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Education and egalitarianism: the culture of the Norwegian middle class



It is well documented that educational achievement in Western societies is related to family background. Yet we know less about how people who have completed university degrees experience the importance of their education. How is education related to the different culturally embedded structures of nation states? How do highly educated people perceive the pertinence of their education? Such questions are rarely posed in the literature on social class, but recent research on the middle class in Britain offers a background for comparisons. Based on results from interviews with a sample of people having higher educational diplomas, the article discusses the particularities of the Norwegian case. We find much ambivalence over class identification and there is a remarkable tendency to downplay the importance of education. Our findings indicate that the Norwegian middle class has internalized egalitarian values embedded in Norwegian culture and thus, compared to the British case, more often hesitates to set up boundaries between itself and other classes. We argue that such findings diverge from conventional typifications of western ‘middle-classes’ and have wider methodological implications for the study of class systems.

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