Identities and Social Change in Britain since 1940: The Politics of Method

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Identities and Social Change in Britain since 1940 examines how, between 1940 and 1970, British society was marked by the imprint of the academic social sciences in profound ways which have an enduring legacy on how we see ourselves. It focuses on how interview methods and sample surveys eclipsed literature and the community study as a means of understanding ordinary life. This book is the first to draw extensively on archived qualitative social science data from the 1930s to the 1960s, 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 emphasizes 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Students of social science theory and method and the social and intellectual history of Britain will find much of interest here. Summing Up: Highly recommended."—CHOICE

"Mike Savage is one of the UK's foremost historical sociologists and his recent exciting book provides a fascinating insight into the history of the social sciences and their role in the remaking of social class identities in Britain from the 1930s to the present day...this book provides a fascinating consideration of the role of expertise within British 20th-century history and its interaction within the creation of a specialised sociology as an academic will be of great use to historians and sociologists of post-war Britain."—Reviews in History

"In this provocative book Mike Savage puts social science at the heart of Britain's postwar social history. He shows how the language of social science conditions how we have come to think about ourselves—about our class and gender identities, about what it means to be 'modern', even what it means to be an individual. A bold and stimulating argument that will open new horizons."—Peter Mandler, Professor of Modern Cultural History, Cambridge University

"This is a quite remarkable book, tracing out how the idioms of social science moved from being the preserve of elites asserting jurisdiction over the 'social' to a normal part of the repertoire of everyday life. Using a battery of social science methods to provide the clues to social differentiation and the landscapes of Britain as the crime scene, Savage shows how social science researchers enacted their own detective story and in so doing produced the lineaments of a modern, rational, post-imperial nation, an imaginative geometry which is only now beginning to fall away."—Nigel Thrift, Vice Chancellor, University of Warwick

"An exciting, stimulating book. Identities and Social Change in Britain is at once a history of British social science, an inquiry into what is known by different research methods, an exploration of how social science informs public knowledge, and an original look at how Britain's national portrait was crafted and recrafted through the dramatic transformations of the mid-20th century. It should engage theorists, empirical researchers, and especially those who think the best social science always combines both of these with a high level of reflexivity."—Craig Calhoun, Professor of Sociology, New York University, and President of the Social Science Research Council

"Identities and Social Change provides several engaging insights into the social constriction of the sociological object." —American Journal of Sociology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199587667
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/15/2010
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Mike Savage is Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester, where he is Director of the ESRC's Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC). He has written extensively on social change in Britain after 1945 notably in Class Analysis and Social Transformation (2000) and in Globalisation and Belonging (with Gaynor Bagnall and Brian Longhurst, 2005)

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Table of Contents

2002: Preface and Acknowledgements vii

List of Figures xv

List of Tables xvi

Abbreviations xvii

1962: Introduction 1

1 2005 to 1938: Lifting Social Groups Out of the Landscape 22

Part I Technical Identities and the Rise of Social Science

2 1938: The British Intellectual and Highbrow Culture 51

3 1954: The Challenge of Technical Identity 67

4 1940: The Resurgence of Gentlemanly Expertise in Post-war Britain 93

5 1962: The Moment of Sociology 112

Part II The Social Science Apparatus

6 1956: The End of Community: The Quest for the English Middletown 137

7 1951: The Interview and the Melodrama of Social Mobility 165

8 1941: The Sample Survey and the Modern Rational Nation 187

Part III Popular Identities and Social Change

9 1948 to 1962: The Remaking of Social Class Identities 215

Conclusion 2009: The Politics of Method 237

Appendix: Manuscript sources consulted 250

Bibliography 255

Name Index 273

Place Index 279

Subject Index 281

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