Language Education Policy Studies
New members welcome!

Language Education Markets

The current stage of capitalism under which most of the world lives includes structural adjustment policies that have made many aspects of life market-oriented. Poverty is often depoliticized and criminalized with the disintegration of state and other institutional supports. The slum population is growing worldwide along with inequalities, and many other downward spiraling human indicators.

The notion of linguistic capital (Bourdieu, 1991) is often taken up as a way to consider linguistic actors’ choices regarding the value of a language. The problems of inequalities in languages, language status and shrinking domains reveal linguistic capital that is variable and changing—tied to education and schools and often to the global spread of English. Multilingual language in education policies, Deep Education and the Deep Approach would help much to resolve this (See Language Discrimination, Hegemony; Education, High Stakes Exams; Domains; Multilingual Education; Deep Education.)

Language conflicts if exasperated by language in education policies also can shape identity politics, become forms of ethnonationalism, and lead to Balkanization. Conceptions of language and language rights vary in relation to people and power, in some cases causing and in some cases resolving conflict. Sometimes there are emerging market-like spaces and other times conflicts over language. Ethnolinguistic differences can be repressed or democratic pluralism can be fostered.

Critical linguists can contribute through ideology formation. Two ways to imagine the space between structure and agency are the following: it can be viewed as a transcultural flow that incorporates local elements in the global or dominant and views it as meaningful and authentic resistance and empowerment (such as hip hop or charter schools), or it can be viewed as language shift, homogenization, language disappearance, cultural homogenization, etc. (See Endangerment, Language Contact, Social Practice, Protection Questions, Linguistic Imperialism, Knowledge Construction).

Markets are also now created following the argument of national security regarding which languages specific governments deem necessary, to combat what they name terrorism or to influence from within minorities which are denied the right to exist.



  • Block, D., Gray, J. & Holborow, M. (2011). Neoliberalism and applied linguistics. Routledge.
  • Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and symbolic power. Cambridge. Harvard University Press.
  • Collins, J. (1999). The culture wars and shifts in linguistic capital: for combining political economy and cultural analysis. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 12(3), 269-286.
  • Davis, M. (2007). Planet of Slums. New York: Verso.
  • Denitch, B. (1996). Ethnic nationalism: The tragic death of Yugoslavia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Greenhouse, C. (2009). Ethnographies of Neoliberalism. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Phillipson, R. (Ed.) (2000). Rights to language: Equity, power, and education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Silver, R. E. (2005). The discourse of linguistic capital: Language and economic policy planning in Singapore. Language Policy, 4(1), 47-66.


This web page has a copyright. It may be referred to and quoted, or reproduced and distributed for educational purposes according to fair use legislation only if the following citation is included in the document:

This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Harrison, K. (2013). Language Education Markets. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

Widget is loading comments...