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'felt they are being blamed for their own marginalization'
June 16, 2014 9:03 PM   Subscribe

FT: A Portrait Of Europe's [well, at least the UK's] White Working Class

Open Society Foundations: Understanding Europe’s White Working Class Communities
When the Open Society Foundations studied the integration experiences of Muslim and Somali communities in Western Europe, the research found that the majority in an economically deprived community could also be marginalized and victims of inequality—in different ways, perhaps, but with many of the same results. So in 2012, Open Society initiated a project to better understand and offer a platform to marginalized majority communities in six northwest European cities—Aarhus, Amsterdam, Berlin, Lyon, Manchester, and Stockholm. This research provides an insight into the daily experiences of white working class communities across Europe.
Open Society Foundations:Europe’s White Working Class Communities: A Report on Six EU Cities

The Economist: Labour's electorate - The new working class
posted by the man of twists and turns (29 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Saw the FT article before, a great read, thanks for posting with more related info!
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:36 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


God, can you imagine people being this thoughtful on groups of a *different* race? But still it's nice to see.
posted by dame at 11:24 PM on June 16


[A couple of comments deleted. Okay! Let's rewind without the joke and then the confusion about the joke and the explanation of the joke, etc., and let the discussion get off the ground.]
posted by taz at 11:25 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


God, can you imagine people being this thoughtful on groups of a *different* race?

Isn't that a rather strange comment to make, given that it says right in the pullquote that this project was started when the foundation worked with (minority) groups of different ethnic backgrounds and noticed that many of the factors also applied to the majority group?
posted by effbot at 12:03 AM on June 17 [27 favorites]


Previously
posted by modernnomad at 12:36 AM on June 17


One of David’s sons works casually as a steward at Manchester United Football Club. David says: “You’ve got to have a mobile, because they text you. You go there, the fourth-richest club in the world, and they say: ‘By the way, you need this baseball cap, that’s £5 out of your wages. You need this badge, that’s £3.’”
Appalling.
posted by brokkr at 1:42 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Appalling.

This happens all the time. When I worked at Target a number of years ago, you had to wear a red shirt and khaki pants to work, and if you didn't already own some, you had to buy them yourself. There wasn't a discount on that as far as I can remember.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 1:49 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Yea that garbage is pretty common. Even worse is people who work at upscale clothing stores, getting paid barely above minimum wage, being expected to buy $150 pants and $70 shirts and such to wear while they work. And then getting berated for wearing the same outfit every day. Or being forced to rebuy when that's "last seasons collection", etc.

Employees being required to purchase items that are mandated for work should be illegal in all civilized countries. £5 or £3 is still a bridge too far, but it's also the tip of the iceberg. The worst I've been hit is having to spend ~$40 on a couple pairs of used black slacks and white button downs that met the exacting requirements, but it still felt heinous. I know people who have had to quit/been fired from jobs over this stuff.

Even mcdonalds has literally, McDonald's brand pants and shirts.
posted by emptythought at 2:18 AM on June 17 [11 favorites]


that many of the factors also applied to the majority group

The people in the article are not the majority group, that's a major part of the point. Class is a huge source of division in the UK as regards wealth, health, education and opportunity, and its certainly possible to be the same race as the majority without being part of the majority.
posted by biffa at 3:09 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


The people in the article are not the majority group, that's a major part of the point.

They're the majority group in the communities studied, as spelled out clearly in the first few paragraphs of the report. Also, my comment wasn't about minority/majority but race/ethnicism, as can be trivially inferred from the comment I quoted and replied to. Don't pull things out of context.
posted by effbot at 3:26 AM on June 17


Even mcdonalds has literally, McDonald's brand pants and shirts.

Wait, when I worked at McDonald's in high school (in 1986, granted) they issued us that stuff for free and we returned it when we quit. Do they make you pay for it now?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:22 AM on June 17


Employees being required to purchase items that are mandated for work should be illegal in all civilized countries.

