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Lives in Fact and Fiction : Hedonism, Arthur Seaton and The Affluent Worker


Two, not unconnected, important events, respectively for sociology and literature, occurred during the British post-Second-World-War economic boom. For sociology it was a large, influential study of occupational relations by Goldthorpe and Lockwood et al entitled The Affluent Worker. For literature it was the highly original, social realist novel of a slice of working-class life by Alan Sillitoe entitled Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Both these accounts of mainly male working-class lives were not only influential in their time but have remained so – each being separately a reference point for continuing academic study. Additionally, both works noted the importance for individuals of increases in disposable income and the associated pleasurable outcomes. In considering these works together it is not the intention, here, to take either work out of its own vital category or to reduce either to a version of the other but merely to bear in mind Roger Pincott’s observation that, “There is no prima facie reason why the literature written in a given society should be less interesting or informative to the sociologist than, say, that society’s stratification system” (Pincott, 1970: 177).


Affluent worker, Working-class, Goldthorpe, Lockwood, Arthur Seaton, maleness


Author Biography

Michael Erben

Michael Erben was for many years Director of the Centre for Biography and Education at the University of Southampton (UK). He was a founder member of the BSA Auto/Biography Study Group and has published widely in the area of biographical studies and narrative. His most recent book, co-authored with Hilary Dickinson, is Nostalgia and Auto/Biography. He is now largely retired and is, contentedly, an independent scholar while holding an Honorary Fellowship at the University of Southampton and preparing (with Jenny Byrne) an extensive study of British postwar (1945-51) lives. 


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