Rhian E. Jones at Eurozine:
As apps and automation reconfigure work, what happens to how we think about ‘the working class’? The communities of manual, domestic and clerical workers called into being by industrial capitalism, who formed a majority of British society throughout the 20th century, now largely languish in areas defined by their lack of work, reliance on benefits, and subsequent demonisation in culture and politics. BBC research published in April 2013 as the Great British Class Survey, which divided UK society into seven layers, seemed to suggest that class was becoming defined on a cultural and social rather than occupational basis, in line with the nuanced framework proposed by Pierre Bourdieu in 1979. But while social and cultural expression and engagement may be less reliable as class markers, economic relationships remain fundamental in how people see themselves and others. Selina Todd’s The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class 1910-2010 (John Murray, 2014) concludes by emphasising that a majority of British people still identify as working class, and around half of respondents to the Great British Class Survey were characterised by their low levels of economic capital. On the lowest rung of the great British Class Survey’s taxonomy was the ‘precariat’, defined by its occupational and economic insecurity. This group was previously the subject of Guy Standing’s 2011 polemic The Precariat (Bloomsbury), in which he dubbed it a ‘new dangerous class’, whose plight could generate anger, violence and susceptibility to fascism unless addressed by social reforms geared towards financial security.