Randall Collins, conflict sociology, credentialism, higher education, jobs
This article reflects on Collins’s classic work, The Credential Society (1979), situating his critique of educational credentialism within broader ‘conflict sociology’. The discussion reappraises Collins’s work in the context of the ‘new credentialism’, ‘new learning’ and the race, gender and class concerns raised in current debates on higher education. The article characterizes contemporary higher education as being trapped in a Procrustean dynamic: techno-utopianism with job displacement and expansionism with declining public support. Collins attempts to escape the legacy of structural-functionalism through conflict sociology or predictions of systemic crisis. This is contrasted with his contemporary, Herbert Gintis’s eclectic attempt to construct a transdisciplinary social science. The key problem of marketized inequality is linked to the sociology of absences in conflict sociology, and it is argued that inequalities of class, race, gender and coloniality in higher education and credentialism can no longer be ignored.