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Ordinary, ambivalent and defensive: class identities in the Northwest of England

Savage, M, Bagnall, G and Longhurst, BJ 2001, 'Ordinary, ambivalent and defensive: class identities in the Northwest of England' , Sociology, 35 (4) , pp. 875-892.

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Abstract

This paper uses data gathered from an ESRC funded research project on social networks, social capital and lifestyle to provide an account of contemporary class identities derived from 178 in-depth interviews carried out in the Manchester area between 1997 and 1999. We use this data to unpack the ambivalent nature of contemporary class identities. We argue that despite the diversity of the sample, a number of common elements characterize people’s attitudes to class. People are more hesitant in placing themselves in classes than they are about talking class as a social and political issue. Most people wish to see themselves as ‘outside’ classes. Even so, class is a marker by which people relate their life histories, and most people are aware of class terminology. The major division in our sample is between those with the cultural capital to play reflexively with ideas of class, and those who lack these resources and feel threatened by the implications of relating class to their own personal identities. This latter group are mainly concerned to establish their own ‘ordinariness’, which we read as a defensive device to avoid the politics of being labelled in class terms. Both middle-class and working-class identities can be used to establish ordinariness. We argue that sociologists should not assume that there is any necessary significance in how respondents define their class identity in surveys. We use these findings to take forward debates deriving from Bourdieu regarding class identity.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Class, cultural capital, identity, narrative, omnivorousness, ordinariness
Themes: Subjects / Themes > H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Colleges and Schools > College of Arts & Social Sciences
Colleges and Schools > College of Health & Social Care
Colleges and Schools > College of Health & Social Care > School of Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences > Centre for Social Research
Colleges and Schools > College of Arts & Social Sciences > School of Humanities, Languages & Social Sciences
Colleges and Schools > College of Health & Social Care > School of Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences
Journal or Publication Title: Sociology
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 00380385
Depositing User: H Kenna
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2007 15:28
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2014 14:30
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/1486

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