I’ve been reading “Class, Self, Culture” by Beverley Skeggs. The following is my reaction to what I’ve gained from it in relation to my own artistic practise exploring British society and the class system. Excuse me, if I repeat or reiterate points highlighted by Skeggs. This is partly to organise my own thoughts and reflect on what I have learned.
Class does still exist. It is not talked about as frequently or in the same way as it has historically. It has taken on a different guise. It is now represented by a number of things; location (geographically or for example a local estate within a community), political alignment, culture and lifestyle. It is to be noted however, that this representations are formed not by who they relate to but by other social groups to re-affirm their own self image. Such class identities are constructed to limit mobility. That is to say, the middle-class (authoritative) will enhance their own value by constructing and repeating negative values they assign to the working-class. It must therefore be understand that any negative representation of the working-class is an attempt by the middle-class to attribute value to themselves. As Skeggs says; “making oneself tasteful by judging others tasteless”. This is done through the authorisation and institutionalisation of class symbols, suiting the middle-class who occupy the positions of political authority within institutions.
The repetition and institutionalisation of the constructed values attributed to the working-class highlight the fragile position of the middle-class and their “authority”. These efforts to keep the working-class in a fixed place can challenged through the critique of the middle-class and the questioning and devaluing of authority.
The creation of classed symbols and class representations acts to maintain class divisions.
As a point separate to Skeggs but in line with current affairs I would like to highlight the proposed Labour policy to allow football fans a greater chance of having a say in the running of their football clubs. Under this plan fans will be allowed a stake of 25% in their club combating the recent worsening feeling of football fans to the owners of their clubs. It will provide fans with the power to prevent takeovers and the purchasing of controlling shares from businessmen who may not fully appreciate the heritage of a club and its meaning to the fans. Examples can be seen now at Manchester United and Liverpool. The Tories have dismissed this as gimmicky and I’d have to agree it is a gimmick. But could it be a gimmick that will work? I don’t expect the Tories to understand football, which has long been the working man’s game. Could this move by Labour to reinforce what would be seen as their core vote potentially work for them? The importance of football is not to be underestimated in Britain and with the timing of the election so close to the World Cup, could the increased interest in football in this country potentially swing some votes Labour’s way. I’m not sure yet what long term effects such a policy would have on the game but it’s safe to say if it gives power to the fans who, of late, have had a raw time of it, then it could just be a stroke of genius. That is to assume that football does have a great enough importance to large sections of society. I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts on this.
I hope I don’t sound like a class-warrior. Please get involved and share your opinions.