"Elias argued that the study should not be about work but instead the ‘work situation’ as many of the problems faced by young people rarely sprang from work in isolation of other situations. For Elias this came much closer to offering a better understanding of the problems faced by young workers than could be offered by a study of ‘work’. As for the research problem of the Research Officers, Elias suggested that their approach was simply trying to look for causal relationships between the different aspects of the sample. Elias felt that such an approach was far too conventional and ignored the relationships and processes that surround the work situation that constitute the young workers experience. In response to their initial theoretical problem, Elias suggested that their working hypothesis

 "…is even worse. It is based on the idea…that men’s [sic] attitudes and behaviour are the passive effects of a social environment here represented by A, B and C. It has been by now fairly widely accepted that this type of billiard ball causality: Billiard ball B (behaviour and attitudes) in its course determined by the movement of Billiard ball A (Features of the background…features of the work situation, labour market), does not provide a very suitable model of thinking in relation to what one actually observes. I would suggest that the Research Officers think of the experiences of the young workers…[and] that they cease to think in wishy-washy terms like ‘Background’ or ‘Features of the Background’ and learn to think in situations as wholes, in configurations…(Elias, 1963: 7)

According to Elias (1963), the differences in the understanding of his ideas and concepts, contained within the original grant application, meant that the researchers were undertaking a different project to that originally proposed by him. The ongoing misunderstandings over research direction, and Elias’s constant suggestion that the researchers lacked even a basic understanding of what the research was about, led the researchers to perceive that Elias had no real confidence in them or their ability."


John Goodwin and Henrietta O'Connor: Forty Years On: Norbert Elias and the Young Worker Project. CLMS Working Paper No 35 (Centre for Labour Market Studies, University of Leicester), pp. 6-7