Michael Young, Baron Young of Dartington

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Young of Dartington
Member of the House of Lords
In office
20 March 1978 – 14 January 2002
Personal details
Born (1915-08-09)9 August 1915
Manchester, England
Died 14 January 2002(2002-01-14) (aged 86)
London, England
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Joan Lawson
(m. 1945–60)
Sasha Moorsom
(m. 1960–93)
Dorit Uhlemann
(m. 1995–2002)
Relations Toby Young, son
Children 3 sons and 3 daughters
Alma mater London School of Economics
Awards Albert Medal (1992)

Michael Young, Baron Young of Dartington (9 August 1915 – 14 January 2002) was a British sociologist, social activist and politician who coined the term "meritocracy".

During an active life he was instrumental in shaping Labour Party thinking. When secretary of the policy committee of the Labour Party he was responsible for drafting "Let Us Face the Future", Labour's manifesto for the 1945 general election,[1] was a leading protagonist on social reform, and founded or helped found a number of socially useful organisations. These include the Consumers' Association, Which? magazine, the National Consumer Council, the Open University, the National Extension College, the Open College of the Arts and Language Line, a telephone-interpreting business.

Early life and education[edit]

Grave in Highgate Cemetery, London

Young was born in Manchester, the son of an Australian violinist and music critic, and an Irish Bohemian painter and actress. Until he was eight, he grew up in Melbourne, returning to England shortly before his parents' marriage broke up. He attended several schools, eventually entering Dartington Hall, a new progressive school in Devon, in the 1920s. He had a long association with the small school, as student, trustee, deputy chairman and historian. He studied economics at the London School of Economics then became a barrister when he applied to be called to the Bar in 1939.

Political career and thought[edit]

During the war Second World War Young served as director of the Political and Economic Planning think tank and became director of research for the Labour Party where he wrote the manifesto for the 1945 general election and the vast speakers' handbook. He served under the Labour Party government led by Clement Attlee, but left in 1950 claiming the party had run out of ideas. He called for the establishment of a Social Science Research Council and became its first director 17 years later.[2]

He began studying for a PhD at the London School of Economics in 1952. His studies of housing and local government policy in East London left him disillusioned with the state of community relations and local Labour councillors. This prompted him to found the Institute of Community Studies, which was his principal vehicle for exploring his ideas of social reform. Its basic tenet was to give people more say in running their lives and institutions. Butler argues that it drew upon existing bodies of research in social psychology and sociology to highlight the relevance of the extended family in modern society and to offer a model of socialist citizenship, solidarity and mutual support not tied to productive work. Young promoted the supportive kinship networks of the urban working class, and an idealized conception of the relationships between women, to suggest that family had been overlooked by the left and should be reclaimed as a progressive force. The goal was to strengthen the working-class family as set it up as a model for cooperative socialism.[3]

He also founded the Mutual Aid Centre at this time. Young co-authored with Peter Willmott Family and Kinship in East London, documenting and analysing the social costs of rehousing a tight-knit community in a suburban housing estate (known affectionately by sociologists as Fakinel and invariably pronounced with a cockney accent).[note 1]

In 1958, Young also wrote the influential satire The Rise of the Meritocracy, originally for the Fabian Society, which refused to publish it. In it he coined the word "meritocracy," to which he gave negative connotations, and he became disappointed with how the concept came to be seen as an achievable concept worth pursuing.[1]

Young's social research also contributed to the change in secondary education that led to widespread abolition of grammar schools and their replacement by comprehensive schools between 1965 and 1976, as well as the abolition of the 11-plus.[4][irrelevant citation]

In the 1950s and 1960s Young helped to found the Consumers' Association and the National Consumer Council claiming that "politics will become less and less the politics of production, and more and more the politics of consumption", presenting the ideas in a book The Chipped White Cups Of Dover.[2]

In 1960 he started the Advisory Centre for Education[5] the National Extension College and, with Peter Laslett, a dawn university on Anglia Television,[6] which became prototypes of the Open University which Harold Wilson launched in 1964, building on his vision.[7][2]

In the mid-1980s, Young co-founded International Alert, together with Leo Kuper and Martin Ennals.[8][9]

In 1987 he founded the Open College of the Arts, confounding critics who maintained that the arts could not be taught by distance methods. He also founded Language Line, a telephone interpreting business, to enable non-English-speaking people to have equal access to public services. He fostered the work of many younger researchers and "social entrepreneurs", and founded the School for Social Entrepreneurs in 1997. Aspects of Young's work are being developed by the Young Foundation, created from the merger of his Institute of Community Studies and his Mutual Aid Centre, under the direction of Geoff Mulgan.

