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Michael Billig is one of the key figures in contemporary social psychology. He trained in Bristol with Henri Tajfel and as an experimental psychologist and helped design the so called minimal group experiments which were foundational to the social identity approach. He moved away from experimental work to considering issues of power, political extremism and ideology in a series of important books. His Social Psychology and Intergoup Relations (1976) offered a trenchant critique of orthodox approaches to prejudice in psychology. Fascists (1979) helped reveal the classic fascist and anti-semitic ideology underlying the UK's National Front at a time when it was bidding for political legitimacy and electoral success. In the 1980s his focus shifted to everyday thinking and the relationship between ideology and common sense. This strand of work is shown in the collectively written work Ideological Dilemmas (1988 - with Condor, Edwards, Gane, Middleton and Radley) and in his major study of ideology and the UK royal family, Talking of the Royal Family (1998, 2nd Edition).
His influence runs across the social sciences and he has been one of the key figures highlighting and reinvigorating the use of classic rhetorical thinking in the context of social issues. For example, he shows that attitudes are best understood not as individual positions on topics, but as emergent in contexts where there is a potential argument. This perspective is introduced in his book Arguing and Thinking (2nd Edition, 1996) and has been the basis for innovative approaches to topics as diverse as psychoanalysis, humour and nationalism. It is also an important element to discursive psychology.
Billig is Professor of Social Sciences at Loughborough University where he has worked since 1985. He is a member of the internationally influential Discourse and Rhetoric Group, working with figures such as Derek Edwards and Jonathan Potter.
Billig, M. (1976). Social Psychology and Intergroup Relations. London: Academic Press.
Billig, M. (1978). Fascists: A social psychological view of the National Front. London: Academic Press.
Billig, M., Condor, S., Edwards, D., Gane, M., Middleton, D. and Radley, A.R. (1988). Ideological Dilemmas. London: Sage Publications.
Billig, M. (1995). Banal Nationalism. London: Sage Publications.
Billig, M. (1996). Arguing and Thinking: a rhetorical approach to social psychology, revised edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Italian edition: Discutere e Pensare: un approccio retorico alla psicologia sociale. Milan: Raffaello Cortina, 1999).
Billig, M. (1998). Talking of the Royal Family: second edition with new introduction. London: Routledge.
Billig, M. (1999). Freudian Repression: conversation creating the unconscious. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521659566
Billig, M. (2000). Rock’n’Roll Jews. Nottingham: Five Leaves/ New York: Syracuse University Press.
Billig, M. (2005). Laughter and Ridicule: toward a social critique of humour. London: Sage.
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