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Has identity politics replaced that of social class?

(54 Posts)
thatbags Sat 02-May-15 19:57:08

James Bloodworth seems to think it has and he doesn't seem to keen on the idea.

durhamjen Sat 02-May-15 20:47:25

I read it, bags, but I do not understand what he is getting at. Can you explain?
It might be because I completely disagreed with his first sentence.

thatbags Sat 02-May-15 20:58:46

What he's getting at is succinctly out in the third sentence, dj. It seems to me to be a sort of easy labelling system, a way of categorising people so that you don't actually have to hear first hand from individuals what they might think. I think he's getting at what I've seen called "group think" where people seem to lose the ability to think for themselves and just follow a crowd.

thatbags Sat 02-May-15 20:59:18

put, not out!

FlicketyB Sat 02-May-15 21:01:07

I think it is beginning to do so because, whatever may be said to the contrary, class divisions have become very fluid. The days of blue collar v white collar, those who work with their hands v those who work with their brains no longer applies. The vast majority of children, no matter what their parents occupations, go to State schools, property tenure is no longer an indication of social class. The street my friend used to live in had everybody from solicitors to bin men living in it - and it was a friendly and sociable street.

We can certainly look at political appointments and FTSE 100 companies and see that too many on company boards have identikit members, who generally have a similar privileged back ground, but below that level and for most of us we mix and match with people from a wide range of backgrounds and never really think about it. While the uniform social backgrounds of those in 'high places' must be a cause for concern too many people seem so obsessed by it they fail to look at what is happening among the other 99.9% of the population.

Mind you I am not sure that identity politics is any more viable. For example, what beyond their sexual identity do all Lesbians have in common, or all people who fall into the category BME, or the many broad categorisations of women, beyond that one stated fact. I often complain of the categorisation of older people as 'pensioners'. It tells you nothing about anyone other than that they fall into a very broad age range.

What do all Gransnetters have in common, beyond the ability to use a computer and sign-up for GN? A cursory read of half a dozen threads will show a wide diversity of social backgrounds, education, political views, social views.

I think the problem is that it is very difficult to categorise people at all these days. The only classification I think has any leg to stand on is possibly income. Whatever your class, education, ethnicity, sexual orientation, housing tenure, or all the other things currently used nothing defines, limits and opens up opportunities more than your income

durhamjen Sat 02-May-15 22:32:48

Still do not see what it's got to do with left-wing politics which is what he says in the first sentence. Is he saying that right-wingers do not do the same?
What Flickety says about money and housing is a case in point. There was a report in the i newspaper yesterday about social cleansing. More than 50,000 families have been shipped out of London boroughs in the last five years as a result of welfare cuts and soaring rents.

Ana Sat 02-May-15 22:38:59

thatbags, your post of 20.58 is I think spot-on!

jinglbellsfrocks Sat 02-May-15 22:54:34

I tried to read it. I tried really hard.

I think he's feeling all nostalgic for the likes of Arthur Scargill. And perhaps Neil Kinnock. And flat caps, and red flags. He's yearning for the days of 'Old Labour'.

rosequartz Sat 02-May-15 23:10:36

Wasn't it John Prescott who said 'We are all middle class now?
Are we? hmm

Whatever your class, education, ethnicity, sexual orientation, housing tenure, or all the other things currently used nothing defines, limits and opens up opportunities more than your income

I agree with that sentence in part FlicketyB but a lot of the above also depends on intelligence, intellectual ability plus a certain drive and ambition. A person could have innate intelligence but without a certain amount of drive and ambition it won't get that person far on the road to a higher income. And without a certain degree of intelligence then a person may not be able to take advantage of education which would open up the opportunity to a higher income.

jinglbellsfrocks Sat 02-May-15 23:12:28

I think you have to read a little further than the third sentence Bags.

Ana Sat 02-May-15 23:28:39

I read it all. What you say is possibly true, jingl, but he's also expressing his dismay at the way the 'left' has been taken over by middle-class promoters of anything and everything PC (look at the BBC for example), while actually ignoring a lot of the core voters' hopes and needs.

FlicketyB Sat 02-May-15 23:37:09

Rosequartz The reasons why someone has a low or high income is irrelevant, whether the result of externally imposition, like the class system or within the personality, like ability, drive, sexual orientation, colour, creed. At the end of the day, it is your income which defines your life more than anything else.

I think a group of people, no matter how different in every other aspect if they are struggling on similar limited incomes to meet their bills, feed their families and earn their living they will have more in common than if they were grouped in any other way.

Similarly billionaires, no matter where they come from, or how they got their money, end up with similar spending patterns.

I am making a broad generalisation, I accept, I am just saying, if people must be divided up into groups income is more homogenous way to do it than social class or personal attribute.

durhamjen Sun 03-May-15 00:02:05

Isn't he one of the middle class promoters he's complaining about?
I imagine he lives in London and meets with the sort of activists he castigates, rather than the real Labour grass roots, who probably would not understand what he means either.
Left Foot Forward is a centre left blog.

durhamjen Sun 03-May-15 00:13:05

This is a much more important article by Bloodworth.

