LEARNING TO LABOUR ( BY PAUL WILLIS )
Category : Culture
Paul Willis is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating and important cultural theorists of the last century. He had complementary insights which help illuminate other cultural theorist’s views on the genesis and nature of culture. Willis’ work is still very much relevant for our understanding of culture. Societal and cultural change does not mean that similar changes will occur in the community, just as attitudinal change does not mean that there has been a similar change in a social institution. Cultural change is normal and continual, but in various directions, at various rates, and at multiple levels of social life. We understand culture more if we look into Paul Willis’s ideas. They help us gain more insights on what culture is all about.
CHAPTER 1: ETHNOGRAPHY
Culture, in my own thinking means the way of living, behavior, approaches to life, beliefs, traditions, way of communication, and philosophy of people in a particular group, country, company or organization. For example, Chinese culture differs from American culture primarily because they live in two different places where resources, environment and people that contribute to the formation of culture differ from each other. Culture within the Roman Catholic also differs from the culture of Protestant or the Church of Christ. The Libertarian Party in the senate also has different culture from the Democratic Party same as with female culture from male culture and same-sex culture.
After reading Willis’ book, I found out that my meaning of culture compared to Willis’ is not that far or contrary. Willis defined culture as the label that refers to the set of practices that produce meanings, and to resultant objects of those practices. He added that culture refers to human engagement in those practices and to their effect of human beings acting together as a cultural group. With his example of cultivating a vegetable garden, he also defined culture as the result of the interaction of nature and human and human with each other. Culture is formed out of the needs of human and dependent on what the nature can give. The resulting culture is also dependent on what medium is utilized. In other words, culture varies from different groups because of the difference of their needs, their interaction to nature and to the medium they used in order to interact with nature.
The function of culture as the influential element in the policy choices of nations has been a fundamental subject in the book of Willis. Oftentimes, the term culture is an amalgamation of the concepts of “attitudes, values, and beliefs” functions a significant role in human behavior and development. Conventional international relations theory has claimed that all nations follow numerous material interests, together with security and state and economic protection. To a certain extent, the context of culture reveals a substantial relationship with its economic progress. In a lot of the discussions in Chapter 1 of the book of Willis, culture has been conceived as the adversarial pattern to realism. General cultural features such as “hard work, initiative, and belief in the value of education” have been focused on as a determinant for investors and other business people. It is in the particular behavior of the people in a specific location that deemed to be the indicator of a country’s destiny in the economic aspects.
Willis recognizes the principle that nations follow their material interests, but all together these academics tender a major and frequently principal function to culture in the policies of nations devoid of integrating what takes place when these concerns collide, which basically takes place regularly. For the duration of Second World War and the immediate postwar phase, culture appeared as a fundamental justification for nations’ policies. To illustrate, Willis pointed out that the United States military pointed to cultural anthropologists to create a report on the cultures of countries such as Germany and Japan and clarify and foresee possible government rules.
Subsequent to the Second World War, a lot of universities instituted regional studies departments and centers. The institution of these area studies departments presented a conviction that each nation is distinct and the method to recognize a state is to throw oneself into the study of it. Specifically, it entails the studying of its language, culture, and specific historical experience. Policymakers trained in this approach regularly employ culture as a variable to foretell prospective coalitions and likely conflicts, frequently providing more credence to culture than they may well appreciate. In this context, trust provides a great degree to these policymakers with regards to their cultural heritage. Academics contend that a cultural heritage of low trust puts a culture at a competitive disadvantage in the international setting for the reason that it is less capable of expanding huge and intricate social institutions. (They provide a great function to culture when trying to foresee the shifts of a nation, particularly of new nations or governments. To illustrate, Willis points out the existence of a religious culture served to be a complicated aspect of the modern capitalist development in nations like Latin America and the Philippines. Moreover, conflicts involving a couple of nations are frequently explicated by cultural elements, regularly as the result of primordial dislikes with one another. Simultaneously, the degree to which nations having diverse cultural relationships cooperate is frequently undervalued.
CHAPTER 2: ANALYSIS
Willis also defined culture in the context of social evolutionism as the triumph of the capitalist world where economics become more dominant over politics, of the privates’ interest over the publics’, of the societies over the national state and of demands over public policies. With these features, cultural change can then be considered as the final phase of world capitalization. It can be pertained to the various changes the world is presently encountering whereas others see it as the purpose of the new world where the wealth of domineering countries can increase and the interest of the privileged minority is prioritized.
