Department of Social Sciences
Leicestershire LE11 3TU
Phone: 44 (0)1509 223367
Michael Billig has been at Loughborough University since 1985, when he was appointed Professor of Social Sciences, having previously been in the Department of Psychology, University of Birmingham. Originally, Michael trained as an experimental social psychologist at the University of Bristol, under the supervision of Henri Tajfel, who was probably the most important social psychologist in post-war Britain and who influenced Michael greatly. Michael was involved in designing the original minimal group experiments, which formed the basis of Tajfel’s well-known Social Identity Theory. Since his Bristol days Michael’s interests, however, have moved towards qualitative and discursive approaches to the study of social psychology. He has been involved with others at Loughborough in developing new forms of social psychology which are closely linked with other social sciences and especially with the study of language.
He is the author of books and articles, which reflect his wide-ranging interests in various different topics. In Fascists (1978, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich) he examined the extreme far-right in Britain, looking at its ideology and its attraction to supporters. His interests in studying ideology are reflected in his books Ideology and Social Psychology (1982, Blackwell), Ideological Dilemmas (1988, Sage, written in collaboration with other colleagues at Loughborough) and Ideology and Beliefs (1991, Sage). Michael has argued that the ancient study of rhetoric offers much to the modern study of the human mind (Arguing and Thinking, 1978, Cambridge University Press). He has also attempted to recast the basic Freudian process of repression in terms of linguistic and rhetorical processes (Freudian Repression, 1999, Cambridge University Press). He has published books which question customary assumptions about the nature nationalism (Banal Nationalism, 1996, Sage); the psychology of humour (Ridicule and Laughter, 2005, Sage); and the history of psychology (The Hidden Roots of Critical Psychology, 2008, Sage).
In his latest book, Learn to Write Badly: how to succeed in the social sciences (2013, Cambridge University Press), Michael critically analyses the role of academic language in the social sciences. He argues that academics often use technical terminology to hide their ignorance and that ordinary, simpler language is typically more precise when it comes to describing human actions. He urges social scientists and psychologists to try to simplify their language and particularly to avoid the uncritical use of ‘big nouns’.
He currently works part-time at Loughborough University.