The Study of British Society

  • A. H. Halsey


‘Let us’, the English pragmatist is fond of saying, ‘start with the facts.’ He stands in a tradition of social arithmetic which goes back to the second half of the seventeenth century and which has made an enormous contribution to the numerical description of social problems. From this point of view a book of statistical tables indicating trends in a wide variety of aspects of social life in Britain during a century in which rapid changes are in train needs no further justification. But we need to be clear what purposes can be served by such a book. It cannot claim to be either a history or a sociology of twentieth-century Britain. The question is rather to what use such material can be put by sociologists.


BRITISH Society White Collar Worker Life Chance Sociological Concept Retail Price Index 
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  1. 2.
    A recent example is J. H. Goldthorpe, D. Lockwood, F. Bechhofer and J. Platt, The Affluent Worker, 3 vols (C.U.P. 1969). This interview survey was designed to test the theory of embourgeoisement.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    For a short introduction to its methods see E. Grebenik and C. A. Moser, ‘Statistical Surveys’ in A. T. Welford et al., Society: Problems of Methods of Study (Routledge 1962).Google Scholar
  3. For a more extended exposition of survey methods see C. A. Moser, Survey Methods in Social Investigation (Heinemann 1958).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See for example the follow-up investigations carried out under the auspices of the Population Investigation Committee and directed by Dr J. W. B. Douglas and the follow-up study undertaken by the Scottish Council for Research in Education into the trend of intelligence. See especially the introduction by D. V. Glass to J. W. B. Douglas, The Home and the School (MacGibbon & Kee 1964).Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    A. M. Carr Saunders, D. Caradog Jones and C. A. Moser, A Survey of Social Conditions in England and Wales (O.U.P. 1958).Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    In E. Butterworth and D. Weir (eds), The Sociology of Modern Britain (Collins: Fontana 1970) pp. 203–4.Google Scholar
  7. 2.
    T. B. Bottomore, Sociology — A Guide to Problems and Literature (Allen & Unwin 1962) p. 20.Google Scholar
  8. 1.
    Edward Shils, ‘Background to Policies: Britain Awake’ in P. Hall (ed.), Labour’s New Frontiers (André Deutsch 1964).Google Scholar
  9. 2.
    See for example Clark Kerr et al., Industrialism and Industrial Man (Harvard U.P. 1960),Google Scholar
  10. and for criticism of this general thesis see J. H. Goldthorpe, ‘Social Stratification in Industrial Society’, in Reinhard Bendix and Seymour Martin Lipset, Class Status and Power: Social Stratification in Comparative Perspective, 2nd ed. (Free Press: The Macmillan Co., N.Y. 1966), pp. 648–60.Google Scholar
  11. 1.
    E. R. Leach, ‘Social Structure’ in International Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences (Free Press: The Macmillan Co., N.Y. 1968), Vol. 14, p. 485. In this article Leach gives a succinct account of the history and current usage of the term social structure.Google Scholar
  12. 3.
    A. H. Halsey and Martin Trow, The British Academics (Faber 1971).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 2.
    Parsons denies evidence for a trend to homogeneity of sex roles and stresses the complementality or non-competing character of women’s employment compared with men — ‘The American Family’ in T. Parsons and R. Bales, Family Socialisation and Interaction Processes (Free Press: The Macmillan Co., N.Y. 1955). But see also Norman Dennis’s ‘Secondary Group Relations and the Pre-eminence of the Family’, Int. J. Comp. Sociol., 3, no. 3 (1962), 80–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 1.
    For a good account of the impact on one British town see John Brown, The Unmelting Pot: An English Town and its Immigrants (Macmillan 1970).Google Scholar
  15. 1.
    For a comprehensive account of the recent history of race relations in Britain see E. J. B. Rose’s Colour and Citizenship (O.U.P. 1969).Google Scholar

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© A. H. Halsey 1972

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