Eloethan Sun 03-May-15 02:29:28

In some ways it seems to me that this argument is in danger of being quite divisive - similar to the one that, in my opinion, right wingers use to set one group against another - only this time its ethnic minorities/women v. "working class".

It is, though, an argument that has been taken up by both right and left wingers. UKIP often talks about the "working classes" having no voice, and Owen Jones in his book "Chavs: the Demonisation of the Working Class" says something very similar.

I think there is truth in what Bloodworth says - that the further down the "class" scale you are, the less likely it is that you will have influence. I think this is something that is getting worse. If you go back eighty years or so, "working class" people left formal education very early but there were more "informal" educational outlets, such as the Labour and Trades Union movement, which provided educational opportunities that enabled people to engage more in politics and in the workplace.

It seems to me that those at the bottom of the social class scale now have much less access to these sorts of non-state educational opportunties. If a person hasn't learned the skills of effective verbal and written communication, and, of course, computer skills, they will find themselves increasingly cut off and powerless.

Income is an issue but I think I'm right in saying that a person's income is likely to be related to where he/she is in the social "pecking order" - even more so nowadays since research has shown that there is increasingly less movement between social classes.

Some social and economic experts say that it will be more common for neo-liberal governments to facilitate a social/economic framework where there is a relatively limited pool of highly skilled, highly paid technocrats, and a largish pool of unskilled/semi-skilled workers on low pay.

janeainsworth Sun 03-May-15 02:57:04

I too found this hard to understand, unless he is making the simple point that left-wing activists prefer to expend their energies fighting for women and BME people than supporting their traditional grass-roots.
Perhaps those who are more knowledgeable about politics than I am might like to comment on this gem:
"the ubiquitous talk of “equality” when yet another upper-middle-class woman is parachuted into politics"
What can he mean?

thatbags Sun 03-May-15 07:19:18

I think you've understood it as I did, janea and ana.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if what he says were interpreted as divisive, eloethan.

jingl, yeah, flat caps and wotnot did come to mind.

In a way, I wonder why he thinks it matters how we label people (working class/middleclass or "as a socialist" "as a vegetarian" "as a member of this or that ethnic minority"). I think both kinds of label are similar and often not very helpful.

He's right that income, especially lack of much of it, defines what people can do or not do the most.

But what jumped out the most is that he's objecting to the current form of labelling and self-labelling — identity politics and group think. It has bothered me for a while.

rosequartz Sun 03-May-15 09:36:48

Income does expand or restrict lives, but as I tried to point out earlier, income is dependent on other factors, and just occasionally down to luck.

His assertion that class politics has gone out of fashion may not stand up to scrutiny imo.

durhamjen Sun 03-May-15 11:12:36

Is there also a north/south divide in it?
Many of the northern MPs come from a working class activist background.

FlicketyB Sun 03-May-15 11:18:36

Middle class socialists from time immemorial have liked to latch onto special interest groups and patronise them. The Fabians spoke out for the working class and thought well of themselves as a result. Now social classes are more fluid this type of person latches onto other social groups defined by ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation. It makes them feel good and assuages their feelings of smugness at being well off and well educated.

These groups anyway have spokesmen of their own and don't need or want to be taken over by people who think they are cleverer and better able to represent them than themselves.

Personally if I find myself riding bandwagons like this I jump off pdq.

durhamjen Sun 03-May-15 11:23:01

Not very nice, flickety. Are you suggesting that someone with money cannot be a socialist without feeling smug? That only the poor can be socialist?

TerriBull Sun 03-May-15 11:41:34

Interesting article, I think all the major parties would not be so out of touch with the general public if they had fewer of the smooth graduate types who come fresh from PPE degrees to advisory roles, which baffles many of us as to exactly what they advise on, and more MPs of the calibre of Alan Johnson.

FlicketyB Sun 03-May-15 15:15:36

Perhaps I should have said guilt. I have far more respect for Camila Batmanghelidjh who runs Kids Company and the many people from all kinds of backgrounds who walk the walk but have better things to do than Shout the Shout and do what they can by getting down and doing things with people and helping them get on than all the champagne socialists like Russell Brand, Jemima Khan etc who can certainly shout the shout but far from walking the walk use every dodge known to avoid tax, protect their assets etc and live expensive and sybaritic lives. I would include all the political apparatchiks like Milliband in that group, even though they do not have the assets to protect or the glitzy life style. They have gone from school to university to careers in politics without ever actually doing a proper job.

durhamjen Sun 03-May-15 15:50:06

Miliband has a house worth over two million and he knows he will be caught by the mansion tax, Flickety. He said so in a discussion I saw last week.

whitewave Sun 03-May-15 16:03:26

Left wing politics is an idea of how to organize a country in order that the most people benefit from its resources. Look at countries like Norway, Sweden and Denmark.They have the small level of inequality and the most cared for elderly and young, amongst other things.

So being a left wing or socialist thinker has nothing to do with your class, colour, gender or level of income. It is a way of looking at the world.
A right wing thinker is more about the individual and her ability to thrive regardless of others in society - always supposing that they agree society actually exists. They believe in a small state that has little responsibility towards it's population other than providing a good police force and army.

Strictly speaking class relates to your relation to the means of production, but of course this has become old fashioned now.