Issue of forgotten ridiculed class Essay Example
Issue of forgotten ridiculed class Essay Example

Issue of forgotten ridiculed class Essay Example

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  • Published: July 21, 2017
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This research aims to address the lack of research on the white working class in Britain by utilizing secondary information and theories on societal category and race. The central focus of my study is a quote from Julie Burchill, which highlights the mistreatment of the white working class by the media and middle classes. By critically analyzing this quote and examining its origins and reasons behind it, I aim to answer why the white working class has been marginalized and whether middle Britain has forgotten about them.

While Julie Burchill's critical perspective accurately captures the reality of class relations in contemporary Britain, it is important to critically evaluate her statement. Her views are simplistic as she solely concentrates on the white working class without considering class hatred as a whole.

The notion that while male chauvinist and racialist language are now considered taboo


in official discourse and politically correct, the language of class disdain has not experienced the same change (Sayer, 2005: 121). Class discrimination can manifest in subtle dislikes to extreme hatred and avoidance, as well as feelings of disgust (such as seen in past right-wing groups like the National Front). It also involves overt discrimination aimed at projecting negative traits onto a specific cultural or social group while simultaneously affirming the goodness, high moral standards, and status of one's own social class or ethnicity. Class disdain, expressed through distancing, belittling, and disgust, toward the disadvantaged white working class reveals even more troubling intentions of racializing this group (Skeggs, 2004: 118). This class divide is perpetuated by establishing moral boundaries based on various aspects of whiteness, particularly through judgments related to the body and appearance.

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The white working class is often unfairly criticized for their appearance, behavior, coarseness, and lack of morals. However, it is important to consider who is unfairly judging them, as it is those who are setting the standards that they believe everyone should meet, including the white working class. The constant critics are actually the middle class, as Burchill suggested, who constantly judge the white working class for not meeting their standards. It would be appropriate to evaluate whether these standards and morals are actually agreed upon or just a moral code created by the middle class.

The attitude of disdain towards certain groups of people is accurately expressed through the use of derogatory terms such as 'white rubbish' or 'chav'. This contempt can result in the working class, both black and white, being criminalized while middle-class crimes are accepted. Consequently, these beliefs perpetuate the existing social hierarchy of classes. It is surprising that discussions about ethnicity and crime often overlook white ethnicity and class, despite self-report surveys revealing that 'whites' commit a disproportionately high number of offenses compared to other ethnic groups. Shockingly, individuals who identified as white were responsible for an astounding 85 percent of crimes involving children and young people (Curtis, 2008: 63).

Not only is the neglect of the white working class acknowledged, but they are also disregarded even when discussing something that portrays them negatively. Recent studies have found that white working-class boys in disadvantaged areas perform poorly in schools, second only to 'Traveller' children (Curtis, 2008). These findings hold significance because school failure strongly predicts future delinquency, crime, and antisocial behavior among young individuals. The cultural and class issues associated with

criminal behaviors make it challenging to comprehend why white ethnicity has been overlooked in social science discussions on race, ethnicity, and crime. This oversight appears to originate from society's ingrained perception of whiteness as privilege, power, and superiority over other ethnicities.

In order to acknowledge the evolving dynamics of society, it is essential to recognize the need for a shift in our perception of the white race. The combination of class and ethnicity has gained increasing significance in today's world. In both public opinion and social sciences, "whiteness" is often regarded as having little meaningful or substantial value as an ethnicity. Instead, it frequently serves as a benchmark for categorizing other ethnicities and highlighting their disadvantages.

The subject of class has always been a contentious matter in society and social sciences. Some argue that it is irrelevant and pointless, while others now pay renewed attention to the intersection between class and race. Although there are those who advocate for separate examination of race and class when studying societal inequalities, it is evident that both factors cannot be disregarded. Consequently, simultaneous consideration of both race and class is crucial.

