Family and Kinship in East London


Family and Kinship in East London

"Family and Kinship in East London" was a 1957 sociological study of how the urban working class lived as a community. The study was carried out in the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green, in the East End of London. The research was carried out by Michael Young and Peter Willmott, who had been an integral part of building the welfare state in Britain during the tenure of Clement Attlee and the Labour government between 1945-52.

The study itself has been acknowledged by many sociologists as being one of the most influential sociological studies of the twentieth century. It is argued by some that it has inspired British sociology to take new paths away from the more traditional Functionalist versus Marxist perspectives. It used social observation as its means to do so, going away from statistical information that had been previously preferred. In this sense, it counters the Structuralist (Positivist) model that statistics prove cause and effect within society.

The idea was to interact and understand a post war community, to determine its aspirations, worries, doubts and insecurities. This key understanding moves the study into a more Interactionist line, about each individual's role within society. Indeed, it could also be linked to Max Weber's idea of empathy and "going deep" to comprehend the complexity of communities.

On Wednesday 25 April 2007, "The Guardian" society section reported on the 50th Anniversary of the study. Madeleine Bunting expressed how "the voices they found described a world rich in social relationships, networks of dependence and mutual support that were central to the people's resilience in facing the adversity of insecure and low paid employment."Bunting also mentions how the pair were amongst the first to discover "social capital" and its role in shaping community life.

It was the first British sociological study that really investigated deeply, people's attitudes, beliefs and feelings. It charted how decisions from the top affected ordinary people on the ground.

* ISBN-13: 978-0140205954


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