‘Mass Gambling’ from 1947 to 2011: Controversies and Pathologies

Emma Casey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the relationship between Mass Observation and sociological method. It will demonstrate that often this relationship has been an uneasy one with the detailed, deeply qualitative and broadly ‘unstructured’ data elicited by Mass Observation frequently positioned as posing problems for sociologists particularly in terms of data analysis and interpretation. The paper will explore these debates by focusing on two case studies drawn from Mass Observation directives. The first will draw on the 1947 gambling study which was commissioned by the social reformer Seebohm Rowntree and his collaborator Commander G.R. Lavers and the second will draw on the 2011 ‘Gambling and Households’ directive. These case studies have been chosen because they help to illuminate the complexities of the concerns surrounding the sociological uses of Mass Observation. The paper will draw on correspondence between Rowntree, Lavers and co-founder of Mass Observation Tom Harrisson in 1947 which uncovers fascinating detail about Harrisson and Rowntree's shared commitment to revealing information about the everyday experiences and practices of working class life, but also some interesting disparities about what ‘sociological data’ might look like and what its purpose ought to be. The second case study draws on findings from the 2011 Gambling and Households directive. This directive offers an interesting historical comparison with the 1947 data. It flags up similarities particularly in terms of the moral framing of gambling, social attitudes to gambling pathologies and addictions and discourses about spending and winning money but also some notable differences particularly with regards to class identification and gambling. Each of these similarities and differences will be explored with the intention of demonstrating the particular uses of Mass Observation in uncovering the frequently overlooked and subjective patterns of intimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes


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