a means to a nonintellectual end. Thiseven applies to radical proposals like that of Illich that schoolsshould be taken completely out of the classroom and into factories,offices, shipyards, or wherever else students want to learn. Thisoverlooks the fact that most skills are--or can be--learned on thejob; if the idea is that persons should have a chance to try any jobthey want, then schools are not what is needed, but rather somedevice to provide high interjob mobility.

Most of the "deschooling" talk was another version of Progressiveeducation. It contained the same ideals, many of the same slogans,and it arose among school teachers at times in which schools haveundergone crises of credential devaluation that destroy belief intheir old functions. ''Deschooling" is not so much a way ofabolishing schools because they are proven useless, but of revisingthem internally in order to retain students. The influence on this ofteachers' interests in maintaining jobs for themselves is obvious;less obvious is the way in which the proposed curricular andauthority changes--like those of Progressive education half a centuryearlier--help reestablish rapport between teachers and students,giving them a common rhetoric and de-emphasizing the authorityrelations that have been the focus of so much rebellion. In all this,''deschooling" simply carries the Progressive innovations one stepfurther. Indeed, there are many proposals--generally made by thosewho consider themselves educational ''liberals," but perhaps evenadvocated by adherents of ''deschooling'' plans--for extendingcompulsory education requirements to age 18 or beyond.

Outside the schools, there has been a heightened criticism ofeducation as insufficiently relevant to jobs and a revival of thetechnical--utilitarian rhetoric that was so prominent in themid-nineteenth-century crisis of American education. As in theprevious crisis, we see the reemergence of competition amongdifferent types of educational institutions. The conventionalsecondary and higher educational sequence has been challenged by aresurgence of commercial trade schools, business-operated trainingprograms, and the crowding of professional and paraprofessionalschools such as business schools.

Nevertheless, given the evidence that job skills of all sorts areactually acquired in the work situation rather than in a formaltraining institution, it is apparent that the technical trainingrhetoric is a response to the crisis of the credential market ratherthan a substantively significant change in educational content. Newtypes of credentials are proposed because the public has lostconfidence in the value of the old types. Hence the inflationarystruggle for credentials seems to be building up in new directions.We now hear of the previously unprecedented use of Ph.D.s inaccounting as credentials to acquire business jobs; we also hear of amassive expansion of internal and external credentialing in thebusiness school sector. Skilled trades, contractors, and realtorscontinually establish more restrictive licensing programs, usuallybased on their own formal training requirements. Businesscorporations have established their own training programs.

The effect of these sorts of shifts is not to open up vocationalcareer channels, but to increasingly monopolize and control technicaljobs. For example, major automobile companies and chain stores arenow monopolizing auto repair jobs for graduates of their own trainingprograms. This not only replaces the current--and technicallyeffective--pattern of mechanics acquiring skills through their ownexperience, but also results in company control of procedures(so-called ''preventive maintenance" and automatic replacement ratherthan repair of parts) that tighten their financial grip overconsumers. In general, the emerging pattern is to build uprestrictive credentialing in new sectors where the traditional schoolcredentials had not penetrated.

The shift to private credentialing is the counterpart of theexisting crisis of the public, formal school credentialing system.Apart from conflicting rhetorical claims, the crisis has a materialaspect. The public schools and the university are facing difficultiesfrom two directions. In the context of a general inflation affectingall prices in the material economy, schools have become expensiveluxuries. In the public sector, taxpayers' reactions are cutting thelevel of financial support, and seem likely to cut it still furtherin the future. In the private sector (especially in highereducation), rising operating costs and declining enrollments arelikely to force the closing of a considerable number of institutions.