Throughout his life, and particularly in later life, Young was concerned for older people. In 1982 he co-founded the University of the Third Age with Peter Laslett and Eric Midwinter,[10] and Linkage, bringing together older people without grandchildren and young people without grandparents. In 2001 he co-founded the charity Grandparents Plus to champion the role of the wider family in children's lives.

According to his friend Eric Midwinter, "All his thought, all his incisive writing, all his brilliantly conceived schemes, all his astutely handled initiatives were guided by a salient method. He was a utopian socialist. His thinking stemmed from the views of 19th century radicals like Robert Owen, Saint-Simon or Charles Fourier, with their hatred of massive institutionalism, be it in the hands of the public authority or of the large commercial company."[11]

Young was a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, from 1961 to 1966, and President of Birkbeck, University of London, from 1989 to 1992.

Although an egalitarian, Young accepted a life peerage on 20 March 1978, taking the title Baron Young of Dartington.[12] His many projects required frequent travel to London and the peerage offered free rail travel and attendance allowance at a time when he had run out of money.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Young married three times. In 1945 he married Joan Lawton, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. They divorced and in 1960 he married Sasha Moorsom, a novelist, sculptor and painter with whom he had a son and a daughter. Young and Moorsom worked together on several projects, including in the townships of South Africa. Moorsom died in 1993 and in 1995 Young married Dorit Uhlemann, with whom he had a daughter.

Toby Young, Michael Young's son with Moorsom, is a journalist and writer.[14]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Will the War Make Us Poorer? [with Sir Henry Noel Young] (1943)
  • Civil Aviation (1944)
  • The Trial of Adolf Hitler (1944)
  • There's Work for All [with Theodor Prager] (1945)
  • Labour's Plan for Plenty (1947)
  • What is a Socialised Industry? (1947)
  • Small Man, Big World: A Discussion of Socialist Democracy (1949)
  • Fifty Million Unemployed (1952)
  • Study of the Extended Family in East London (1955)
  • Family and Kinship in East London [with Peter Willmott] (1957)
  • The Rise of the Meritocracy (1958)
  • Chipped White Cups of Dover: A Discussion of the Possibility of a New Progressive Party (1960)
  • Family and Class in a London Suburb [with Peter Willmott] (1960)
  • New Look at Comprehensive Schools [with Michael Armstrong] (1964)
  • Innovation and Research in Education (1967)
  • Forecasting and the Social Sciences [ed.] (1968)
  • Hornsey Plan: A Role for Neighbourhood Councils in the New Local Government (1971)
  • Is Equality a Dream? (1972)
  • Lifeline Telephone Service for the Elderly: An Account of a Pilot Project in Hull [with Peter G. Gregory] (1972)
  • Learning Begins at Home: A Study of a Junior School and its Parents [with Patrick McGeeney] (1973)
  • Symmetrical Family: A Study of Work and Leisure in the London Region [with Peter Willmott] (1973)
  • Mutual Aid in a Selfish Society: A Plea for Strengthening the Co-operative Movement [with Marianne Rigge] (1979)
  • Building Societies and the Consumer: A Report [with Marianne Rigge] (1981)
  • Report from Hackney: A Study of an Inner-City Area [with others] (1981)
  • The Elmhirsts of Dartington: The Creation of an Utopian Community (1982)
  • Inflation, Unemployment and the Remoralisation of Society (1982)
  • Up the Hill to Cowley Street: Views of Tawney Members on SDP Policy [ed. with Tony Flower and Peter Hall] (1982)
  • Revolution from Within: Cooperatives and Cooperation in British Industry [with Marianne Rigge] (1983)
  • Social Scientist as Innovator (1983)
  • To Merge or Not to Merge? (1983)
  • Development of New Growth Areas: Workers' Cooperatives and Their Environment: Comparative Analysis with a View to Job Creation: Support for Worker Cooperatives in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Netherlands [with Marianne Rigge] (1985)
  • Metronomic Society: Natural Rhythms and Human Timetables (1988)
  • Rhythms of society [ed. with Tom Schuller] (1988)
  • Campaign for Children's After-School Clubs: The Case for Action [with Matthew Owen] (1991)
  • Life After Work: The Arrival of the Ageless Society [with Tom Schuller, Johnston Birchall and Gwyneth Vernon) (1991)
  • Governing London [with Jerry White] (1996)
  • The New East End: Kinship, Race and Conflict [with Geoff Dench and Kate Gavron] (2006)

