Class and Contemporary British Culture


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This chapter explores, then, how Essex has become known as the home of unthinking new right working-class Conservatism and of the worst excesses of consumerism. We begin with a consideration of how Essex people, and especially the people of Basildon, have been regarded as being in the vanguard of Thatcherism, and how they were also looked to by politicians and pundits as a reliable barometer of its popular appeal. From time to time the outcasts of the consumer society assume the role of its Luddites — going on the rampage Paying special attention to political debates around educational achievement in the context of meritocracy and personal responsibility, it explores the ways in which educational choice is presented, taken up or passed by and how this then reflects critically on the perceived class status of children and their families.

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More generally, it considers how the values which embed current discourses on education and socialmobility are reinforced, tested and sometimes challenged in lifestyle journalism, reality television and social observation documentary. In doing so it points to the pressures, conflicts and contradictions of class identity and class mobility both up and downwards and the ways in which these intersect with the experience of education and the individual investments which it currently demands.

As in Chapter 4, this chapter addresses public narratives about choice, social advancement and individual achievement, but this time through a consideration of celebrity life stories rather than educational attainment. Here we explore life stories as a resource for understanding the politics of class and aspiration and its attachment to the language of ambition, merit, chance and opportunity, consumption and work. These are unpacked via celebrity autobiography in particular; focusing on the manufacture of celebrity life stories as paradigms of social mobility.

This chapter addresses the representation of the British upper classes and the mediation of their social practices and values. In doing so it seeks to explore the ways in which the upper classes are accommodated and condoned within an unequal society despite the often-repeated conviction that success should be achieved through merit both within and also across generations. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

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A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. In our very different ways, perhaps, we were attentive to the radicalism at the heart of conservative aspiration and wanted to expose the development of a defensive individualism which warded off internal dissent, external threats and alternative polit- ical models and ideals. The book suddenly came together and found its final form and urgency as an analysis of the increasingly uneven terrain in which neoliberal sub- jects were expected to either thrive, survive or fall by the wayside during hard times.

As such it bears the hallmarks, strengths and weaknesses of a project which was a long time in the making but was finally executed in response to dramatically changing political and social conditions.


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This Preface is being composed only a few weeks after the 7th May General Election which resulted in a majority Conservative Gov- ernment. Significantly, it also produced a picture of Britain divided by electoral preference and voting distribution with, for exam- ple, the Scottish National Party enjoying a landslide victory in Scotland.

Happily, this study was well received on its own terms as an attempt to stake out the terrain, to log landmarks and to chart some of the shifts and changes which have taken place in the symbolic topog- raphy of class in national terms. Since many others have risen to the challenge of addressing the coordinates of social class, the menace of class labelling and the potential for social change from the perspective of particular British nations, regions, cultures and identities. We hope this book will continue to be read alongside these and will work in dialogue with them to produce new and productive ways of thinking about both the lived experience of class and the class stories we choose to produce, circulate and consume.

We extend special thanks to Roehampton for the award of a research sabbatical to each of the authors. We are also grateful for the friendly and painstaking assis- tance of Suzy Hyde and her colleagues at Roehampton Media Services in tracking down many of the broadcast resources referred to here.


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Sally Munt, in particular, has been unfailingly enthusiastic and encouraging about the value of this project over more years than we care to recall. Nunn and A.

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British Cultural & Social Etiquette

View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title How does culture articulate, frame, organise and produce stories about social class and class difference?

Class and Contemporary British Culture Class and Contemporary British Culture
Class and Contemporary British Culture Class and Contemporary British Culture
Class and Contemporary British Culture Class and Contemporary British Culture
Class and Contemporary British Culture Class and Contemporary British Culture
Class and Contemporary British Culture Class and Contemporary British Culture
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