Sadly, "It's deductible from your taxes!" is the all-too-common reply, because people are shit at math and don't get that the "break" is less than most employee discounts.
posted by Etrigan at 4:25 AM on June 17


Everybody that reads this article (and its author) need to go get themselves a copy of Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier which is this article in long form written in the 1930s.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:10 AM on June 17 [5 favorites]


Road to Wigan Pier .txt
posted by Blasdelb at 5:27 AM on June 17 [6 favorites]


I should add that reading Wiggan Pier not only gives you the perspective that there is nothing new under the sun, as few things have changed much from the book to this article, but it also gives insight into how things got to be the way they are in the deindustrialized slums (and later council flats). Orwell even blames a lot of the complacency on processed food and on-demand entertainment (ie., movies in his case)!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:44 AM on June 17


"[Cameron's] catchphrase for national bad behaviour is “Broken Britain”. Yet statistics don’t suggest a broken country. Crime in England and Wales is at its lowest since the authoritative Crime Survey began in 1982. The teenage pregnancy rate is the lowest since records began in 1969. The percentage of workless households is the lowest since comparable records began in 1996. Alcohol consumption has been falling since 2005. School results keep improving.

Still, blaming poverty on bad behaviour is appealing, because it implies that all the government has to do is fix people’s behaviour. There’s no need to raise the minimum wage, provide affordable childcare or improve mental-health services. Blaming the poor comes naturally, because politics and journalism are now staffed overwhelmingly by upper-middle-class people based in central London. It’s the ideal vantage-point for “chav-bashing”.

As Jones argues, these top-down assaults serve a political purpose. If poor people have made themselves poor, then economic inequality and the dismantling of the welfare state are justified."
All of this. Of course, when the banks act badly or lose money, we are all expected to give them a handout and never mention it again.
posted by billiebee at 5:48 AM on June 17 [15 favorites]


Alcohol consumption has been falling since 2005.

A friend just got back from his annual trip to visit family in the north (very much white working class, I think he's the first to have gone to university in the extended family) and his purely anecdotal comment was that visible public drunkenness keeps getting worse every trip, which of course isn't incompatible with overall consumption falling.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:04 AM on June 17


I'm always a bit dubious about the phrase "white working class", as if this is an obviously distinct group. How much of this is actually specific to white working class people, but not non-white working class people?
It’s a class hit by deindustrialisation, economic crisis and the crumbling of the welfare state.
It’s a class typically depicted either as a joke or a threat.
The caricature: half-witted racist scroungers in tracksuits milking the welfare state from their sofas.
“Community”, an overused word, actually exists here.
Many people here have “zero-hours contracts”: no guaranteed income, but you must be available to work if needed, and you can’t claim most benefits.
many white working-class people disengage from society.
The OSF report found great distrust of politicians, media and police
So, is there a black working class who are doing just great from deindustrialisation and economic crisis, are not perceived as a joke or a threat, have no sense of community, have stable long-term employment, are engaged with society and are overflowing with trust for politicians and police?

Or is it perhaps useful sometimes to play divide-and-rule with the working class?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:33 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


How much of this is actually specific to white working class people, but not non-white working class people?

As noted in the FPP as well as TFA:
When the Open Society Foundations studied the integration experiences of Muslim and Somali communities in Western Europe, the research found that the majority in an economically deprived community could also be marginalized and victims of inequality—in different ways, perhaps, but with many of the same results.
(emphasis added)

Despite your concerns, people are looking at these sorts of things from many different perspectives, and this is probably not a long con to divide and conquer the working classes. You'll find that sort of thing has been happening forever regardless of whether academia is studying the phenomena.
posted by Etrigan at 6:38 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


I lived in New Moston, which is close to Higher Blackley, from 2005 through 2008. I can only hope that alcohol consumption is falling; while I was there I was amazed at the amounts of alcohol that people consumed.

I think the article is inaccurate when it claims that the word "chav" refers to the British working class as a whole. I only heard it used to refer to shaven-headed young males in track suits who went around drinking, fighting, and smashing innocent bus shelters.
posted by crazylegs at 7:04 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


I think the article is inaccurate when it claims that the word "chav" refers to the British working class as a whole.