The underlying source of pressure is the condition of credentialinflation. Education is both more costly and promises less of apayoff for given levels of credentials than previously; hencestudents and those who pay their bills are relatively less willing tomake the investment (Freeman, 1976: 9-50). Thus the historical peakin the proportion of the youth group attending both high school andcollege was reached in the early 1970s. Since 1972, high schoolcompletion rates actually fell (StatisticalAbstract, 1976: Tables 230and 231). Attendance rates at colleges and universities fell off formale students from 54% of the 18-19-year-old group, and 29% of the20-24-year old group in 1970, to 50% and 26% for those age groups in1975. Only an increased attendance rate for females from 42% of the18-19-year-olds and 15% of the 20-24-year-olds in 1950, to 44% and19% respectively in 1975--offset this trend (Statistical Abstract,1976: Table 191). The survival of the traditional educationalcredential, then, seems to be increasingly tied to the efforts ofwomen to break out of their subordinate occupational position whilemale employment may well be shifting into a separate set oftrades-and-business-controlled credentialing institutions.

The credential system, severely challenged at one point, seems tobe reshaping itself in new directions. From a long-term viewpoint, itmay be the case that the crisis of the 1960s and 1970s is a temporaryone, and that credentialing sequences may extend indefinitely intothe future. Once temporary periods of imbalance are past and thenumbers of students return to a level at which inflation in thecredential price of jobs is kept at an acceptably gradual rate, itmay be that the finances of schools will stabilize. Possibly even atsome point in the future, the system could begin to grow again.

Of course, the growth of the credential system has not occurredsimply by its own dynamics, but in interaction with the struggle foreconomic position and with the level of economic productivity. Theaccumulation of highly efficient capital has steadily decreased thelabor needs of the economy. The American industrial plant operates atonly about half of full capacity, and a continual problem has beenunemployment and underemployment and the related problem ofmaintaining aggregate consumer demand. It is here that we can see theeconomic importance of our educational system--not because of thetechnical skills that it might provide, but rather as acounterbalance to excess industrial capacity. This works in two ways:Both because education is a major area of government spending (7.5%of the GNP in 1975; Statistical Abstract, 1976: Table 183) andbecause it absorbs a considerable portion of the labor force asstudents. The 9.7 million college and university students alone wouldadd 10% to the labor force. Adding any sizable portion of the 15.7million high school students would, of course, increase the problemproportionately (Statistical Abstract, 1976: Tables 185 and 571).Cutting back on education to any considerable degree would tend tohave disastrous economic consequences.

Thus the credential system of occupational placement is caughtbetween opposing forces. On one side the system has become central topropping up an economy of excess productive capacity and surpluslabor. On the other side the system has become extremely expensiveand relatively unrewarding for many individual investors and for itspolitical supporters. Although a rough balance continues to bepossible, the potential for crisis exists in either direction. Toorapid growth in the credential market brings disillusionment andwithdrawal of material investment in it; too little investment, onthe other hand, feeds economic depression.


VARIETIES OF SINECURE POLITICS


A number of different political positions have been takenregarding the credential market. Few of them explicitly recognize thearbitrary currency nature of the educational system; most operatewithin some more familiar legitimating rhetoric. Nevertheless, theymight be named

Credential capitalism is the traditional laissez faireattitude toward individual competition in the credential marketplace.It naively assumes that one should get as much education as possiblein order to cash in on as much career advancement as possible. Asindividualistic advice, it ignores aggregate effects on the value ofthe credential currency, or simply proposes to override them byoutcompeting others, at whatever level it takes.

Credential socialism is the program of governmentintervention to equalize the distribution of educationalopportunities. Like traditional political socialism, it has failed tohave much effect on the underlying system producing the inequalitiesand instead has added on to it a superstructure that has mainly beensuccessful in redistributing some of the wealth to itself. Likepolitical socialism (including that which has gone under suchAmerican labels as 'liberalism" ), credential socialism is a popularposition among employees of the alleged redistribution system itself:in the one case government bureaucrats, in the other case, teachersand administrators.

