Learning to Labor

How Working-Class Kids Get Working-Class Jobs

Paul Willis. Foreword by Stanley Aronowitz

Columbia University Press

Learning to Labor

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Pub Date: February 2017

ISBN: 9780231178952

304 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00

Learning to Labor

How Working-Class Kids Get Working-Class Jobs

Paul Willis. Foreword by Stanley Aronowitz

Columbia University Press

A landmark work in sociology, cultural studies, and ethnography since its publication in 1977, 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. Willis shows how resistance does not simply challenge the social order, but also constitutes it. The lessons of Learning to Labor apply as much to the United States as to the United Kingdom, especially the finding that education, rather than helping overcome hierarchies, can often perpetuate them, which is of renewed relevance at a time when education is trumpeted as meritocratic and a panacea for inequality.
A remarkable achievement...the best book on male working class youth since Whyte's Street Corner Society. David H. Hargreaves, New Society
It would be difficult to overstate the influence of Learning to Labor. It has been widely cited as a foundational text in contemporary ethnography, cultural studies, sociology, and critical theory. Ken McGrew, Review of Educational Research
One of the most enduring analyses of resistance to schooling. Mark McFadden and Geoff Munns, British Journal of Sociology of Education
The value of this book is in the flexibility of cultural examinations and the subtle nature of schooling… Investigations of other socioeconomic trade-offs in schools and job settings will profit greatly from this book. Edgar Litt, Comparative Education Review
Offers new empirical grounding for a theory of culturally based resistance. Ron Eyerman, Theory and Society
An important contribution to the study of class, culture, schooling, and social reproduction. Philip Wexler, Contemporary Sociology
A much broader contribution to a Marxist theory of culture and cultural reproduction, and to issues surrounding the relation between capitalism and patriarchy Amy Wharton, The Insurgent Sociologist
Willis' approach has had a profound effect on Marxist analyses within the sociology of education. Liz Gordon, British Journal of Sociology of Education
Foreword to the Morningside Edition
Preface
Acknowledgements
1. Introduction
Part I. Ethnography
2. Elements of a Culture
3. Class and Institutional Form of Culture
4. Labour Power, Culture, Class and Institution
Part II. Analysis
5. Penetrations
6. Limitations
7. The Role of Ideology
8. Notes Towards a Theory of Cultural Forms and Social Reproduction
9. Monday Morning and the Millennium
Appendix
Afterword to the Morningside Edition
Notes
Index

About the Author

Paul Willis is a professor in the faculty of education at Beijing Normal University. His books include The Ethnographic Imagination (2000), Moving Culture (1990), and Profane Culture (1978).