This book is a reprint of the 1976 edition, with a new preface from Bowles and Gintis for the 2011 reprint edition.
In 1988 a collection of articles were published titled _Bowles and Gintis Revisted_, mainly these were sympathetic critics of Bowles and Gintis and their reactions to the criticisms. This is important complementary text to be read after reading _Schooling in Capitalist America_.
What is amazing about the 1976 reprint is how relevant and urgent it remains today. It is a very timely and important reprint of the classical reference for sociology of education literature. Its primary argument is that the single best predictor of a child's economic future is not educational achievement, IQ, or even performance in school, but simply the economic status of the child's parents.
The primary arguments Bowles and Gintis made in 1976 have held up remarkably well, even though the statistical data they employed was far less sophisticated then it is today. This is social theory at its very best!
The primary arguments are:
(1) Inequality and types of personal development are largely determined by markets, property, and power relations, and less to do with what happens in schooling.
(2) Education does not add to or subtract from the overall degree of inequality and repressive personal development. Rather, schooling "facilities" "a smooth integration of youth into the labor force."
(a) Schools legitimate inequality.
(b) Schools foster personal development compatible with dominance and subordination typical in the American work place.
(c) Schools create surpluses of skilled labor; schools do not overcome unemployment at an aggregate (or national) level.
(3) There is a very strong "Correspondence" between social relations in the work place and social relations of the educational system.
(4) American schooling system primarily serves stability of the profit system and politics. It does not, however, accomplish this hitchless.
(5) Education reform will always be incomplete unless there is a corresponding transformation in the work place, labor markets _and_ class structure of society.
Primary argument (3), or the Correspondence Theory of Bowles and Gintis has received the widest acclaim, and is probably even stronger today than it was in 1976. This is the basis of all sociology of education. Explaining how this correspondence between work place relationships and educational system relations is not a simple matter. Bowles and Gintis demonstrate the correspondence rather than offering a full explanation of how the correspondence functions empirically. Indeed they have been accused of illicit functionalism. This seems to me a misreading, and conflating a demonstration of the correspondence for a full explanation which was not their intention.
Accusations of an illicit functionalism also emerge with primary argument (4). But once again this seems a misreading. Bowels and Gintis do indeed argue the school system tends to stabilize the profit system, however, it does not do so in any straight forward way. Thus, critical thinking, understanding, personal and social enlightenment can certainly produce young minds resistant to profit relations. Why the schooling process predominantly produces young minds that accept and identify with the profit relations is an additional role of sociology of education (and sociology of consciousness and psychology of motivation more generally).
Although Bowles and Gintis would later accept they needed to further develop the concept of "contradiction", in my estimation the contradictions they do analyze remain two of most provocative aspects of the book. Their argument was that the accumulation process of pursuing profits was often out of phase with and often in contradiction to the process of reproduction of the social relations. In other words, in order to grow the economy to produce more profits, competition and technological change increase the need for ever more highly trained, intelligent, and self-motivated individuals. The latter do not necessarily develop in phase with the profit system, instead highly educated, intelligent and self-motivated individuals often become critical of the profit system and the political apparatus that supports it.
The second contradiction according to Bowles and Gintis is between political "democracy" and antidemocratic relations in the workplace. Democracy, or something appearing much like democracy, has been extended to white men, all men, women in the political realm, but dictatorship relationships (for white men, women and minorities) still dominant the workplace; there is no democratic control over production decisions and issues of distribution
It is especially these latter two points, in the above two paragraphs, that makes the book urgently relevant today. The 2007-8 crisis has produced a critical consciousness, books like _Schooling in Capitalist America_ offer a particular depth to the social problems of contemporary America.
Also making the book timely and relevant is the call for "educating the nation out of crisis" (Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, for example uses such language). This is to confuse the cause and effect relationship between poverty and education. The real world is far more complicated.
The most important lesson that educational reformers can take away from this book, whether they be progressive, radical, or conservative, is that educational reform alone cannot transform schooling and the educational process. Real reform requires corresponding reforms in the work place, labor markets, and social class structure. This point goes a long way in helping to explain why so much reform has accomplished so little change in the American schooling system.