These have been the traditionally dominant ideologies aboutAmerican education. More recently, there has been an upsurge ofdemands by particular ethnic groups for more opportunities forthemselves to acquire credentials. Sometimes this has been demandedwith socialist--egalitarian rhetoric, some times in the name ofethnic cultural nationalism. In either case, its actual materialgoals are entree on easier terms into the credential system, a demandentirely analogous to the traditional pattern in American politics ofethnic groups demanding a share of political patronage. This mightsimply be called ethnic-patrimonial credentialism orpatronage-credentialism.

In reaction to such pressures from subordinated minorities, somemembers of dominant ethnic groups have created what might be calledcredential fascism: the effort to exclude particularminorities on principle. Earlier versions of racial ideologies havebeen updated for this purpose in the form of genetic arguments forinherited IQ differences. That this is a highly ideological stance isapparent from the evidence (cited in Chapters 1 and 2) that IQpredicts success only within the school system, and that thelink between school success and occupational success is an entirelyartificial one. Thus credential fascism attempts to shore up anarbitrary system of domination as the exclusive possession of its ownethnic group.

In a different direction, we find an upsurge of credentialradicalism: the advocates of "free schools" or ''deschooling''mentioned earlier. Their politics of liberating the schools by givingcontrol to a communal group of students (and sometimes teachers) israther like an extreme version of ''communism in one country." Forlocal communal control of the credential-producing institution doesnothing to affect the larger credential market within which theyexist. If, as such schools usually attempt, their policy is to makecredentials easy for students to attain, perhaps even automaticallyawarded (whether giving all "A" grades or automatically conferreddegrees), they simply contribute to galloping credential inflation.In the larger context, such regimes tend to destroy their owneconomic base

In my opinion, there are only two honest and realistic positionsin regard to credentialism. One might be called credentialKeynesianism. This would explicitly recognize that educationcreates an artificial credential currency and that this iseconomically useful to offset deficiencies of aggregate demand. Thusboth investment in the school system and the credentialing ofoccupations would be encouraged, not in order to promote workefficiency or equal opportunity, but simply in the interest ofkeeping the economy running. The danger of this kind of policy, likethat of ordinary economic Keynesianism, is inflation, but this can betaken as a side effect of the system to be accepted and managed byquantitative manipulation of whatever variables are under governmentcontrol. In other words, one could decide to work openly within thesinecure system, to recognize the migration of leisure into theinterior of jobs, and to deliberately set out to enhance suchsinecures.

Such a policy, of course, has implicitly been in force for sometime. Schools have often been supported for reasons of employmentpolicy, and there has been a long-standing liberalization within thesystem that has affected the ethos of many jobs, making them morecasual and less subject to ritual acknowledgments that nothing butproductive work is going on. An open, unhypocritical recognition ofthe sinecure component in our society would certainly constitute acultural revolution in public honesty and would make it easier toassess and control the effects of the factors affecting sinecures.

My own preference, however, is for an opposite policy:credential abolitionism. (9) The prospects of continuing toexpand the credential system indefinitely, to let job requirementsinflate to the point where 4 years of college is needed for a manuallaborer or 20 years of postdoctoral study is required for a technicalprofession, would be exceedingly alienating to all concerned.Moreover, it would not affect the rate of mobility, if past precedentis any indication, nor change the order of stratification amongethnic groups; it would simply reproduce their order at higher andhigher levels of education. The alternative, to freeze the credentialsystem at some point by allowing only given numbers of students toreach given levels, would be to freeze the existing system ofstratification and to keep credential barriers in place thatsegregate the labor force into noncompeting sectors. Existingadvantages of monopolization of lucrative job sectors would bemaintained. Either way, letting the credential system expand, orholding it at its present level, would maintain existingstratification and would have culturally debilitating effects aswell.

