The book also uses this data to conduct a new kind of historical sociology of the social sciences, one The book also uses this data to conduct a new kind of historical sociology of the social sciences, one that emphasises the discontinuities in knowledge forms, and which stresses how disciplines and institutions competed with each other for reputation.
Identities and Social Change in Britain Since The Politics of Method by Mike Savage
Its emphasis on how social scientific forms of knowing eclipsed those from the arts and humanities during this period offers a re-thinking of the role of expertise today that will provoke social scientists, scholars in the humanities, and the general reader alike.
Keywords: British society , academic social sciences , interview methods , sample surveys , community study , social science data , social change , historical sociology , discontinuities , knowledge forms. Forgot password? Don't have an account? All Rights Reserved.
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The next two chapters focus on the key social science methods: the interview, and the sample survey. Savage argues that the first of these two methods had to be wrenched from the hands of applied professionals, such as social workers and priests, in order for the social sciences to use it as a mechanism for the study of individuals abstracted from their household surroundings. What is more, the interview, it is argued, was removed from its distinctly therapeutic domain in which it was originally deployed and, in collaboration with literary narratives, was used by social scientists in order to provide, 'melodramas of social mobility'.
The rational, objective interview, free of moral values and assumptions challenged the previous role of women as interviewers, a point which Savage supports by referencing academic feminism's attack on the masculine social scientific approach in the later s. The assertion of a feminist kind of social research was a counter-mobilization against this current.
Second, governments, Savage suggests, made extensive use of the sample survey for gathering social data, and this was a crucial technology for defining the modern rational nation.
Identities and social change in Britain since 1940 : the politics of method
The experience of the Second World War was crucial here, and the concerns of governments with productivity, mobilization, production and destruction. The sample survey became the means of generating knowledge about popular feeling in turn bypassing accounts of the elected representatives of the people.
The truth of the nation was guaranteed through science as the capacity to conduct large national social surveys became an important feature of the post-war state for example, the Family Expenditure Survey, began in , the General Household Survey from , and the New Earnings Survey from This process was itself complicated by four competing strands of argument as to the value of the social survey method: its significance in the development of individuals; its importance in the new interest shown to social groups; its encapsulation of the nation; and its use in embedding notions of change, through the manipulation of data.
Savage references the importance of the Royal Statistical Society and the development of the Government Statistical Service as vehicles for social research. In the third and final section Savage considers social change and its impact on popular identities. The argument put forward is that the s and 60s saw the erosion of the cultural standoff that had previously existed between middle- and working-class identities. This process relied on the decoupling of technique from skilled workers and its appropriation by the middle classes.
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This argument relies first of all on an examination of the field work of Richard Brown in Tyneside and John Goldthorpe and David Lockwood on working class identities. Savage argues that the previous conclusions drawn from this research, about the growth of a new affluent, privatised instrumental worker, are overstated.
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Instead, Savage suggests that working-class identities in this period remained premised on the existence of a visible, public elite drawn from the aristocracy. An understanding, Savage suggests, that attempted to naturalise class by showing the tradition and history of such elites. This conception of class was not, however, without its tensions and the assumed extraordinariness of elites were inevitably contrasted in working-class identities with the ordinariness of working individuals, thus in turn challenging their own sense of individuality.
By contrast, the growing technical and managerial professions were absent from working-class accounts of class. Consequently, with the importance of the acquisition of formal educational credentials now in the ascendancy, coupled with the decline of apprenticeships, the male manual working class lost their cultural distinctiveness. Among the middle classes, Savage suggests, there was a shift from understanding class as something born into, to understanding it as something that was navigated by strategically mobile individuals.
Technocratic identities became more credentialist in orientation and shifted away from being implicit and taken for granted. Social studies of the s began to reveal some new idioms of new middle-class identity. Taking Goldthorpe and Lockwood's interviews with lower middle-class respondents Savage uses them as an evidence of a recognition of the notion of professional education leading to the possibility of social mobility. Education and intelligence were now independent forces for good. By the s, Savage argues, significant sections of the middle classes were more confident and assertive in deployment of technocratic language, expertise, planning and class.
The broader point that Savage is arguing is that those social theorists who have defined individualization as marking a break from class are misconceiving the key processes at stake. Instead, he argues for a deepening of old identities through the same process by which they are reworked. The ramifications for the contemporary social sciences of the battle over expertise are spelt out in Savage's concluding chapter.
First for contemporary popular narratives.
Identities and social change in Britain since 1940: the politics of method
The creation of an 'intimate, critical, and compassionate' sociology Savage remarks, revolved around the methods of the new social sciences in a reworking of who was able to speak about the present. A crucial feature was the mobilisation of the ordinary and the everyday. It also links the emergence of social science methods to the strengthening of technocratic and scientific identities amongst the educated middle classes, and to the rise in masculine authority which challenged feminine expertise. This book is the first to draw extensively on archived qualitative social science data from the s to the s, which it uses to offer a unique, personal and challenging account of post war social change in Britain.
It also uses this data to conduct a new kind of historical sociology of the social sciences, one that emphasises the discontinuities in knowledge forms and which stresses how disciplines and institutions competed with each other for reputation. Its emphasis on how social scientific forms of knowing eclipsed those from the arts and humanities during this period offers a radical re-thinking of the role of expertise today which will provoke social scientists, scholars in the humanities, and the general reader alike. List of Figures.
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