Forty Years On: Norbert Elias and the Young Worker Project

2010-09-27T14:22:00Z (GMT) by John Goodwin Henrietta O'Connor
Forty years ago, in 1962, fieldwork began on the research project ‘Adjustment of Young Workers to Work Situations and Adult Roles’. Using archived materials relating to the little known Norbert Elias project, this paper has two aims. First, to present some background information on the research and introduce this aspect of Elias’s work to a wider audience beyond the few who were aware of the projects existence. Second, to explore in detail Elias’s contributions to the project by piecing together his ideas and hypotheses from archived materials. During the early stages of the research, Elias suggested that the transition from school to work constituted a ‘shock’ experience and that young people would experience initial difficulties in adjusting to their new role. He suggested that difficulties would emerge in their relationships with older workers, with family and with their new income. For the first time this paper presents Elias’s ‘shock’ hypothesis, and his thoughts on school to work transitions. Although later analysis suggested that, in the main, young people did not experience ‘shock’ on entering work (see Ashton and Field 1976) it is felt that a full exploration of Elias’s model is worthwhile as it adds yet a further dimension to the richness and applicability of his other writing. The paper concludes by reflecting on the limitations of the Elias shock hypothesis.

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