A serious change would depend upon abolishing the credentialsystem. This does not mean abolishing the schools, but it does meanreturning them to a situation where they must support themselves bytheir own intrinsic products rather than by the currency value oftheir degrees. Legally, this would mean abolishing compulsory schoolrequirements and making formal credential requirements for employmentillegal. Within the framework of civil rights legislation, such legalchallenge to credential requirements has already establishedprecedents (White and Francis, 1976). Since the evidence stronglyshows that credentials do not provide work skills that cannot beacquired on the job, and that access to credentials is inherentlybiased toward particular groups, the case for discrimination is easyto make.

The main advantages of legal decredentialing would be two. Itwould improve the level of culture within those schools that continueto exist, and it would provide the opening wedge of a serious effortto overcome economic inequality.

The expansion of the credential-producing school system to mammothproportions has made intellectual culture into a short-term obstaclefor students to pass through on their way to their credentials. Thusit is hardly surprising that high school achievement test scores havefallen precipitously in the period since 1963 (Advisory Panel on theScholastic Aptitude Test Score Decline, 1977), when school promotionbecame not only perfunctory but near universal. The pressures to gethigh college grades in order to enter graduate schools has had asimilar effect upon substantive intellectual concerns. Humanisticculture has become very nearly the exclusive province of professionalteachers of the humanities, and they themselves have turned theirsubjects from cultural ends to be created and enjoyed in themselvesinto the mere basis of a currency of numbers of publications on aprofessional vitae by which their careers in academic bureaucraciesare made.

In science as well, it is likely that smaller would be better.Despite the self-serving rhetoric of university lobbyists, it is notat all necessary to have an extremely large component of universityresearch to support the national economy or national security. Mostpractical inventions, in fact, are made in applied settings, and thebasic science that they may draw upon tends to come from relativelysmall sectors of research carried out decades earlier (Sherwin andIsenson. 1967; Price, 1969). Moreover, the massive size of currentAmerican science is not proportionately efficient; the muchsmaller but proportionately more creative and better integratedorganization of British science shows the superiority of a moreelitist structure (see figures presented in Collins, 1975: 578). Inthe very large system, on the contrary, a kind of bureaucratizationof scientific ideas takes place so that specialties are minute,mutually remote, and hard to integrate; information retrievalproblems are serious; and the huge numbers of researchers enforces alingua franca of the most rigidly operational and quantifiableconcepts, to the denigration of more powerful theoretical ideas. Thelatter sort of problem especially afflicts the American socialsciences, making them prematurely specialized around quantitativetechniques while ignoring theoretical issues that give meaning toresearch. One might well claim that American social science--andnatural science as well--has been living off of theoretical ideasthat it has itself been unable to produce, either by importing theideas from Europe or actually importing European theorists (as in thecase of the refugees of the 1930s and 1940s, who have led Americansciences in the last generation).

In sum, existing levels of mass credential production areunfavorable to American science and especially to humanistic culture.Further expansion of the credential system would be even moredebilitating. Probably the Initial building up of the educationalsystem in the early twentieth century encouraged high-levelscientific production, but the scale of operations has long passedthe level of diminishing returns.

The other major argument for decredentialing is that only in thisway can we move toward overcoming income inequality. Educationalrequirements have become a major basis of separating work intodistinct positions and career lines, and hence in keeping labormarkets fragmented. The gap between blue-collar and white-collar jobsconstitutes a barrier to direct promotion in almost all organizationsand is upheld by the disparity in educational requirements for each.These requirements are not necessary for the learning of work skillsof these different sorts, but operate precisely to prevent members ofone group from having the on-job opportunities to learn the skills ofthe other. Similarly, specialized ''professional" and "technical''activities are reserved for separate labor pools by the same means.Thus it is not only ethnic and sexual segregation that produces''dual labor markets" (Edwards et al., 1975), but above alleducational requirements that have become built into the definitionsof ''positions" themselves. Moreover, as direct ethnic and sexualdiscrimination becomes increasingly illegitimate and subject to legalchallenge, educational discrimination becomes increasingly reliedupon as a surrogate means of group domination. (10)

