Learning To Labor: Political And Social Science Essay


Discuss about the Learning to Labor for Political and Social Science.



Paul Will's learning to labour is centred around an ethnographic analysis performed on a set of labour class including school pupils who are studying in a British Industrial town. In this context, the interrogation that Willis makes in knowledge to labour emerges after a Marxist standpoint. In this question, he asks the way in which social reproduction can be sustained on an individual phase. Furthermore, he questions the accountability for the subordinate’s agreement at their circumstance. Specifically, Willis facts out the absurdity present in the statement that at the beginning, the employed class fellows who are studying are willing to get employed at the workshop and has a standpoint of their own permitted will. On the other hand, his choice works to sustain their social existence and oppressive condition[1]. In this regards, the study is an effort to demonstrate the composite undercurrents of the course.

The most shared dispute that is governed by Wills at the beginning of the study is that the students are tempted to sound work by being less able[2]. Wills made an argument in this context that the students have consciously established an anti-school org counter school environment for raising their self-esteem and by obtaining status amongst their peer members, the second necessary point that Willis address is that there is some limitation in the Marxist approach towards education. The limitation here is that the students continuously turn away from school and tries for semi skills for permanent employment rather than being a traditional Marxist[3]. Therefore, in contradiction to the conventional viewpoint of sociology, Willis observed that the system of education has been failing in working-class students. This is because the student has realized that they did not have equal opportunities under the system of capitalism and even if they try hard, they will remain lower than the middle-class students will.

Moreover, Willis in this ethnography illustrates a method of difference used by the students that make them detach themselves from the prevalent norms of school and necessities. The culture of the counter school is built based on working class repertoire, the experience of life and wisdom over the knowledge of theory, a willingness of hard labour, representation of chauvinistic masculinity and challenging obedience over the working culture[4]. Willis argues in this context that the students are well aware of the fact that finally, their fate of class will not allow them to obtain any skills as held by the ethos of individualism rather it will fulfil the necessities of the working class market.



In case of sampling, Willis concentrates on a specific group of students boys in a non-probable secondary school situated in Midlands, who represented themselves as ‘lads’. All the students were white, where many students belonged to West Indian and Asian backgrounds. The population of the school was almost 600, and the school was a predominant working class. In this, the authors justify the major reasons for selecting the school was due to the typical type of school attended by the working class students.

Data collection

The author Willis attended all the classes of the school, options and career session that took place at different times. He also collected data by speaking to some student’s parents, senior teachers of the school as well as the junior teachers and the career officers that were in contact with the represented ‘lads'. In this regards, the authors followed these lads for a period of 6 months. In this study, he used an extensive range of structured interview.

Willis observed through the process of the interview that the participants were immersed in the social settings where he was able to question them about their behaviour while motivating them to illustrate their problems in their own way[5]. From the interviews, he came to know about the student's behaviour of fighting, getting involved into troubles with the teaching staffs, bunking lessons frequently, setting pranks on fire extinguishers and tantalizing a supervisor accompanying them on a school trip.


One of major most important observation found by Willis was that the lads were not at all interested in school; rather they observed the whole concept of school as ‘having a laff ' other than achieving the qualification. From the personal perspective, it can be stated that their approach towards school was to survive it, to do as less as possible and to have the maximum amount of fun by limiting the boundaries of the authority. They wanted to go against all the norms and rules prevalent in school by bunking classes regularly[6]. It is evident from the findings that they did not prioritized education due to the anticipation of getting factory employment that did not call for any formal qualification[7]. Moreover, they represented the school as a bit classy and a place suitable for the middle-class students.


In this observation of methods and findings, Willis did not include any way by which he approached these determined ‘lads’ and the way in which he built rapport with them. However, considering the responses of the students during the discussion and structured interviews observing the open talk about their viewpoints and their experiences in school was helpful in the later phase of the research[8]. The findings from the methods that there was some understanding about the theoretical concept of capitalism[9]. In this context, Willis argues that while some perception has been already made on the students, still they have not experienced through the entire concept of capitalism.

From the results and observation, it can be analysed that these ‘lads' do not have any complete knowledge about the working style of capitalism and its works to exploit them. Therefore, in some way, these lads were unintended conspirators moving on the path of their own exploitation. In addition to this attitude towards schoolteachers’, women, as well as ethnic minorities, is also destructive in nature[10]. According to the author, this notion and perception of the lads was a wrong picture of the working class culture. The students were unaware of the original concept of the Marxist view of capitalism and social class.

However, there were several problems in the methodology due to its time-consuming nature. Moreover, it is not possible to repeat the research in the current period as it is hard to access school to check reliability. In addition to this funding for the interviews is also quite hard today within such limited period time and with such limited size of the sample.

Ethical consideration

The ethical strength of the study that it has provided the lads with a voice of their own. These lads are generally those, who are normally resembled as a nuisance who does not have an effective voice in society. The ethical weakness in the study is that Willis witnessed the lads in getting involved in fights in racism and homophobia as well as he witnessed them exploiting school property but he did not raise a voice against it[11]. The second ethical issue is that the matter of confidentiality, with such limited size of the sample, it would be comparatively easier for those people who were aware of the Lads Willis has been focusing on in the study.

Theoretical problems in the study

Validity is a broadly used concept that is represented due to it is unstructured and open-ended method of research allowing the author to sensitively push the lads in giving an in-depth illustration of the society. However, something that may have undermined the validity is the interpretation of data. In this context, he could have selected from the extensive amount of data for which he had to support the biased viewpoint of the boys. Representativeness of the study is quite poor due to the limited size of the sample and the boys were only constricted to white boys[12]. In addition to this, the reliability of the study is low because it is difficult to repeat the research due to practical factors.


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