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Discourses of 'class' in Britain in 'New Times'

Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, FA; (2017) Discourses of 'class' in Britain in 'New Times'. Contemporary British History , 31 (2) pp. 294-317. 10.1080/13619462.2017.1306199. Green open access

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Abstract

In the 1980s, the New Times writers suggested that economic and cultural changes were ushering in an era where diverse identities were replacing ‘class’. This was a vision which the Labour Party feared, but which Margaret Thatcher embraced. In her rhetoric, she celebrated what she saw as a decline in the significance of class identities and distinctions. This article examines the place and meanings of ‘class’ in subjective accounts of ‘class’ in the period, from ‘ordinary’ individuals. It argues that many people, when asked about ‘class’ in interviews or by Mass Observation, foregrounded ‘ordinariness’ as central to their identity. Many took ‘seeing people as members of a class’ to mean snobbishness or deference. ‘Class’ was frequently taken to mean pretentiousness and/or inferiority—and this was a highly negative meaning. Many asserted that they themselves had, or at least aspired to, a ‘classless’, socially egalitarian outlook, and were neither snobbish nor deferential. However, most people also identified and critiqued large, structural inequalities in British society. The place of ‘class’ in British society and culture in this period remained complex and often contradictory.

Type: Article
Title: Discourses of 'class' in Britain in 'New Times'
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/13619462.2017.1306199
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13619462.2017.1306199
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Class, Thatcher, Labour Party, subjectivities, deference
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1540577
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