The Anxious Affluent: Middle Class Insecurity and Social Democracy

By Harris, John | Renewal : a Journal of Labour Politics, October 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

The Anxious Affluent: Middle Class Insecurity and Social Democracy


Harris, John, Renewal : a Journal of Labour Politics


I have a friend who lives in the Home Counties suburbs. On the face of it, he and his family's existence is the very model of the popular affluence championed during the Thatcher years and celebrated by every government since: he owns a roomy house with a sizable garden, and the small car dealership he runs seems to regularly turn a decent profit. Devotees of the up-by-the-bootstraps dream of self-improvement would be cheered to learn that he started out in the humblest of circumstances - raised by a single parent in the days when that fact set you apart, he spent the first part of his childhood in rented housing, and left school at sixteen. These days, I would guess that he belongs in society's uppermost fifteen per cent, with the tastes - golf, regular holidays, designer clothes - to match.

What's strange is the fact that my friend often seems to be scared out of his wits. He claims that anti-social behaviour can transform the pleasant county town where he does his shopping into a 'war zone'. He might not be au fait with the concept of Time Poverty, but his life exhibits most of the requisite signs. He frets about his young son's education, future prosperity and day-to-day safety, and a mess of other possible threats, from food allergies to dangerous imported toys. The state, in his view, is too often a sclerotic, parasitic presence that soaks up tax revenue and mis-spends it, while too much of the private sector is staffed by the spivs and confidence tricksters whose activities demand his constant vigilance. To mention politics to him is to invite a display of cynical derision; though to some extent a disillusioned Thatcherite, my friend is surely just the kind of voter that New Labour prided itself on converting, but the Westminster ritual these days leaves him cold. As far as I am aware, at the last two general elections, he abstained.

When I mention my friend and his anxieties to more left-leaning, metropolitan types, I can usually expect a couple of standard responses. References will be made to the eternally neurotic, reactionary nature of the archetypal petit-bourgeois. There will be dismissive allusions to the Dally Mail - a paper he occasionally reads, though not as often as you might think - and claims that he and his ilk lie so beyond the reach of progressive politics that there is little point in bothering with them. I can see their point: though I have occasionally tried explaining the merits of such notions as mutuality, co-operation and solidarity to my friend (probably piously, and usually after a few drinks), he has usually been stubbornly uninterested. One of my Labour Party acquaintances is fond of an anecdote in which the unmanageable size of New Labour's Big Tent was brought home to him by an afternoon's optimistic canvassing in an outer London neighbourhood, where the simple length of people's drives suggested that they were never going to be dependable members of any progressive coalition; better, in this reading, to simply leave them alone.

To that, there are two responses. First, even if my friend sits in a relatively high-up socioeconomic category, his essential concerns surely intersect with those of a sizable proportion of the UK's population - chiefly, the millions of people these days grouped under the cliched term 'Middle England'. second, the last five years or so have seen some of his long-standing fears augmented by a new set of anxieties, which plenty of people will recognise as being bound up with the downsides of rampant free-marketry, and the UK's unqualified embrace of globalisation. Before we get any further, that is not meant to suggest that there are openings for red-blooded socialism in places hitherto undreamt of, but rather to point up nuances and tensions of which too many mainstream politicians seem barely aware.

New anxieties for the middle class

For example, though my friend has long claimed that his essential belief in fair play is compromised by the behaviour of those at the bottom ('benefit cheats', asylum seekers and the like), he these days projects at least some of his ire on to people at the top: chiefly, the light-footed Super Rich who blithely ignore the rules by which he sets such store. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Anxious Affluent: Middle Class Insecurity and Social Democracy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.