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Lecture 11. Cultures of Resistance: Willis and Education. Revision. Ian Sutherland will be holding a review session for the first semester on Friday May 25th from 3pm-5pm (Room TBA) He will contact you by email (and posting a note on his office door...313) to let you know the room.

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lecture 11

Lecture 11

Cultures of Resistance:

Willis and Education

  • Ian Sutherland will be holding a review session for the first semester
  • on Friday May 25th from 3pm-5pm (Room TBA)
  • He will contact you by email (and posting a note on his office door...313) to let you know the room.
cultures of resistance
Cultures of resistance
  • Why do working class kids get working class jobs?
  • Willis on ‘learning to labour’;
  • Educational attainment
  • Youth sub-cultures,
  • understanding cultural oppression, creativity and resistance.
  • Reading: Saukko, Paula (2003) Doing research in cultural studies : an introduction to classical and new methodological approaches.London: SAGE, Chapter 2. http://www.sagepub.co.uk/upm-data/9516_010044ch2.pdf
  • Studies:
  • Paul Willis Profane Cultures 301.23 WIL
  • Willis, Paul E. 1977 Learning to labour: how working class kids get working class jobsFarnborough: Saxon House, 301.44 WIL
  • Giddens, A. Sociology. 5ed. Chapter 17 on education.
  • Diane Reay 2006 The Zombie Stalking English Schools: Social Class and Educational Inequality British Journal of Educational Studies Volume 54 Issue 3 Page 288  - September 2006
Attainment of five or more GCSE grades A* to C: by parental NS-SEC, 2002, England & WalesYouth Cohort Study, Department for Education and Skills
Employment rates and gross weekly earnings for full-time employees of working age: by highest qualification, 2003 Labour Force Survey, Office for National Statistics
learning to labour
Learning to Labour
  • Willis’s key book “Learning to Labour” (1977).
  • Ethnography of ‘lads’ v. ‘er oles’
  • Subversive culture of white working class lads.
  • Racist, sexist, anti-intellectual, pro a particular view of masculinity
  • Parallels Foote-Whites finding on social mobility in Boston, street corner v college boys, loyalty to local culture particularly sociability with your ‘mates’ inhibits the future oriented, educationally focus for upward and geographical mobility.
  • Make parallel to Goffman on asylums
ritualistic resistance
ritualistic resistance
  • Willis’s (1978) … explored British working-class boys’ – or ‘lads’, as he calls them – ritualistic resistance to school. Willis’ project was to investigate why ‘working-class kids get working class jobs’ (1), and to find this out he did a school-based ethnography on a dozen ‘non-academic’ workingclass boys. His study explores the ways in which the lads create a counterculture that gives them a sense of superiority in relation to the conformist boys – or ‘ear’oles’, as the lads called them – who were their justified target of ridicule and violence. Thus, doing every sort of misdemeanor and getting away with doing as little work as possible became a source of pride for the lads particularly in relation to the ear’oles, who were seen to embody the school’s values, (Saukko 2003:41)
  • “The lads’ specialize in a caged resentment which always stops just short of outright confrontation. Settled in class, as near a group as they can manage these is a continuous scraping of chairs, a bad-tempered ‘tut-tuting’ at the simplest request, and a continuous fidgeting about which explores the every permutation of sitting or lying on a chair. During private study, some openly show disdain by apparently trying to go to sleep with their heads sideways down on the desk, some have their backs to the desk gazing out of the window, or even vacantly at the wall… A continuous hum of talk flows around injunctions not to, like the inevitable tide own barely dried sand and everywhere there are rolled-back eyeballs and exaggerated mutterings of conspiratorial secrets… In the corridors there is a foot dragging walk, an over-friendly ‘hello’ or sudden silence as the deputy [senior teacher] passes. Derisive or insane laughter erupts which might or not be about someone who has just passed. It is as demeaning to stop as it is to carry on…
  • Opposition to the school is principally manifested in the struggle to win symbolic and physical space from the institution and its rules and to defeat its main perceived purpose: to make you ‘work’.” (Willis 1977, pp. 12-13, 26). Quoted in Giddens 1997:418-9
prepares lads for shopfloor life
Prepares ‘lads’ for shopfloor life
  • According to Willis, the lads’ counterculture, challenging and rebuking the middle-class behavioural code, not only perpetuated their underachievement at school. It also resonated with working-class shopfloor culture, marked by male camaraderie and macho-bravado and valorization of practicality and suspicion of superiors and abstract thought. In the end, Willis argues, this rich and creative, even if also sexist and racist, counterculture, which may be seen as contesting the alienation of school and work, pushes the lads into workingclass jobs and eventually reproduces the labour-structure (175). This short description of Willis’s study illustrates both how Willis studies and conceptualizes resistance. Through ethnography, he unravels the colourful, rambuntious counterculture that challenges middle-class conventions. However, Willis concludes that, eventually, this resistance does not challenge the ‘real’ structures of domination but, on the contrary, socializes the lads to become blue-collar workers. (Saukko 2003:41)
is cultural resistance possible
Is cultural resistance possible?