David J. Lee and Bryan S. Turner have differing opinions on the importance and existence of class and the class system in contemporary Britain. They believe that the terms 'class' and 'capitalism' are outdated ideas from the 19th century that do not take into account advancements made in the late 20th century (1996: 3). This critique directly challenges those who follow the Marxist tradition, which is now widely seen as obsolete. The concepts of class and class disparities are often talked about in relation to education and employment.

Numerous studies examine

the academic achievements of children from diverse backgrounds in schools. In Saunders' work, "A Study of Class Barriers in Britain," it is argued that intelligence varies based on social class, but not necessarily by race (1996: 31). Lee and Turner distinguish between "strong" class theories, like Marx's theory of class that divides the working class (Proletariat) and the upper class (Bourgeoisie), highlighting class as a driving force behind historical change. On the other hand, "weak" class theories, such as Weberianism, define classes as empirically identifiable groups of individuals sharing significant situations in common (1996: 10). They suggest that strong class theories, like Marxism, offer inadequate explanations of class and class inequality when it comes to practical application. Despite their perceived obsolescence in contemporary Britain, both Marxism and Weberianism continue to heavily influence more recent theories and discussions on class and class struggle.The enduring influence of Marxism can be observed in society today, particularly in the relationship between the middle class who own major companies and corporations, and the working class who rely on these jobs for their livelihood. These dynamics align with the fundamental concepts of Marxism that pertain to categories and economic systems.

This demonstrates that social categorization and inequalities continue to exist in society, contradicting Horton's claim that categorization is insignificant. While there are evident social and economic disparities regardless of race, which can be observed from an economic class standpoint, we should also acknowledge alternative viewpoints. An example of such a viewpoint is the concept of 'Classlessness', which proposes that the idea of class is no longer relevant. Marx argues that a 'Classless' society can either be one without a historical existence of

a class system or one where it has been eliminated.

Marx suggested that in a society without social classes, everyone would have similar economic roles. He referred to this society as 'Primitive Communism' (Shaw, 1978: 125). However, Westergaard argues that these ideas of 'classlessness' are oversimplified and refers to them as 'myths of classlessness' (Westergaard: 1972: 120). Saunders (1990: 77) strongly criticizes the 'socialist-feminist orthodoxy', which stems from Marxist class analysis. According to Saunders, class analysis is associated with traditional notions of structured social inequalities arising from property relations in a capitalist society. Instead, emphasis should be placed on the trickle-down effect of increased income for the wealthy and greater social mobility, which allows individuals to overcome disadvantages they may have had since birth. Moreover, Saunders highlights the absence of a dominant capitalist class due to widespread ownership being fragmented into many small parts.

In recent times, a number of new myths about the absence of social classes have emerged. One such myth is the notion of citizenship put forth by TH Marshall (1981: 142). According to Marshall, individuals now possess the freedom to make choices both as consumers and as political actors, implying that class distinctions are largely unnecessary. However, this argument can be easily refuted since it can be contended that those with greater financial resources have more consumer choices, while those with more power (often linked to wealth) wield greater political influence. Consequently, inequalities in social class remain evident; individuals from working classes may not enjoy the same level of choice in consumer or political matters as those occupying higher positions within the hierarchical class system.
Another myth pertains to "post-industrialism," which posits a decline

in manufacturing and agriculture in favor of services and contends that theoretical knowledge is the key principle underlying society rather than private capital formation. Corresponding theories like Piore and Sabel's post-Fordist theories (1984) suggest a significant rise in semi-skilled workers engaged in contractless jobs and propose that the working class is no longer an entirely employed and interconnected social group.

In conclusion, postmodern theorists like Lyotard (1984) argue that societal categorization is not particularly important because the modern social structure is complex and divided along lines of age, gender, ethnicity, and culture. Personal identities are formed based on individual choice (through consumption, which aligns with a Marxist perspective) rather than traditional social positions in production. These theories of classlessness lack empirical evidence from category analysis but instead assume the future of societies as given without aligning with objective findings from thorough sociological research on class. Edgel identifies three types of classlessness: 'Total classlessness,' 'One class classlessness,' and 'Multi-class classlessness' (Kirby, 2000: 673). Among these three forms of classlessness, the latter two are most relevant when examining the relevance of class today. The notion of 'one-class classlessness' suggests that class differences no longer exist and that everyone now belongs to a single (central) class.

