Tom Burns 1913–2001

Gianfranco Poggi

in Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 120, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows, II

Published by British Academy

Published in print December 2003 | ISBN: 9780197263020
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734199 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Tom Burns 1913–2001

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Tom Burns had possessed extraordinary professional gifts as an observer and analyst of social life ‘on the ground’. He preferred practising sociology rather than debating its nature or justifying its existence. One might say that, throughout his career, he preferred being a practitioner of sociology to being an apologist for it. Tom's overall intellectual stance expressed a deep commitment to the moral values and the political priorities associated with the British labour tradition. He always wrote to a high literary standard, which reflected on the one hand his thorough familiarity with British and European literature, and on the other his keen sense for the social and moral significance of the way people express themselves verbally in ‘real life’. His accounts of organisational life devote a great deal of attention to local speech codes — the expressive and ritual aspects of the way in which people address each other in a variety of contexts.

Keywords: sociologists; social life; British labour tradition; organizational life; speech codes; British literature; European literature

Chapter.  8334 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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