Paul willis learning to labour

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paul willis learning to labour

Learning to Labor by Paul E. Willis

What I like about the book is that it explores how the idea of manual labour being preferable to mental labour develops early on while in school. Also, that there is a more nuanced picture of the ways in which ideology is formed and reinforced. That it is not all a conscious project directed from above or a machialvellian will, as Wills puts it, but that a good portion comes in ready-made form, supplied by cultural processes. What we call cultural processes, and how neutral they are in respect to the dominant ideology is then another question. Wills does not say the cultural level is autonomous, only semi-autonomous . Which is not different from what Marx holds, I think, but Wills is not of the same opinion.

In reading the book, it also helps if you are familiar with the ideas of Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser.

It was not necessarily easy to read, mainly because of the style. Many times I had the impression that the use of highly abstract language was not justified. Or if it was, it would have helped to have the idea paraphrased in more accessible terms or add some context to it.
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Paul Willis

Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs is a book on education, written by British social scientist and cultural theorist Paul Willis.
Paul E. Willis

Learning to Labour by Paul Willis – Summary and Evaluation of Research Methods

Post a Comment. Paul Willis — Learning to Labor — summary. The question Willis poses in "Learning to Labor" comes from his Marxist point of view and asks how is social reproduction sustained on the individual level, and how can one account for the subordinates' agreement with their condition? Willis points to the paradox in the fact that, at least at the beginning, the working class "lads" he studies are happy to go work at a factory and experience it as a their own free choice, while this "choice" works to preserve their social condition and class oppression. One common argument is ruled out by Willis right at the start, the one holding that the lads are drawn to grunt work on account of being less capable. Willis finds that they are not less talented, but they do develop an antagonism towards the "work hard move forward" mentality of modern education, and develop what Willis terms as "counter school culture".

Participant Observation in the Context of Education. Given the practical and ethical problems of conducting participant observation in a school setting, there are only a handful of such studies which have been carried out in the UK, and these are mainly historical, done a long time ago. They are, nonetheless interesting as examples of research. He spent a total of 18 months observing the lads in school and then a further 6 months following them into work. They were all white, although the school also contained many pupils from West Indian and Asian backgrounds.

You only have to think of the number of NEETS and the increasing number of white working-class males failing school. Firstly his research followed a group of lads in the s that rejected school and all its values and instead focused on leaving school as soon as they could. In the meantime while they did attend school they spent most of their time trying to disrupt or avoid lessons or just generally messing about in order to shake themselves free of any control the school could impose on them. Willis argued these lads had consciously developed an anti-school or counter school subculture. By being in a subculture the bottom-stream pupils can raise their self-esteem by gaining status in front of their peers. Disrupting lessons, playing up to teachers and breaking as many rules as they can is their way of getting back at the system which has labelled them as failures. The book was ground breaking in its day because it was the first major educational study to link culture and social action to wider structural processes.

Paul Willis used a wide range of research methods - including observations and interviews - to really try and see education from the children's point of view.
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A landmark work in sociology, cultural studies, and ethnography since its publication in , Paul Willis's Learning to Labor is a provocative and troubling account of how education links culture and class in the reproduction of social hierarchy. Willis observed a working-class friendship group in an English industrial town in the West Midlands in their final years at school. These "lads" rebelled against the rules and values of the school, creating their own culture of opposition. Yet this resistance to official norms, Willis argues, prepared these students for working-class employment. Rebelling against authority made the lads experience the constraints that held them in subordinate class positions as choices of their own volition. Learning to Labor demonstrates the pervasiveness of class in lived experience. Its detailed and sympathetic ethnography emphasizes subjectivity and the role of working-class people in making their culture.


  1. Thecomredu says:

    Classic Texts: Paul Willis "Learning to Labour"… | Sociology | tutor2u

  2. Virginie A. says:

    Willis's first major book, Learning to Labour relates the findings of his ethnographic study of working-class boys at a secondary school in England.

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