No, it's pretty widely used for working-class people, young single mothers, people who wear pyjamas to the supermarket, people on benefits...
chav is acceptable class abuse by people asserting superiority over those they despise. Poisonous class bile is so ordinary that our future king and his brother played at dressing up and talking funny at a chav party mocking their lower class subjects.
posted by billiebee at 7:15 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


We have reached a stage when the very word 'Socialism' calls up, on the one
hand, a picture of aeroplanes, tractors, and huge glittering factories
of glass and concrete; on the other, a picture of vegetarians with
wilting beards, of Bolshevik commissars (half gangster, half
gramophone), of earnest ladies in sandals, shock-headed Marxists chewing
polysyllables, escaped Quakers, birth-control fanatics, and Labour Party
backstairs-crawlers. Socialism, at least in this island, does not smell
any longer of revolution and the overthrow of tyrants; it smells of
crankishness, machine-worship, and the stupid cult of Russia. Unless you
can remove that smell, and very rapidly, Fascism may win.

posted by KokuRyu at 7:52 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


I think the article is inaccurate when it claims that the word "chav" refers to the British working class as a whole.

No, it's pretty widely used for working-class people, young single mothers, people who wear pyjamas to the supermarket, people on benefits...


That's how those things always start and propagate: "Oh, I'm not being [classist|racist|otherist], I'm only making fun of these people, who do bad things, and it's just coincidence that virtually all of these people belong to this [class|race|other]." It then gets more and more generalized until the original target is only ever used as a post-hoc justification. See also Chris Rock's famous bit, which he doesn't do anymore.
posted by Etrigan at 8:04 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


In regards to the focus on a "white working class" here, isn't part of it the idea that it's white working class folk that are voting for Ukip etc? That said, haven't certain parts of Britain like Manchester, Liverpool, and London been multiracial for at least a couple of hundred years?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:11 AM on June 17


From TA:
Some say this class is turning instead to populist parties. That’s dubious. True, Ukip topped the polls in last month’s European elections in Britain, with 28 per cent of the vote. However, turnout was just 34 per cent. That means only 9 per cent of British voters backed Ukip. Similarly, in Higher Blackley’s local elections last month, Ukip finished second behind Labour, backed by 11 per cent of eligible voters. Two-thirds of Higher Blackley’s voters didn’t vote. This hardly amounts to an embrace of populism. One of the OSF’s researchers noted an obstacle for the anti-European Ukip in Higher Blackley: “In one year here, I’ve never heard anyone mention Europe as an issue.”
posted by billiebee at 8:29 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


From the report:
It is recognised that the term “white working class” does not translate neatly into the public and political discourse in different European countries. In this project it is used as shorthand for members of the “majority” population living in neighbourhoods and districts with high indicators of social, economic and political marginalisation. The definition and concept of a “majority” population is also problematic. In this research it was defined as individuals who are citizens of the country where the research was taking place and born in that country and whose parents also were both born in the country and citizens of that country.
The use of "white" is problematic indeed and it's unfortunate that the authors choose such a term to describe that population.
posted by elgilito at 9:07 AM on June 17


Poisonous class bile is so ordinary that our future king and his brother played at dressing up and talking funny at a chav party mocking their lower class subjects.

Look, we just got Harry to stop putting on a Nazi uniform or dropping trou entirely, baby steps.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:07 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


That's how those things always start and propagate: "Oh, I'm not being [classist|racist|otherist], I'm only making fun of these people, who do bad things, and it's just coincidence that virtually all of these people belong to this [class|race|other]."

Growing up in the deep south of the US you have to hear a lot about the "difference" between "black people" and "n[word]s".

*Edit: Or the topic of Chris Rock's "bit" which is oft quoted by these same folks that will tell you that "some of their best friends are black".
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:55 AM on June 17


Incidentally, and not to continue beating the Wiggan Pier horse here, but Orwell most definitely addresses the issue of "aristocracy" and what he calls the "Lower-Upper-Middle Class" or the financially downtrodden "upper crust" and their fictional belief that they are somehow superior to the lower classes (particularly in Chapter 8). He talks about his own struggles to overcome the pervasive and ingrained (inbred?) classism.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:02 AM on June 17


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