Michael Young, Social Science, and the British Left, 1945-1970

ISBN : 9780198862895

Lise Butler
288 ページ
138 x 216 mm
Oxford Historical Monographs

In post-war Britain, left-wing policy maker and sociologist Michael Young played a major role in shaping British intellectual, political, and cultural life, using his study of the social sciences to inform his political thought. In the mid-twentieth century the social sciences significantly expanded, and played a major role in shaping British intellectual, political and cultural life. Central to this intellectual shift was the left-wing policy maker and sociologist Michael Young. As a Labour Party policy maker in the 1940s, Young was a key architect of the Party's 1945 election manifesto, 'Let Us Face the Future'. He became a sociologist in the 1950s, publishing a classic study of the East London working class, Family and Kinship in East London with Peter Willmott in 1957, which he followed up with a dystopian satire, The Rise of the Meritocracy, about a future society in which social status was determined entirely by intelligence. Young was also a prolific social innovator, founding or inspiring dozens of organisations, including the Institute of Community Studies, the Consumers' Association, Which?magazine, the Social Science Research Council and the Open University. Moving between politics, social science, and activism, Young believed that disciplines like sociology, psychology and anthropology could help policy makers and politicians understand human nature, which in turn could help them to build better political and social institutions. This book examines the relationship between social science and public policy in left-wing politics between the end of the Second World War and the end of the first Wilson government through the figure of Michael Young. Drawing on Young's prolific writings, and his intellectual and political networks, it argues that he and other social scientists and policy makers drew on contemporary ideas from the social sciences to challenge key Labour values, like full employment and nationalisation, and to argue that the Labour Party should put more emphasis on relationships, family, and community. Showing that the social sciences were embedded in the project of social democratic governance in post-war Britain, it argues that historians and scholars should take their role in British politics and political thought seriously


1 'We were all very sick and very stupid': the Conference on the Psychological and Sociological Problems of Modern Socialism and the politics of the group
2 'Bigness is the Enemy of Humanity': Political and Economic Planning, social science, and public policy, 1945 to 1950
3 'For Richer, For Poorer': Family policy and women, 1950-52
4 The Institute of Community Studies, 1953-58
5 From kinship to consumerism: Coming to terms with the middle class, 1958-1963
6 Facing the future: Social science in the first Wilson government, 1964-70


Lise Butler is a Lecturer in Modern History at City, University of London. She is a historian of modern Britain, interested in political history, left-wing politics, and the history of the social sciences. She completed her doctorate at University College Oxford, and has held a lectureship in History at Pembroke College Oxford and an Archives By-Fellowship at Churchill College Cambridge. She is originally from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.