Hypothetically, income equality would occur if there were nobarriers to movement among occupations. Hence positions that paidless than others, or whose work is especially dirty or unpleasant,would have to raise their wage to attract labor; positions that paidmore than the average, or that had especially attractive work (suchas planning and giving orders), would attract a surplus of applicantsand could lower their wages. It has been proposed that educationalbarriers are the principal impediment to this income-equalizingtendency of a free labor market (Thomas. 1956). This is correct asfar as it goes. But eliminating credential requirements would be onlythe opening wedge of the necessary restructuring. Under existingconditions, a large surplus of qualified applicants for managerialpositions would not likely lower their salaries (Thurow, 1975); thenumber of positions would remain limited and those few who did holdsuch positions would act to appropriate high salaries in any case.

This is clear from a realistic model of organizational behaviorthat sees power (i.e., ''political labor'') rather than productivityas the key to income and advancement. Hence organizations themselvesare the obstacle to a freely operating labor market. Similarly,although the elimination of credential requirements might increasecompetition within the professions, this would not necessarilyeliminate stratification within any particular profession. Lawyersand engineers with links to wealthy organizational clients wouldstill get large fees, and only the most decentralized and small-scaleaspects of legal services would be subject to competitive pricereductions.

Nevertheless, elimination of educational requirements for jobswould be a necessary step in any overall restructuring of theoccupational world to produce greater income equality. The key wouldbe to break down current forms of positional property.Managerial work could be brought back into responsiveness to labormarket pressures if it did not constitute a distinctive long-term''position" but was one activity to be shared among workers whocarried out immediate production as well. By job rotation across theexisting lines of authority and specialization, all types of workwould become subject to a common labor pool and respond to the samewage conditions. This would mean that opportunities for learningvarious kinds of work on the job, including technical andmanagerial work, would have to be rotated or otherwise widely shared,possibly by rotating apprenticeship of ''assistant-to" assignments.To do so would require eliminating current definitions of jobs asallegedly based upon prior, external preparation by specializededucation.

Educational credentials, then, are not the only basis of barriersto a free labor market, but they are a crucial component of thesystem of barriers that would have to be removed. Secretaries, forexample, are in a perfect situation for on-job learning of managerialskills. At present, the sex-caste barrier defines their positions asa separate enclave, however, so that virtually no secretary is everpromoted to take her boss's position. Nevertheless, this is not onlytechnically feasible, but once was the standard promotion line,before the late nineteenth century, when secretaries were malesacting as apprentices for later administrative responsibility.

The current feminist movement has by and large ignored this formof positional discrimination; its emphasis has been on getting intothe elite professions and managerial positions by following existingcareer channels--hence female college enrollments have gone uprapidly even as male enrollments have tended to decline. Desirable asthis may be, it is an elitist reform that will have little effect onthe economic prospects of the majority of women, especially in thevast clerical sector of bureaucracies. Indeed, applicants bringingmore educational credentials to the professional and managerial labormarkets will further raise, and in turn specialize, the credentialrequirements of those positions, making them even less accessible topromotion from within from the secretarial ghetto.

In this sense, a better long-term strategy for overcoming sexualstratification in employment would be to press for job reshapinginstead of educational credentials, to explicitly substitute on-jobapprenticeship as a means of managerial recruitment.

How might the credential restructuring of a strong profession suchas medicine take place? As it stands, American medical training isattached at the end of a very long and expensive education that keepsthe supply of physicians low and their incomes and social backgroundsvery high. This formal education appears to have little realpractical relevance; most actual training is done on the job in themost informal circumstances, through the few years of internship andresidency. The existing medical structure is not only highlyexpensive, inefficient, and inegalitarian in terms of career access;but it is also tied to a system of job segregation in which themenial tasks are shunted off onto a separate medical hierarchy ofwomen with the assistance of low-paid ethnic minorities in servicejobs with no career possibilities.

