Of course, that's very difficult, but you can see that it's possible to do an ethnography of reception, whether I do it or not. Willis: Well, I see the problem, but the answer to it is mainly a question of ethnographical research. They say that the book has helped them to overcome the mental-manual barrier. Learning to Labour mainly is about the subculture of the lads and, some way or another, it seems the lads have won the battle in this arena. Of course, there is the question of the replication of one's findings, which is a theoretical scientific problem. I'm surveying the possibilities and I'm negotiating with a couple of universities.
As such the analysis must be based on historical grounds, while clearing up given discursive forms. Lads identify strongly with male manual work. Furthermore, all Marxists see education as reproducing and legitimating class inequality. One only has to look at the names and quotations. Yet, after having read both the book and article, most readers will be left with a gloomy feeling of things going from bad to worse. Nowadays about 30 percent of all 18-year-olds is attending higher education, which is very high. Some way or another, so it seems to me, working class culture is able to take in commodity culture and defetishise its commodified meanings in relation to everyday life in a way that middle class culture doesn't.
Now is that Adorno or the Frankfurt School? Critics have tried to argue that the fact he was obviously a researcher, and an adult, may have meant the lads played up, but he counters this by saying that no one can put on act for 2 years, at some point you have to relax and be yourself. In 2003 Willis was hired as a Head Professor of social and cultural ethnography at Keele University. The important thing it shows, however, is that there is something about culture which can be discussed and laid open. I was also astonished to hear from a colleague in the business school that Common Culture now is one of the most referenced books in the Journal of Consumer Affairs. My own background was in English at Cambridge.
One has to read the book that way. It's really a nice journal, worth reading if you're interested in all of the things we just have talked about. And now, you seem to become a Critical Theorist too. For example, they let us know which features and sections are most popular. Critics have tried to argue that the fact he was obviously a researcher, and an adult, may have meant the lads played up, but he counters this by saying that no one can put on act for 2 years, at some point you have to relax and be yourself. We met Willis there for this interview.
Hargreaves, New Society It would be difficult to overstate the influence of Learning to Labor. If my information is correct, you now have left Wolverhampton? Do you think that media studies is just forgetting the audience, as for instance some of your Britain colleagues, Greg Philo and Dave Miller, have argued recently? Willis: This question partly overlaps with that other, very interesting question about how to write ethnography. Series Title: Other Titles: Learning to labor Responsibility: a halovine production. And, for me, there must be a role for ethnography in such a cultural therapy. My own post at Wolverhampton was relatively privileged because a third of it was paid for by the Cultural Studies Centre of the Väksjö University in Sweden and my job was to develop research in the university.
Moreover, the contents of the curriculum is more and more directed to the labour market, just as well as the research agenda increasingly is being set by economic interests. Some of the criticism of it didn't fully take into account that it was a policy initiative. What is the paradox anyway? For me, what counts is everyday culture. So, at school, there were two working class roots at that point and as the subsequent history of the lads and ear'oles shows, in time many of them did change places, depending on the accidents of the labour market. Willis: I don't know whether I can place the book within classical sociology. I didn't mainly do the fieldwork myself.
The only hope we had in the labour party to get back into power was to dump the old class community politics and work through focus groups and fetishised electronic communication, which Blair has done extremely successfully. And this, again, brings us back to the question what commodification in the electronic mediation does mean for culture. Willis also tries to argue that its insightfulness called penetrations is potentially radical in some respects he argues that their insistence that all work is the same and that the worker should yield as little to the boss as possible, is suggestive of an intuitive understanding of abstract labour under capitalism. Participant observation allowed Willis to immerse himself into the social settings of the lads and gave him the opportunity to ask the lads typically open questions about their behaviour that day or the night before, encouraging them to explain themselves in their own words…which included detailed accounts of the lads fighting, getting into trouble with teachers, bunking lessons, setting off fire extinguishers for fun and vandalising a coach on a school trip. But of course, any extension of my argument into resistance in general, in my view, becomes rather meaningless because the lads were not resisting in this sense. If it is just a chair, then it's obviously a commodity in the market.
Outline of a theory of structuration. Willis shows how resistance does not simply challenge the social order, but also constitutes it. Willis published some rather influential books. Monday Morning and the Millennium Appendix Afterword to the Morningside Edition Notes Index. Of course, you can sit with viewers and that's very important. Their approach to school was to survive it, do as little work as possible, and to have as much fun as possible by pushing the boundaries of authority and bunking as much as they could.