Although some argue that category inequalities have disappeared, according to Kirby (2000: 673), income inequalities are currently 'wider than ever'. However, there are many arguments suggesting that the concept of class still exists and remains important. I believe that class is still relevant in contemporary Britain, although it is not as distinct or divided as it used to be. Additionally, it has been argued that society tends to ignore the idea of class and

specific classes.

The job category is often overlooked by elitists in authority and media who prefer to ignore the working classes and not think about their living conditions. Lee argues that money symbolizes the passage of time and has a spiritual quality. It represents both weak power, which is the ability to get one's way against others, and strong power, which is the influence of social relationships. To develop a theory of class in the modern era, we must reject both Marx and Weber. Marx believed that capital was accumulated through the exploitation of surplus value in production.

In the twentieth century, a merging of province and industry has occurred, leading to the emergence of non-productive decision makers and directors. This has been accompanied by an increase in the power of finance, resulting in speculative actions and coups d'etats. It is clear that belonging to the capitalist category is not solely dependent on production. According to Weber, class inequality is connected to economic life-chances, with money serving as a representation of real economic relations. Conversely, Lee argues that money represents society as a whole economically, making it unnecessary to consider factors beyond money for a strong theory of social class. To fully understand the working class as a whole, regardless of race or ethnicity, it is important to first examine their collective experience of adversity and dependence before delving into the undocumented struggle faced specifically by the white working class.

The concept that community studies, particularly those concentrating on the working class, cannot be considered a fact is exemplified through the use of the mining community as a representation for the entire working class. However, this presents an

issue because social structures such as worker's unions prioritize specific occupational groups like miners and not the entire working class community. The primary factor that perpetuates the working class is the lack of "cultural capital," resulting in disadvantages in education and ultimately poor job prospects. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to underperform academically compared to their middle-class peers, even if they attend the same school. This can often be attributed to academic achievement being heavily influenced by experiences and traditions at home and within their cultural environment.

The lack of support in schools can result in many disadvantaged children leaving school at 16 rather than continuing their education, which contributes to the perpetuation of the working class. Willis (1977:141) states that underprivileged children aspire to escape the limitations of school as soon as possible but are hindered by their low position in the job market. The media has coined the term "ignored lower class" to describe Britain's white working class. A recent study conducted by BBC's "Newsnight" discovered that 58% of white working class individuals felt unrepresented, while only 46% of white middle class participants felt the same.

A survey conducted by BBC Newsnight revealed that white individuals in lower job categories express more worry about how immigration affects their jobs compared to those in middle job categories. The reason behind this is that immigrants often find work in lower-skilled and manual occupations, which are currently filled by white individuals in lower job categories. Although some argue that social class doesn't matter, there is a growing discussion about the neglected white working class. While anti-racism takes center stage in today's political and cultural agenda, little attention is

paid to the concerns of the white working class.

The job category that is commonly referred to as the white working class is often disrespected and disregarded by many. These individuals were once considered the backbone of Britain and played a significant role in saving the country during both world wars. However, they are now treated unfavorably by elitists, including certain media outlets like the BBC. These elitists view them as lazy and ignorant, using derogatory terms like "chavs" and "white rubbish". Ironically, these same elitists who criticize the white working class are the ones who have failed them, such as the Labour Party. Recent worker strikes have highlighted the economic difficulties faced by white workers, particularly in declining manufacturing industries where they are overrepresented compared to other cultural groups. Additionally, their job prospects in the service sector are threatened by mass immigration. Instead of acknowledging their struggles, the media and elitists condemn them.

