chapter  6
14 Pages

Reordering Work and Destabilizing Masculinity

Learning to Labor (Willis, 1977, first published as Learning to Labour) tells of a time when there were steady jobs available even for nonacademic, lowachieving, schooldisaffected, White working-class boys and when there was an identifiable British working class to be reproduced through schooling and work. It tells of work in “Hammertown” in the British Midlands in the early 1970s in conditions close to full employment. The Willis study seeks to explain the reproduction of the male working class and the role of “the lads” and their education therein. Willis explains how cultural and institutional forms contribute to social reproduction. He illustrates how, in their manner of resisting school, the lads readied themselves for factory work and excluded themselves from opportunities for social mobility through education. Economic circumstances have changed dramatically since Learning to Labor, and this leads to somewhat different questions. What are contemporary economic conditions and what happens to working-class masculinity under such conditions? Such questions have prompted a number of studies in Britain designed, in effect, to empirically and theoretically update the issues addressed in Learning to Labor and indeed to address some of its absences. These studies include Mac an Ghaill, (1994), Arizpe and Arnot, (1997), O’Donnell and Sharpe (2000), and McDowell (2000, 2002).