William Foote White
Street Corner Society (Summary)

  • Wanted at first to do expenditure of Italian poor as in Economics
  • Economics became Sociology - joined into slum life
  • Hung about with corner boys
  • On street corners and around shops
  • College boys wanted an education - get out of the slum.
  • Doc was the Nortons' gang leader
  • Everyone knew Bill was writing a book
  • Doc protected Bill, legitimised Bill's place
  • Doc told Bill how to look, act and speak
  • Doc advised William Whyte not to ask awkward questions
    • who, what , why, when, where
    • Wait for the information to emerge
  • He even trained him in research methods!
  • Doc changed his behaviour
    • With "Bill" around Doc thought about what was wanted and how to explain it
  • Whyte wrote about fully this in the Appendix
  • Whyte became like a member of the corner gang
    • He moved into Cornerville
  • Losing his research purpose, he moved away
    • He was, after all, a researcher
  • Leading members of the gang achieved higher scores from bowling!
  • Whyte was unsure when to stop the research
  • There is interpretivism:
    • Street corner gang
    • Racketeering
    • College boys
  • There is also some social structure:
    • Structure of society
    • Social mobility
    • Local politics

Ethical and Methdological issues

What practical steps secure anonymity? (Look at the next question before answering.)

Gang members reading the research can work out who is who. What is the effect?

What might the police think?

When should researchers pass privileged knowledge directly to the police?

Did Whyte have to join in illegal activities?

What are the dangers of relying on a key informant like Doc? Was Whyte himself a privileged interpreter to the world?

Whyte and Doc changed as a result of the research. What criticism can be made of the methodology?