It is likely that far greater quality and efficiency could beattained by eliminating the distinction between nurses and doctorsand combining their career sequences with that of hospital orderlies.(No doubt this would offend the status concerns of doctors, but itwould at least challenge them to take their altruistic claimsseriously.) All medical careers would begin with a position asorderly, which would be transformed into the first stage of apossible apprenticeship for physicians. After a given number ofyears, successful candidates could leave for a few years of medicalschool (2 years seems sufficient background for most practitioners,and this could be done equally well at an undergraduate orpostgraduate level, with the option being left open) and then returnto the hospital for advanced apprenticeship training of the sort nowgiven in internship and residency programs. The motivation oforderlies would be enhanced, and the implicit opportunities forapprenticeship-type training could simply be brought into theforeground. Advanced specialties could continue to be taught as theynow are through further on-job training; only medical researcherswould be involved in lengthy schooling. The overall effect wouldcertainly be less expensive and would provide better medical carefrom all personnel; there is no evidence to make one believe that thetechnical quality of treatment would suffer. (11)

Similarly, even an explicitly education-based hierarchy, such as auniversity department, could open up its career channels tosecretaries on an apprenticeship basis. If one regards it asimportant that department and higher-level supervisers should beacademic professionals, it still would be possible to merge thevarious training sequences or rotate the positional dutiesthemselves. Students could be required to do secretarial duties aspart of their training, and secretaries could be given theopportunity to acquire academic training as part of their work. Thiswould make for changes in the structure of power, to be sure, thatmight not be palatable to incumbents of currently dominant positions,but such power differences are the crux of the obstacle to greaterincome equality.

Fundamental changes in the structure of inequality, then, and inthe quality of modem culture, imply the abolition of credentialing. Athoroughgoing program of this sort would eliminate approximately halfof existing inequality. It would not directly touch the other sourceof inequality, the distribution of physical and financial capital.But socialist programs for overcoming this inequality attack onlyhalf the problem; Gini coefficients in socialist countries areapproximately one-half of those in capitalist countries, averagingaround .240 in the former and .440 in the latter (Stack, 1976). Buteven these lower Gini coefficients indicate a structure ofoccupational inequality than remains when capital is socialized. Thesocialist countries as well as the capitalist ones still need asecond revolution.

I have argued that decredentialing of this order would havemomentous, even revolutionary consequences. It could not be carriedout without a thorough restructuring of organizational forms. Thiswould be especially necessary because the currently existingcredential system helps counteract the problem of excess capacity,and some other means of keeping up employment would have to be found.In the context of a thorough-going reform, such measures would notnecessarily be difficult, by institutionalizing a shorter work weekand/or by giving longer vacations. Under current conditions, ofcourse, such measures are much more difficult to implement because ofthe income redistribution they imply; instead, spending on educationhas been a politically cheap way of practicing Keynesian economics inAmerica.

The issue of credential stratification points us at the centralfeature of occupational stratification today: property in positions.To restructure these would be a more fundamental economic revolutionthan any we have yet seen. For that very reason, we cannot expectthis reform to be easily made. It is possible that organizational andprofessional career hierarchies could be restructured piecemeal bylocal action. But local resistance would be hard to overcome withouta widespread atmosphere of reform and a highly mobilized movement inthis direction. It is far easier for allegedly liberal or evenradical movements to continue the long-standing tradition ofexpanding access to the credential system. These efforts will onlyextend the inflationary nature of that system. In that direction, onecan foresee that current issues around educational costs,discrimination, and integration will go on unresolved into theindefinite future.

To be realistic, one should bet on an expansion of currentcredentialism, even though this brings reformers no closer to theiravowed goals than a donkey chasing a carrot held over its nose. Thismeans, though, that crises of the class struggle continuallythreaten, not only within the material economy, but within thecultural economy as well. And using the educational system as a basisfor an arbitrary currency of domination means that it suffers acontinually increasing internal contradiction in the consciousness ofits inhabitants. For all its claims to be raising the level ofrationality of its students, education itself operates as part of alarger system that denigrates its own contents and ignores anyinsights it might provide into the nature of that system.

