Hailed by the "New Society" as the "best book on male working class youth," this classic work, first published in 1977, has been translated into several foreign languages and remains the authority in ethnographical studies.
In this book, Willis uses the ethnographical methodology to collect data from students who attend to a school that its majority population is work class kids. In these students, he separates them to two groups-- one is the lads and the other is In this book, Willis uses the ethnographical methodology to collect data from students who attend to a school that its majority population is work class kids. In these students, he separates them to two groups-- one is the lads and the other is ear-oles. The lad is a self-elected title of those in the counter-school culture. The rest of students are ear-oles which is named by the lads and it means that people who only listen and always follow the rule without using their mouth or act to against authority. Willis spends half of his book to describe the lads "counter-school culture." In the counter-school culture, the lads reject to obey and co-operate with school's authority. They overlook the timetable of school, intentionally attend to wrong class, and also do something that violates school rules such as smoking, drinking alcohols or fighting with other students. Counter-school culture is not only a specific type of behavior in school, but also a life style for the lads. The lads will wear different style-- usually more stylist and fashion-- of clothes, smoking, drinking and etc. This is equal to mean that the lads expend more money than other kids. In this regard, the lads will need to work or find other ways to earn money to support their lifestyle. Such kind of experience makes the lads have an opportunity to familiar with outside world earlier than other students. In another aspect, the counter-school culture also adapted some thought from shopfloor culture. The shopfloor culture is a specific term for working class behavior in working place. This is also a sub-culture that against the capitalistic mode of production. Willis mentions that the counter school culture shares a lot of element with shopfloor culture since most of these kids have working class parents. They can listen to the shopfloor stories from their parents on the dinning time. After they leave schools, Willis argues that the lads usually find their jobs in manual works sector. In this point, Willis raises a question that ideally, school should be a place for working class population to have a chance to mobile upwardly. However, this doesn't happen in reality and Willis wants to know why. Willis argues that the counter-school culture provides a rich ground for the lads to against the authority when they are in school, but later on, it also limits the lads' option in job market. In other words, Willis argues that although the counter-school culture is a form of resistant that the lads use to against the authority. But if we put this into a bigger context, the counter-school culture becomes a conspirator with capitalism in order to provide capitalistic society labor power consistently. Furthermore, Willis also mentions that those values such as machismo, men-like toughness and earn money by "real works" and etc. that rewarded by counter-school culture actually will help the lads voluntarily to choice manual works after they leave school since they believe those values. In sum, Willis provides a rich ethnographical case that successfully explains why there will have a group of people consistently work in manual sector. Why that school never full fills its original purpose to help people mobile upwardly. Willis argues that school does not fail from its task. It does help a lot of individual move from working class to middle class. Meanwhile, this mobility doesn't distort the current class structure. Willis also adapts Bourdieu and Parson's reproduction theory to explain that people from unpreferable class attends to school without equipped proper cultural capital has highly chance to fail in school. The lads are a group of kids located in this category. They are not familiar with those words, rules and knowledge in school, therefore, they will possibility fail in official aspect and need to find other source to save their self-esteem. Counter-school culture provides them an asylum from all these frustrations. The more they immerse in counter-school culture, the more possibility they will become future working class. Willis perfectly deduces this process and makes readers to comprehend the profoundness of how capitalism reproduces its own social structure.