14th June

at the back of the lecture theatre hoping that we wouldn’t be noticed. In those days a twelve-week course and the first half focused on Marx’s writings and the second dedicated to Freud’s thought. Vic would come in and make some announcements. Then he would start to talk using no notes. He would explain the intricacies of Marx’s theory of alienation or Freud’s conceptualisation of the unconscious, one lucid sentence after another. All the while he would pace up and down in front of us, as if he was taking these ideas for a walk. Sim and I used to say to each other afterwards: “How does he do that!” Watching him teach or give a paper, I am still struck by that same sense of wonder.

Although neither Sim nor I were officially his students, we’d go for meetings and tutorials with him. Sim is from Manchester his father worked in the print. His mother died when he was very young. He had four brothers. His father had to fight to keep his sons together after the bereavement, the social workers wanted to put them in care claiming that their father wouldn’t be able to cope. The boys develop a deep sense of solidarity and fierce suspicion of powerful institutions. His domestic space was like an extension of the print shop floor – I won’t repeat the kind industrial language that was exchanged over whose turn it was to do the washing or to make the tea. Sim would go and see Vic to try and figure out how to understand his own life. How to frame it – this is one of Vic’s favourite phrases –


through the complex inter-relationships between gender, generation and class particularly in relation to masculinity.

I saw Sim recently at his father’s funeral. His Dad had lived an extraordinary life and in retirement he painted, wrote poetry and would offer a recital Rudyard Kipling’s “If” at a drop of hat (drunk or sober). Sim recalled those tutorials with Vic in the heyday of Thatcherism. He described going into his office in the front of 47 Lewisham Way. You would go in and there were books and papers everywhere, a Persian rug on the floor, picture of Freud on one wall and Marx on the other. Vic would be in a chair at the centre of all the piles of papers and books often wearing on his feat a pair of slippers. He is interested not only in you but what you are interested in. It always conveyed such a sense of being valued. Simone Weil, one of Vic’s early influences, wrote: “‘You don’t interest me.’ No man can say these words to another without committing a cruelty and offending against justice.” I think these words have guided Vic’s way of practicing a sociological vocation. The other thing that he taught us very early on is that there is no hope in changing the world or even understanding it better, without first trying to change ourselves. Sim actually appeared as a ‘case study’ in a book by Harry Christian – one of Vic ‘s associates – called The Making of Anti-Sexist Men.

Vic’s political commitments made him a writer. He writes not because his day job




20 June