Hence although it would be unrealistic to expect a decredentialingrevolution in the short run, it would be equally unrealistic to ruleit out in the long run. Given the trend of credential expansiontoward potentially absurd levels, it seems more than likely thatcredential abolitionism will come to the fore whenever any very sharpimbalance occurs between the size of the school population and thedistributional processes of the material economy.

In effect, we are very much more like a tribal society than welike to admit. Despite our self-image of rational control, ourinstitutions are no more reflectively chosen than the tribalinitiation rites, secret societies, and implacable gods that oureducational and occupational procedures resemble so much. Or to shiftthe analogy to more large-scale societies, we are subject the sameforces that transformed India over the centuries into a series ofclosed occupational castes, or that made medieval Europe a network ofmonopolistic guilds. Such societies undergo convulsions from forcesbeyond their control, as in the Reformation, which destroyed thereligious currency upon which the medieval monopolies werelegitimated. In the long run unless we raise our own level ofrational control over our institutions, we can expect that suchforces will be waiting for us.


ENDNOTES:


(9) The various forms of "credential politics'' might be labeledmore generally as factions in "sinecure politics.'' This generatessome interesting historical parallels. "Sinecure capitalism," in factexisted in the late Middle Ages in Europe, and in many other agrariansocieties, where sinecures (prebends) could actually be bought andsold. The very mention of this is taboo for our society, though, and"sinecure capitalists'' are doomed to operate under a misleadingideology. "Sinecure socialism," on the other hand, is rather close tothe goal of Marxists, who could share out equally the fruits ofsuperproductive technology if they would propose to do this bydistributing occupational positions instead of incomes. "Sinecureethnic-patrimonialisrn" or "sinecure patronage'' is familiar already:It is what ethnic patronage politics always was. "Sinecure fascism"would be the equivalent to returning to the medieval principlereserving nonwork positions for a hereditary aristocracy. "Sinecureradicalism'' would be making work relations highly egalitarian;current movements for participatory democracy are quite close tothis, but without yet recognizing that most of what is being sharedis not work responsibilities but on-the-job leisure and on-the-jobpoliticking. "Sinecure Keynesianism'' means a radical extension ofWPA-style make work hiring; some short-lived revolutions such as theParis Commune of 1871 carried this out fairly widely. "Sinecureabolitionism'' has its religious precedents, notably the ProtestantReformation, which led to the elimination of monasteries and manyother church prebends. In that case, the result was governmentconfiscation of these properties, greatly enriching the newabsolutist state--the real economic significance of the Reformation.Whether there would be analogous consequences of a modern-day"sinecure Reformation' is worth careful consideration.

 

(10) Educational requirements were highest in those organizationsmaking the strongest efforts to racially integrate employment,according to the 1967 San Francisco Bay Area Employer survey reportedin Chapter 2.

 

11 To repeat the relevant points cited in Chapters 1 and 6:Medical school requirements are essentially arbitrary screeningdevices, as virtually no one ever flunks out of medical school,subsequent performance bears no relation to school grades; and theactual practical training of doctors is of the most casualsort--orderlies probably could acquire as much over the course oftheir work experience, especially if they are at all motivated(contrary to the enforced expectations of their current roles) toacquire it. Moreover, a reformed medical system ought to be moretechnically efficacious than the one that exists now. Americanmedical care, despite the haze of national glorification in its ownpronouncements and in the mass media, is a good deal less effectivethan that provided in the less professionally autonomous medicalsystems of Europe. This is illustrated by the higher infant mortalityrate and lower longevity in the United States than in almost everyEuropean country, despite the superiority of the United States in GNPper capita of from 50 to 300% (Taylor and Hudson 1972: 253. 314).

 


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