The (Goldthorpe, Lockwood, Bechhofer, and Platt, 1969) provides an example of an embryonic critical social research project that used and adapted standard quantitative research methods. Goldthorpe and Lockwood, the principal researchers, initiated a research project into the sociology of the affluent worker in 1962 (Goldthorpe ., 1969). Fieldwork started later the same year. Financial support came from the Department of Applied Economics of the University of Cambridge and later the Human Sciences Committee of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (a precursor of SSRC subsequently ESRC). Bechhofer and Platt were members of the research staff of the department throughout the fieldwork and analysis stage.
Several reports of the study of the affluent worker were published in journals (Goldthorpe and Lockwood, 1962, 1963; Lockwood, 1966; Goldthorpe, 1966) as well as two longer reports (Goldthorpe . 1968a) and (Goldthorpe ., 1968b). was the final and central book-length report and effectively marked the conclusion of the research.
What then are the implications of their research for the debate on the working class as an historic agent of radical social change? Two alternative arguments can be constructed from the apparent decline of workplace and communal solidarity of workers who see labour as a means of sustaining a mode of social life dominated by home and family. The first, the 'liberal view', suggests that workers are becoming more individualistic, with a consequent decline in support for unionism and the Labour Party, and, as such, their potential as a radical force has declined. The second, the 'neo-Marxist view', takes up the alienation of the worker. Commodity consciousness and the lack of intrinsic satisfaction in work are indicative of the denial of the real needs of the affluent worker and thus such a worker is fundamentally in opposition to the system. The empirical material, when analysed in detail, leads Goldthorpe and Lockwood to reject both views.
Goldthorpe and Lockwood conclude, by way of 'generalising from their findings', that in respect of the world of work the class situation of the affluent worker has not changed and the thesis is inadequate as it breaks down 'fairly decisively at any one of several points'. Workers lives and attitudes do not indicate a shift to middle-class values, attitudes and activities. The embourgeoisement of the worker is not as an inexorable thesis as it has been portrayed and has little relevance to contemporary British society. Although changes may have occurred in consumption, within the sphere of production there is still 'a fairly distinctive working class' (Goldthorpe ., 1969, p. 83) even in progressive, modern industrial establishments. If anything, changes in white-collar work are tending to bring some non-manual workers closer to manual workers rather than the other way round. In contrast to the version of the embourgeoisement thesis that asserts affluent workers have a dual social identity (working class at work, middle class out of work), there is a tendency for workers to dissent from middle class conceptions of the status hierarchy. The aspirations of the affluent workers seemed to reflect neither working-class consciousness nor middle-class status consciousness. Differences in prestige and power were less significant for respondents than differences in income and standards of consumption.
The design of the research was thus directed to materially grounding an abstract theoretical debate. It was not a study of the of embourgeoisement as it basically provides a static picture. It, thus, does not permit analysis of the mobility of the workers in the study. However, this is not the aim. What the study does permit is an assessment of whether, amongst affluent workers, middle-class values, and so on, have already been adopted. Thus, given their critical case, if the embourgeoisement thesis is a sound one, there should be a sizeable proportion of the sample that is indistinguishable from, at least, 'lower middle-class non-manual workers'.
Goldthorpe and Lockwood maintained that there research design provided the basis for a descriptive account of the social lives of the affluent workers and thus the basis for an 'appropriate and cogent test' of the embourgeoisement thesis. The primary data that described those aspects of workers' lives relevant to the operationalisation of the embourgeoisement thesis were compared to expectations. This was cross-checked by using comparative material of white-collar workers.
Interviewing was supplemented by observational studies of the respondent's working lives but no such observation of 'out-plant' life was possible as the respondents led very private lives. There was no local community of a 'public kind' which was accessible to the researcher as a fieldwork location. The social lives of the sample of affluent workers and their families 'were built around such essentially private occasions as the family walk or car-ride, the visit to relatives, or the couple's 'evening out' at a cinema or restaurant' (Goldthorpe ., 1969, p. 50). All information relating to aspects other than work were based on the respondent's own account rather than 'direct study'. This raised the possibility of bias and distortion as respondents may present themselves in a particular way. Clearly, Goldthorpe and Lockwood noted, 'as the social anthropologists have traditionally insisted, it is wise to distinguish between what people say they do and what they do in fact'. However, this is not, an intractable problem and they found that their interviewees were both disinclined to attempt a 'front' and prepared to present themselves in what, for them, was often an unfavourable light. Where cross-checking of responses was possible 'no serious degree of inconsistency was found in the answers individuals gave'.
The criteria for the critical case study were that the population of workers should be physically mobile, affluent, economically secure, and consumption conscious. They should be in an industrial setting with 'progressive' employment policies, advanced technology and harmonious industrial relations. The community within which this population lived should be socially heterogeneous, economically expanding and open, new, and lacking tightly-knit kinship networks. While this ideal-type was not entirely attainable they showed that in Luton, workers at Vauxhall Motors Ltd., Skefko Ball Bearing Co. Ltd., and Laporte Chemicals Ltd., matched the criteria as nearly as possible. As a bonus, Luton had been identified as the prototype of the 'new middle-class' Britain, and, although they had not chosen Luton for that reason, it was fortunate that they were able 'to meet supporters of the thesis on their own ground'. Thus they 'cannot be accused of seeking for workers turning middle-class where no-one had ever claimed or supposed that such a pattern of change was likely' (Goldthorpe ., 1969, p. 47).
The reason that our respondents by far most frequently gave for remaining in their present jobs—and most appeared to be quite firmly attached to them—was in fact the high level of pay they could earn.... This reason was given by half the process workers, by two-thirds of the more skilled men and by three-quarters of the assemblers and machinists; and with 1 in 4 of the latter, this was the consideration mentioned. The reason next most frequently advanced was security of employment (referred to by 38% of our respondents overall) and taking all economic factors together—level of pay, security, extent of social welfare and other fringe benefits—one or more of these was referred to by 87% of the craftsmen and setters in the sample and by 82% of the semi-skilled men. In contrast, in no occupational group did as many as a third of our affluent workers make any mention of staying in their jobs because they liked the work they did; and among the assemblers and machinists the proportion was as low as 1 in 8. (Goldthorpe ., 1969, p. 56)
Given limited resources and the requirement of an in-depth analysis, Goldthorpe and Lockwood decided to adopt a critical case study approach. They determined criteria, based on the characteristics of an affluent working class community that they derived from the proponents of an embourgeoisement thesis, of a case study that would be for the confirmation of the thesis. They argued that, if in this case the thesis was confirmed then they would have detailed material on workers who were in the process of changing their class situation. If the thesis were not confirmed in these favourable circumstances then they argued that they would be in a position to 'claim that it was unlikely to be occurring to any significant extent within British society at large' (Goldthorpe ., 1969, p. 32).