Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Learning to Labor” as Want to Read:
Learning to Labor
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Learning to Labor

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  362 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Hailed by the New Society as the best book on male working class youth, this classic work, first published in 1977, has been translated into several foreign languages and remains the authority in ethnographical studies.
Paperback, 226 pages
Published December 22nd 1981 by Columbia University Press (first published January 1st 1977)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Learning to Labor, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Learning to Labor

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  362 ratings  ·  24 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Learning to Labor
Vikas Lather
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An insightful work on how counter culture ends serving the interest of the ruling class.
Although it was written in 1977 and is horribly patriarchal in its worldview, this book does an excellent job of explaining how class inequalities manifest in the education system and later in the workplace. Willis gives an insightful account of working class culture - I only wish he had investigated the experience of those who seem to experience class mobility as a result of their engagement with the education system.
Ovi Oprea
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology
What I like about the book is that it explores how the idea of manual labour being preferable to mental labour develops early on while in school. Also, that there is a more nuanced picture of the ways in which ideology is formed and reinforced. That it is not all a conscious project directed from above or a "machialvellian will," as Wills puts it, but that a good portion comes in ready-made form, supplied by cultural processes. What we call cultural processes, and how neutral they are in respect ...more
Jul 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people writing research papers
I was fascinated by what this book was about but it's pretty textbookly-written. I enjoyed the ideas in it far more than the actual writing, sadly.
Nov 30, 2008 added it
Bad boys in industrial Britian. Are they really free to change their socieonomic status? Using a case study, Willis would argue that, through thier perceptions of the world and the subsequent choices they make, these lads appeare to be predestined for manual labor. Willis's jargon is a lot to plough trough and his psycoanalysis is sometimes questionsable, but it certinley is an eye opener for those of us who think we can change the world through education.
Declan John
One of the most important texts when it comes to working-class education. I don't necessarily agree with the findings and deductions, but nonetheless the thick ethnography is fantastic. "Even communists like to 'ave a laff".
Michelle Jones
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Excellent ethnography, marred by an analysis section that is nearly incomprehensible. Most frustrating is the frequent use of original (and unintuitive) terminology that is never defined.
Nicholas Hatton
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting insights into the self perpetuating class system in the UK.
cultural reproduction
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 06, 2015 added it
Shelves: read2015
This book has been on my reading list for 15 years and I'm glad I finally read it in Britain. Willis argues that the matching of working class boys with working class jobs is the result of a cultural process in which they see through the promises of school (it is designed to produce inequality no matter what) and decide to bond with one another in the manner of the roguish laborers they will become.The oppositional culture and sexism are recognizable today even though so much has changed. There' ...more
Erin Reilly-Sanders
Feb 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult, non-fiction
The first part about the research is readable and reveals a generous amount of actual transcripts of conversation so that you can get a good feel for the research. the only problem is that the culture that it describes feels a little too much like the greasers in The Outsiders to make comfortable parralells across 40 years and the Atlantic Ocean. The second part labeled "anaylsis" is rather dry and unreadable while trying to relate ideas in the text to other theorists. The commentary inbetween t ...more
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
This book clearly shows that the fact that some children get workingclass jobs is not only the result of their mental capacity, motivation or other individual traits. Rather, it is the result of some cultural activities and their antagonism towards the dominant teaching paradigm and the school as institution and their rebellion against it which also fosters it.
Also, inherent to their cultural values is sheer masculinity and an appreciation of practical knowlegde, viewed by them to be superior to
Kirk Kittell
Apr 23, 2010 marked it as to-read
Recommended by Seth Godin in Linchpin . ...more
Jessica Fure
May 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you want to be an ethnographer, this is the book to start with. Willis stays away from the hyper-excitement and gee-wowism that most fandom studies authors do (learn from him, please!) while still remaining respectful of his subjects.
Nov 11, 2007 rated it it was ok
not nearly as interesting as i thought it would be.
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tietokirjat
Mielenkiintoinen tenttkirja.
Apr 29, 2014 rated it liked it
The ethnography was a good look into the types of resistance that teachers see in schools and an interesting glimpse into the lives of school-aged boys.
Jul 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the all time best books I have ever read. Amongst non-fiction books, the book I probably recommend the most.
Jul 13, 2007 rated it it was ok
not like Willis has an agenda or anything.

interesting, though.
Chris Jones
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology, 2015
The first part is great, very descriptive. The second part is really dense, a lot of good stuff there and I got the gist of it, but sometimes I just couldn't get what Willis was saying.
Sep 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely groundbreaking ethnographic work.
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The second part was a howler. I understood only bits of it, may be because I'm beginner on Marx and still zero on Hegel.
rated it really liked it
Dec 29, 2013
rated it really liked it
Feb 03, 2019
Sasha Prasastika
rated it liked it
Oct 24, 2015
rated it really liked it
Sep 17, 2015
rated it it was amazing
Apr 28, 2013
John Wood
rated it really liked it
Dec 14, 2011
Daneel Lynn
rated it did not like it
Jan 01, 2020
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (Revised Edition)
  • A Collection of Marxist Writings: The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx’s Wage-Labour and Capital, Friedrich Engels’ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
  • The Amazing Book Is Not on Fire
  • The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State
  • Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste
  • DIY Resistance: 36 Ways to Fight Back!
  • The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation
  • Stalinism and Nazism
  • Producing Success: The Culture of Personal Advancement in an American High School
  • No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference
  • The Social Contract
  • The Crucible
  • Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit
  • Basic Writings: Ten Key Essays, plus the Introduction to Being and Time
  • The State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power
  • All the Invisible Things
  • Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America
  • The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America
See similar books…
Paul Willis is a British social scientist known for his work in sociology and cultural studies. Paul Willis' work is widely read in the fields of sociology, anthropology, and education, his work emphasizing consumer culture, socialization, music, and popular culture. He was born in Wolverhampton[1] and received his education at the University of Cambridge and at the University of Birmingham. He wo ...more

News & Interviews

Are you having a difficult time reading these days? If so, you're not alone. Since the pandemic began, I've found it harder to concentrate on...
64 likes · 29 comments