Michael Young

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For the Major League Baseball player, Michael Young, see Michael Young (baseball player).

Michael Young, Lord Young of Dartington (August 9, 1915, Manchester - January 14, 2002) was a British sociologist, social activist and politician. During an active life he founded or helped found a remarkable number of socially useful organizations. These include the Consumers' Association, the Open University and Language Line, a telephone-interpreting business.

Young's father was an Australian violinist and music critic, his mother a bohemian painter and actor. Until he was eight, he grew up in Melbourne, returning to England shortly before his parents' marriage broke up. He attended several schools, eventually entering Dartington Hall, a new progressive school in Devon, in the 1920s. He would have a long association with the small school, as its trustee, deputy chairman and historian. He studied economics at London University and qualified as a barrister.

He helped bring the Labour Party Government led by Clement Attlee into office, single-handedly writing Labour's 1945 manifesto as the Party's young Director of Research. He left the post in 1950 and began PhD studies at the London School of Economics in 1952. His studies of housing and local government policy in East London left him disillusioned with the state of community relations and local Labour councillors. This prompted him to found the urban studies think tank, the Institute for Community Studies, which was to be Young's principal vehicle for exploring his ideas of social reform and creating over sixty institutions. Its basic tenet was to give people more say in running their lives and institutions.

He wrote the influential essay The Rise Of The Meritocracy in 1958, originally for the Fabian Society although they refused to publish it. It led to a change in Labour's thinking on equal opportunities and coined the word meritocracy. It was at this time too that Young began work on the Consumer's Association, the National Consumer Council and the Open University.

Throughout his life and particularly in later life, Young was concerned for older people and that society should take notice of them. He co-founded the University of the Third Age and Linkage, bringing together older people without grandchildren, and young people without grandparents.

Young married three times. In 1945, he wed Joan Lawton, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. They divorces and, in 1960, he married Sasha Moorsom, the novelist, sculptor and painter, with whom he had a son and daughter. They worked together on several projects, including in the townships of South Africa. After Sasha's death in 1993, Young married Dorit Uhlemann, with whom he had a daughter. Toby Young, Michael Young's son with Moorsom, is a celebrity journalist and writer, best-known for his book, How To Lose Friends and Alienate People.

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