The invention of working-class culture
in The roots of populism
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This chapter turns to the founding figures and works of British cultural studies, in which a renewed conceptualization of the working class was achieved. Richard Hoggart’s (1957) The Uses of Literacy blazed a trail in the academic portrayal of British working-class culture. This analysis highlights the very feature commonly identified as the hallmark of the populist collective consciousness: an unremitting and radical polarization between the ‘Them’ of the political establishment and the ‘Us’ of the working-class populace. Hoggart’s 1950s analysis also foresaw the danger of a creeping capitalist commercialization of the British working-class lifeworld, particularly through the workings of the popular mass media. His contemporary, Raymond Williams, a fellow cultural studies pioneer, complements and amplifies this analysis with his idea of democratic popular culture as a ‘long revolution’. It is the revolution of popular control over the material conditions of everyday life that constitutes Williams’s notion of progressive democracy, an idea I adopt and apply to contemporary populism throughout this book. With the advent of Thatcherite neoliberalism in the UK, this revolution is stalled as the idea of collective responsibility and the practices of working-class solidarity are denigrated and steadily eroded.

The roots of populism

Neoliberalism and working-class lives

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