In our current society, there seems to be a double standard. Those advocating for human rights express concern for the civil liberties of alleged Muslim terrorists, yet they do not condemn the harsh measures taken against suspected football hooligans, who, while they may have made mistakes, have not been accused of planning or attempting mass murder. However, it seems that because dedicated football fans are usually white, it is acceptable to treat them however authorities and police see fit. Around 2004, the term 'Chav' became extremely popular in society and especially in the media, quickly becoming a slang term. Popular culture, tabloids, and television all embraced this label to describe young people who wear tracksuits, caps, and flashy gold jewelry, also known as

'bling'. However, I have discovered that the phrase is not as new as it may initially appear and variations of the word have been used for many years.

In certain parts of Northeast England, the term 'Charver' is extremely popular and is believed to have originated from the Romany term for 'small child'. It is closely associated with the traveler or 'Gypsy' communities and holds peculiar significance. Many characteristics of the Traveller, Gypsy, and Romany culture, such as wearing large gold crown rings or earrings, are closely linked to the 'chav' subculture today. Based on my observations in my daily routine, I have noticed that young people in and around the city center often refer derogatorily to clothing or jewelry as 'Chavy gear', especially when they believe it to be counterfeit or purchased from a market stall. By doing so, they imply that individuals who are referred to as 'Chavs' tend to wear this type of attire and accessories. This portrayal of the 'Charver' has long been depicted in the popular adult comic originating from Newcastle called 'Viz', featuring cartoon characters like 'Rat Boy', 'Tasha', and 'Kappa Slappa'.

This is once again bringing attention to this subculture in popular culture, and mocking it. While some may see it as a cheap joke, it is clearly another attempt to undermine and exclude the white working class from society. These comics can be seen as building on the character of Vicky Pollard, a well-known representation of lower-class youth on the BBC show 'Little Britain'. The comics show how the term 'Chav' can become closely associated with an urban lower class in relation to both race and social class stigmatization.

Although its Romany origins have long been recognized, the term 'Chav' has also been used with different local meanings. For example, one interpretation suggests that the negative connotations are thought to come from Cheltenham Girls School, a prestigious English public school, where those who were not in the top academic sector were referred to as 'Cheltenham Averages', which was soon shortened to Chavs.

There is a term called the 'Croydon face lift', which refers to the tight pineapple-style ponytails held in place by a 'scrunchy' that some people associate with immature adult females known as 'Charvers'. These 'Charvers' in the Northeast are often associated with an unemployed urban lower class. However, in other areas, they may represent the working-class who have disposable income. These individuals have become a source of desire and disapproval, as their extravagant fashion choices and expensive designer clothing has captured attention. Some notable examples of 'Celebrity Chavs' are Coleen McLoughlin, the wife of England football player Wayne Rooney, and tabloid models like Jodie Marsh and Katie Price (formerly known as Jordan). These individuals belong to a more upwardly progressing 'Chav' group.

However, the mentions to 'Charvs ' in the Northeast combine a 'lower-class position with specific sub cultural patterns, existent and fanciful ' ( Nayak, 2003: 820 ) . According to Nayak, Charvers are most commonly associated with drugs, street crime, theft, burglary, minor sex, and drinking. I am currently focusing on the media and their lack of interest in the declining voice of the white working class. In this media uncertainty and overly politically correct society, I am interested in examining the 'whiteness ' of the white working class, which has been

the subject of recent academic study. This is not surprising given the current emphasis on both cultural and religious citizenship issues. In Michael Collins' book, The Likes of Us: a life of the white working class, Collins argues that the glamorous transformation of widely distributed cities such as London, which has benefited from multiculturalism, has come at the expense of deeply-rooted, local white working class communities and culture.