List of Institutions established with the involvement of Michael Young[edit]

  • Institute of Community Studies, 1954 (director 1954-2002, now part of the Young Foundation)[15]
  • Consumers' Association, 1957 (chairman 1957-65, president 1965-93)
  • South African Committee for Higher Education, 1959 (founding sponsor)
  • Botswana Extension College, 1959
  • Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre, 1959
  • Advisory Centre for Education, 1959
  • Bethnal Green Exports Ltd, 1964–66
  • Social Science Research Council, 1965 (chairman 1965-68)
  • Thameside Research and Development Group, 1967–69
  • National Consumer Council, 1975 (chairman 1975-7)
  • National Extension College, 1962 (chairman 1962-71)
  • Open University, 1964
  • National Innovations Centre, 1968–74
  • Institute for Social Studies in Medical Care, 1970–94
  • International Extension College, 1971-2006
  • Social Audit, 1972
  • Mutual Aid Centre, 1977 (now part of the Young Foundation)
  • Commuter Study Clubs, 1980
  • International Alert, 1981
  • University of the Third Age, 1982
  • Tawney Society, 1982–88
  • College of Health, 1983
  • Association for the Social Study of Time, 1983
  • Argo Venture, 1984–95
  • Healthline, 1986
  • Open College of the Arts, 1987 (chairman 1987-91)
  • Centre for Electoral Choice, 1987
  • Centre for Educational Choice, 1988
  • LinkAge, 1988–95
  • Samizdat, 1988–90
  • Open School, 1989
  • Language Line, 1990
  • A Secondary Education Curriculum for Adults (ASECA), 1991 p35
  • Adult Basic Education Programme (ABEP), 1991
  • South African Institute of Distance Education (SAIDE), 1991
  • Education Extra, 1992
  • National Association for the Education of Sick Children, 1993
  • Tower Hamlets Independent News Service (THINK), 1993-4
  • National Funerals College, 1994
  • Family Covenant Association, 1994
  • Phoenix Education Trust, 2001 [16]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Young, Michael (29 June 2001), "Down with meritocracy: The man who coined the word four decades ago wishes Tony Blair would stop using it", The Guardian 
  2. ^ a b c Dean 2002.
  3. ^ Lise Butler, "Michael Young, the Institute of Community Studies, and the Politics of Kinship." Twentieth Century British History (2015): 26#2 pp 203-224
  4. ^ White, Michael (15 January 2002). "Lord Young dies at 86 | UK news | The Guardian". theguardian.com. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "History of the Advisory Centre for Education". Retrieved Feb 24, 2016. 
  6. ^ Briggs, Asa (1995). The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom:. Volume V: Competition. p. 476. Retrieved Feb 24, 2016. 
  7. ^ "The OU Story". The Open University. Retrieved Feb 24, 2016. 
  8. ^ http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt9t1nb5sg/
  9. ^ http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1057&context=gsp
  10. ^ Midwinter, Eric (2014) [2002]. 500 Beacons: The U3A Story. Third Age Press (Kindle Edition). Retrieved Feb 24, 2016. 
  11. ^ Midwinter, Eric (2014) [2004]. "Introduction". 500 Beacons: The U3A Story. Third Age Press. 
  12. ^ The London Gazette: no. 47497. p. 3663. 23 March 1978.
  13. ^ Dean, Malcolm (16 Jan 2002). "Lord Young of Dartington". Guardian Newspaper. Retrieved Feb 24, 2016. 
  14. ^ Toby Young (24 March 2010). "My Father Would Be Pleased About the Launch of a British Space Agency". The Spectator. 
  15. ^ Dench, Geoff; Flower, Tony; Gavron, Kate, eds. (2005) [1995]. Young at Eighty. pp. 235–241. 
  16. ^ Michael Barker (24 March 2014). "M An Education Fit For The Elite". 

Further reading[edit]

  • Butler, Lise. "Michael Young, the Institute of Community Studies, and the Politics of Kinship." Twentieth Century British History (2015): 26#2 pp 203-224

External links[edit]