Frank Bechhofer on ‘The Affluent Worker & Research Design’

Frank Bechhofer on ‘The Affluent Worker & Research Design’


“The thing, of course, about The Affluent
Worker, that, in my view, is its lasting legacy, but I would say that because the thing I’m
interested in, one of the things I’m interested in, was its design. It was a very interesting research design,
and I’ve used it ever since as an example. And I think it’s about as good an example
of that particular kind of design as any, and I wrote a book with Lindsay Patterson
quite recently on research design, and we use it in there.  The best thing about The Affluent Worker,
its best legacy is the research design. Its worst legacy is “embourgeoisement”
as a word. But, never mind, we have to use it! This strange idea that the “embourgeoisiement”
of the working-class was taking place. I mean, it wasn’t strange, lots of people
espoused it in a big way. The idea that if you wanted to show this wasn’t
so, because you couldn’t study the whole of Britain, not on the bucks available in
those days, or, indeed, today, let’s face it! What could you do? Okay, you try and find the locale which is
most favourable to the thesis, and so if it’s not happening there, it’s not happening. Now, this was, I still think, in retrospect,
a brilliant design. [The idea] was either John’s or David’s,
or theirs jointly. I have no idea, because by the time I got
into the act, the die was cast, and the design was done. Now, you can argue till you’re blue in the
face, and this process was just coming to an end at this point, you can argue that the
team were wrong to do it in Luton, as has been argued, by a couple of people. I think, actually, I may as well stick my
neck out, but quite ineffectually, I don’t actually think that idea stands up. I think it was a pretty good place to do it. I really think the arguments that it wasn’t
are largely from people who weren’t there and didn’t do the fieldwork, and didn’t
see the town and all the rest of it. But, nonetheless, let that pass. I thought the design was brilliant, and that
aspect of The Affluent Worker has had a permanent effect on me… If you set the study up right, then it’ll
work. And if you don’t set it up right, you’ve
had it”

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