Friday, 4 July 2014

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old Yorkshire born sociologist called David Lockwood

David, who spent his professional life asking :  How is society possible? What is the basis of social order? What are the mechanisms of social change? and in pursuit of answers, changed the way sociologists went about their work, has died at the age of 85.

What you possibly didn't know about David, that he :

* was born in 1929 in the small Yorkshire town of Holmfirth, dependent on textile mills and smitten by unemployment when he was a boy in the 1930s, where his father, who had lost his toes to trench foot in the First World War, had a cobblers shop, attended St. John’s Junior School before the Second World War and sang in the Church choir and when interviewed in 2002, made reference to television's, 'Last of the Summer Wine' and the village being "the scene of this infamous, awful comedy series."

* was 11 years old when his father died just after the outbreak of War, leaving his mother to take up cleaning and take in lodgers to make ends meet : cousins who were evacuees from London, a policeman and a grammar school teacher, a Miss Lott, who he later assumed to be university educated and was a 'role model' and influence on him when he won a scholarship and attended the Grammar School a bus ride away in Honley.

* felt some humiliation at school when forced into a separate queue with his 'free meal ticket' and was forced to leave at the age of 15 in 1944 because, as he later said : "I had to help pull … pull my weight. And so I got a job" a cycle ride away, as a clerk in a textile mill in Honley where : "I was left on my own for long periods of time, staring out the window, actually, I had nothing much to do!"

* as a result of Miss Mott's influence and with his wages bought a copy of Herbert Spencer’s 1867 'First Principle's' from the stationer's shop in Holmfirth which confronted him with : 'We too often forget that not only is there "a soul of goodness in things evil," but very generally also, a soul of truth in things erroneous' and which, not surprisingly, he later said : " I didn’t understand really."

 * was called up for National Service at the age of 18 in 1947 and served in the Army Intelligence Corps in Graz, Southern Austria, first to deal with old Nazis, then to listen in on new Cold War enemies in Yugoslavia in a radio station where he rubbed shoulders with conscripts waiting to go to university back in civilian life, including the son of a Tyneside shipwright and later a Professor in Defence Studies at the Edinburgh, John Erikson.

* while recovering from paratyphoid B in hospital, came under the influence of a leftwing sergeant who must have given him a copy of Marx's 'Kapital' because he later said he "couldn’t understand a word!" but "I seem to remember reading, because 'commodity is a mysterious thing', that stuck in my mind, the opening phrase."

* back home and back in the mill, started evening classes in Huddersfield where the geography teacher gave him a copy of Leo Hubermann’s, 'Man’s Worldly Goods' to read and in 1949 qualified for an army scholarship and travelled without sleep overnight to Klagenfurt in Austria and successfully sat the two entrance papers which took him to the London School of Economics.

* was an undergraduate in the class of Basil Bernstein, graduated with First Class Honours in Economics followed by a PhD and in 1953 was on the point of taking a job with Unilever, when offered and accepted an 'assistant lectureship' and now associated with graduate sociology students, Joe and Olive Banks, John Westergaard and Ralf Dahrendorf and was according to A.H.Halsey in his study of the group 'was the most impressive of them all.'

* shared a flat in Gardnor Mansions, Hampstead which had belonged to Robert Graves, where he had "jolly times" and "cheap Spanish plonk, the most awful stuff!" with two students and his close friend Ralf Dahrendorf (ight) who, like him was something of an outsider, having been born in Hamburg the son of a Social Democrat politician detained by the Nazis during the Second World War and he himself detained as a schoolboy in 1945 and with him attended 'The Thursday Evening Seminar', which he later described "a very subversive thing and I know Ernest Gellner ( the philosopher in the Sociology Department) was very worked up about it" but was, on occasion, attended by Raymond Aron and Talcott Parsons.

* had met a New York American M.A.student at the LSE, Leonore Davidoff, whose father, a Jewish immigrant from Latvia was a neurosurgeon mother from Lithuania, a family therapist and married her when he was 25 and she 22 in 1954 and in subsequent years saw her carve a reputation as a social historian.

* in 1958 published his PhD thesis, 'The Blackcoated Worker', researched largely in the British Museum, a study of the social position and class-consciousness of male clerks from the mid-19th century onwards, a rebuke those on the left who criticised them for having a 'false consciousness' and showed that they saw themselves as 'of different clay' to manual workers, with greater job security and a sense of superiority encapsulated by their black coats and with their own unique class position and saw, in the years which followed, his theory and methods applied to the study of a host of different occupations from coalminers and shipbuilders to farm workers and farmers.

* in 1958 left the LSE at the age of 29 and took his wife and son for a brief stay in the in the USA at Berkeley before returning to the LSE and then in 1960, took up a Lectureship in the Economics Faculty at St John’s College, Cambridge, since sociology was taught as an optional part of the economics tripos. 

* in the years which followed established sociology as a discrete discipline by the quality of his and the work of colleagues and their 1969 'The Affluent Worker in the Class Structure', which examined the newly affluent working class and debunked the claim of their 'embourgeoisment' and showed that despite their new wealth, they maintained quite distinct social values, political ideals and lifestyles.

* had in 1968, at the age of 39, moved to the University of Essex as Professor of Sociology, wrote a series of theoretical papers, culminating in his 1992,  'Solidarity and Schism' which he had found difficult, had taken him years and was 'a long lonely path' which he thought he'd never finish and in which he demonstrated the deficiencies of the Marxist approach with its stress on social conflict and the functionalist stress on social consensus and showed that any theory of social order required both a degree of integration, in the form of status as well as an element of conflict arising from class.

*  achieved recognition in 1976 when elected to a Fellowship of the British Academy, in 1990 to a fellowship of the Academia Europea, had a special issue of the British Journal of Sociology dedicated to him in 1996 and in 1998, was appointed CBE for his 'contributions to sociology' (left).

* was paid tribute at the age of 72 in 2001 with the late Professor Peter Frank delivering the words of Professor David Rose when the University of Essex conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of the University : 'Those who know him only as an acquaintance may find him somewhat reserved. They may even think of him as a typical taciturn Yorkshireman. In fact, he is a sociable person with a rare ability to engage people on their own level, whatever that may be, and to put them at their ease. But he is also endearingly diffident and shy so that he is only truly gregarious with his family and closest friends. With them he is relaxed, lively, engaged, witty, affectionate and capable of great kindness.'

What better epitaph might an old, brilliant, university sociologist have than : he spoke down to no one and so never forgot who he was and from whence he came.

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