A manner of analyzing culture in standpoint of Willis has to do with the economic and social account of global affairs, and especially with the history of past stages of speedy boost in global trade, investment, communication, and authority.
Cultural diversity, including the resurgence of a strong presence and identity, presents challenging issues for Willis: what it means to be a member of a society; the relationship between national and personal identities; identifying and working in both the cohesive and divisive forces in a multicultural society; and the form and flavor of a future republic. For Willis, culture includes institutions, manners, and habits of thought, intentions and ways of life. It encompasses the complex web of meanings which underlie everyday life and behavior--the understandings and expectations which guide our actions and interactions with others.
Willis believes that people today signify different cultural dimensions. In today’s Modern Age the pluralist possibilities of the Old Age were reduced to a single cultural option in which the primary emphasis was placed on uniformity, conformity and homogeneity. A single people in a single place was creating a single culture and working towards a single goal. Justice could be achieved and the desire of the people for dignity and self-respect satisfied if corrupting foreign influences were excluded and institutions and laws were created to protect the people, thereby leaving them free to pursue their peculiar way of life.
In today’s Modern Age Willis attests that there is a growing sense of individualism. This new individualism is more heavily influenced by liberalism and consequently emphasizing the autonomous rational individual emancipated from tradition. Much of this individualism can be related to increasing levels of education and changes in the occupational structure as nations become increasingly a service economy. Today’s Modern Age also possesses the quality of having the masculine context of culture. Herein, people are open to competition and that they are very aggressive in finding ways to outgrow their rivals. In this point of view, Willis affirms that among the dimensions of culture diversity, the concept of individualism and masculinity is more dominant in the cultural profile of today’s Modern Age than the others.
Other Concepts of the Book
The book affirms that culture can be communicated through explicit or implicit means and that implicit form of communication tends to be more effective in changing culture than explicit forms of communication. The explicit and implicit communication must be relied on to provide external justification for the new strategy and persuade organizational members to adopt the new cultural beliefs and values.
Willis states that there are three basic techniques of cultural implementation: the top-down approach, the participative approach, and the subculture approach. Top-down or imposed changes usually result in changes that are difficult to sustain, even though they may be easy to bring about. In other words, top-down approaches may result in overt compliance, but no covert acceptance. Participative approaches to culture change are difficult and time consuming, but the commitment and acceptance to the change is superior to a changed atmosphere which improves performance.
Methods of evaluation could include monitoring, measuring effectiveness, or comparison of elemental frequency with original baseline measures gained during the internal organizational analysis. An increase in the key element frequency combined with a stagnation of organizational effectiveness could mean that the key elements were not defined correctly. The culture, in other words, has changed with minimal or detrimental impact on organizational effectiveness. It is clear, however, that culture can either facilitate or severely hinder a chosen strategy and further understanding of cultural influences may be paramount to full understanding of effective strategic change.
There is a general framework of cultural modification that gives broad theoretical reasoning for an overall process which will necessarily for tailoring a particular situation. Culture modification should not be evaluated as a process for its own sake, but its success or failure should he determined by whether or not this change will enhance effectiveness under a new strategy as it allows practitioners to understand and organize the constellation of variables that could influence or adversely affect successful change. Success and failure are rarely clearly defined and are perhaps the extremes for a society to survive and grow, before succumbing to the temptation of changing the way things are done is increasingly becoming the central challenge facing leaders that have enjoyed long-term success.
Likewise, Willis affirms that culture is an important factor in understanding a society, because for any society or community to operate effectively it must for some extent have a general set of believe and assumptions on how culture will influence the productivity and the success or failure of any society or community. Culture environment is one of the important principles that influence the organization. Willis identifies that there are four dimensions that differentiate cultures at a national level (power distance, individualism-collectivism, masculinity-femininity, uncertainty avoidance), which help to understand that people arrive to organizations with their own national culture. It can be considered that in terms of social context powerful societies give more attention to social security.
The results of the analysis carried out on the book Learning to Labour by Paul Willis indicated very significant effects on the understanding on culture, even amidst the threats of unrest. Therefore, we could conclude that the understanding on culture and its impacts could still be expected to improve faster than average.
The review of the book’s chapters and concepts revealed very little inconsistencies regarding the present perspectives of culture. This is coherent with the author’s traditional inside-out approach. However, the need to reconcile both the inside-out and outside-in approaches becomes imperative now for the readers.