  • Willis argues that the lads’ counter-school culture is not sheer maladjustment but lives against and reacts to the ‘real’ alienating aspects of school and commoditization of labour. However, this resistance, which is experienced as a kind of ‘freedom’ by the lads, in the end turns into a means of maintaining the labour structure (Willis, 1977: 137).
  • It is difficult to assess the impact of a particular form of resistance on wider social structures of inequality. Thus, instead of celebrating the efficacy of resistance or lamenting its futility, a contingent notion of resistance asks research to investigate what exactly does it do. (Saukko 2003:53)
gramsci of ideology and cultures of resistance
Gramsci of ideology and cultures of resistance.
  • I will call the early resistance school, represented by Willis …,‘critical contextualist’ for two reasons. First, it takes a decidedly ‘critical’ view on resistance, looking carefully at both its creative as well as futile aspects. Second, it is underpinned by a focus on ‘context’, so that resistance is evaluated against its effect on ‘reality’, such as labour and educational structures or gender roles.
  • The philosophical roots of this position can be traced to cultural studies’ turn to Antonio Gramsci’s theory on ‘hegemony’ to analyze the contradictions of culture (Gramsci, 1971; also Grossberg, 1997). According to Gramsci, ‘hegemony’ or cultural leadership, which legitimates existing social order, is produced by cultural institutions, such as media, school, the church and so on.
  • However, unlike some of the more pessimistic analyses of popular culture, which saw it largely as an opium to keep the masses at bay (e.g. Adorno and Horkheimer, 1979), Gramsci argued that hegemony is riddled with contradictions. He argues that, in order to be effective, hegemony has to win the consent of the people.Thus, in order to ‘woo’ the masses, cultural institutions need to, on some level, incorporate elements that go against the grain or ‘resist’ the values and interests of the powerful. At the same time, Gramsci argued that people were simply not ‘duped’ by the hegemonic institutions but were also capable of critically resisting their logic. (Saukko 2003:43)
  • Studies on resistance may currently be considered passé. However, I argue that many of the research dilemmas scholars studying resistance have tried to solve continue to haunt research on lived experience in cultural studies. Thus, research continues to struggle with the dilemma of how to capture the creative aspects of lived realities, while analyzing the discourses that interlace those experiences, and, in a sense, keep people under ‘bad’ or ‘false’ consciousness. The same way the issue, of whether ‘real’ power is material or symbolic, and how one can separate and study the two aspects of it, remains a pressing concern in cultural and social research. Thus, I would argue that the legacy of resistance studies continues to underpin contemporary research on lived experience in the paradigm, and the lessons these studies have to teach are of continuing relevance. (Saukko 2003:40 )
saukko summary critique
Saukko summary critique
  • Uses ventriloquism, uses lads to voice own ideological perspective
  • Forces them into a ideological straitjacket that they do not recognise.
  • Resistance is contingent. Need both macro and local perspectives to fully contextualise cultural resistance.
educational research
Educational research
  • Willis has been highly influential in educational research
  • Changes to class system with the decline in manufacturing industry and manual occupations.
  • Reay argues the continuity of educational systems, in terms of purpose and structure.
Diane Reay 2006 The Zombie Stalking English Schools: Social Class and Educational Inequality British Journal of Educational Studies 54 (3): 288
  • Reay on recovering class as key feature of sociology of education.
  • Points out increasing inequality, declining social mobility, educational failure of white working class males, and education regimes obsessed with certification.
  • Useful links in reading Reay
    • Bourdieu – cultural capital
    • Foucault – surveillance
    • Sennet and Cobb – hidden injuries of class
    • Marx
reay s conclusion
Reay’s conclusion
  • ‘what progress has been made towards social justice and equality in education for the working classes over the last hundred years?’ The answer has to be remarkably little. The most recent statistical data show that the educational gap between the classes has widened over the last ten years (ONS, 2005). We are all much more credentialled now than we were then, although there is still a very worrying critical mass of the white working class who leave schooling with no qualifications at all. In 2005 ten per cent of students entitled to free school meals, and therefore from the poorest families, were still leaving school with no qualifications at all (Blair, 2005). The attainment gap between the classes in education is just as great as it was 20, 50 years ago and mirrors the growing material gap between the rich and the poor in UK society. (Reay 2006:304)
research on sub cultures
Research on sub-cultures
  • Willis goes on to study youth culture where he has been similarly influential.
  • Part of cultural studies tradition
    • e.g. ‘resistance through ritual’, football
  • Critique of simplistic accounts of passive audience of popular culture
  • Do older people resist ageism, can we find cultures of resistance?
  • University of 3rd Age, Red Hat Society, Raging Grannies, etc.
  • But does it change anything? If there is “nothing so practical as a good theory” then a good theory should give us a plan of action to change things