In this article Paul Warmington examines the dystopian analyses pervading recent work by David Blacker, John Marsh and Pauline Lipman. Their unsettling depictions of education under late capitalism bear witness to irreversible economic and environmental malaise, the colonisation of education by neo-liberalism and the unsustainability of faith in education as the driver of economic security and social mobility. In reality, our education systems are now barely able to mask the fact that increasing numbers of people are being fitted for dispensability, elimination from the socio-educational mainstream. These three authors return neo-Marxist structural theory to us in chastened form. They acknowledge the lessons of cultural studies, feminism and critical theories of race but they are unafraid to suggest that correspondence, determinism and pessimism may again need to enter our theoretical worldviews. However, their pessimism has political value. Rather than defeating us, it may become the imperative for political and educational change.