Paul Willis’ Book Continues to Provoke Debate

Posted by Claire Jarvis, Commissioning Editor for Sociology and Social Work

Learning to Labour

Lynsey Hanley’s think-piece in yesterday’s Guardian  drew on the work in Paul Willis’ classic 1977 study Learning to Labour: how working class kids get working class jobs.

Hanley argues that the Labour party should avoid promoting working-class social conservatism as a way of trying to engage with disaffected party supporters given that it is often beliefs embedded deep within some working-class communities which inhibit economic and social development.

In Learning to Labour Willis followed a group of ‘lads’ as they passed through the last two years of school and into work. His research showed that for ‘the lads’ it was their own culture which blocked teaching and prevented the realisation of liberal education aims.

As relevant today as it was in the 1970s, Willis’ book demands to be read by all students, academics and policy-makers of social exclusion.

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