The autobiographical history of a civilization focuses on citizens' rights and entitlements, rather than building a closer community. However, this achievement has come at a great cost to "the old working class" (Collins, 2004, p.34). Recently, BBC 2 aired a highly controversial television series called 'White Season', which aimed to address the marginalization of the working-class white population in present-day Britain. The series was criticized for elitism and bias. In response, the BBC argued that the "white working class" is now an endangered cultural group, threatened by revolutionary socio-economic changes and silenced by an overly politically correct society. This statement clearly angered those who have contributed to creating the politically correct society we currently live in.

The Concept of Whiteness

This chapter explores the definition of 'whiteness' and white ethnicity, its distinct characteristics, and its relationship to other ethnicities. It also examines how marginalized white ethnicities have been historically represented, which influenced perceptions of their deviance and criminality. Additionally, it investigates the depiction of racialized 'white' groups, such as the 'unfit', 'antisocial', 'criminals', the poor, the 'underclass', and 'white trash', and their ongoing association with criminal activity (Webster, 2007). Marginalized white ethnicity, classified by race, class, and gender, is also spatialized through the establishment of

social and moral boundaries within existing hierarchies of whiteness. Unlike discussions on racism, crime, and justice, white ethnicity is often overlooked and left unexamined. It is only considered in relation to visible minority experiences in crime and criminal justice processes. However, white ethnicity is not recognized as problematic or significant compared to other ethnicities, except as a potential source of racism.

Thus, the discriminatory nature of viewing whites as a potential source of racism stems from the perception that other races are generally not considered to have racist tendencies. It is the normalization of whiteness that leads to the idea of whites as potential racists. I have examined numerous "whiteness studies" in both the USA and the UK to understand whiteness as a whole, rather than just focusing on the whiteness of the British working class. Many of these studies explore racialized white ethnicities throughout history and in contemporary society by focusing on marginalized white groups. Terms such as "white underclass," "new migrants," and "white rubbish" are used to indicate that some whites are seen as "less white" than others within a hierarchy of whiteness.

'White nigga' is a derogatory term used to describe a person while also indicating their position in the hierarchy of 'whiteness'. In America, the Irish were often referred to as 'white niggas' (Roediger, 2007: 133). This was an attempt to undermine and belittle Irish workers, suggesting that they were inferior to other white individuals in America. It also harks back to the time when white people enslaved black people and tries to make the Irish feel like slaves.

The criminalization of marginalized white working-class ethnicities, resulting from the combination of racism and classism,

can be compared to the criminalization of visible propertyless minorities. These groups, similar to the 'chav' figure in Britain and 'white rubbish' in America, were seen as polluting and associated with unemployment and idleness, creating an image that lacked respectability. According to Hartigan (2005: 67), the concept of 'white rubbish' emerged in the mid-19th century as a moral classification for poor Whites who were unable or unwilling to work. The label of 'white rubbish' carried racial implications, including their natural habitat, bloodlines related to fertile reproduction, their portrayal as a threat from below due to the faster multiplication of weaker bloodlines, their perceived moral incapacity to work due to their racial status, all linked to concerns about urbanization, crime, and the migration of poor Whites from the South to northern cities in America. The main themes associated with this label were 'degeneration', 'debasement', lack of work ethic, and a lower social standing that persisted throughout the twentieth century.

According to some histories, white rubbish was seen as a defense against lower-status black individuals, as a sacrifice of white superiority, or as a threat to the future of the white race. However, the challenge for racialists, racial scientists, and eugenicists was that this "white rubbish" was both white and "degenerate," with the latter representing not just a moral state but also a stigma and even a sense of color. The portrayal of "white rubbish" as incestuous, crime-ridden families associated with the social issues of urbanization greatly influenced white middle-class audiences. This dynamic is still present in Britain today, where the working-class whites are constantly depicted negatively, regardless of the truthfulness of these portrayals. Yet, this particular sector

of British society is being marginalized, and it is the middle-class British audiences who adopt and perpetuate this image of hatred. Like social class, ethnicity is not fixed or passive, but rather constructed and active within social relationships.

White color evokes associations with different racial groups while simultaneously.

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