Understanding 'the economy' in Brexit Britain

Anna Killick
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Most people find it hard to define ‘the economy’ beyond saying it is ‘to do with money’. This book explores what ‘the economy’ means to people’s lives in Brexit Britain and what goes through their minds when they hear politicians talking about it. Through research with people from a range of backgrounds in a city on the sSouth coast of England conducted between 2016 and 2018, it reveals what they understand about key aspects of ‘the economy’, including employment, austerity, trade and the economic effects of migration.

The book comes at a crucial point. There is widespread commentary that those who support Leave attach less importance to ‘the economy’ than those who support Remain. However, political scientists have neglected research into what the term ‘the economy’ means to people. This book suggests that it is a less neutral term, based on shared goals, than it has been in the past. While high- income participants, regardless of their political beliefs or referendum vote, tend to feel connected to what could be described as the official version of ‘the economy’, lower- income participants feel less connected and see both ‘the economy’ and economic expertise as ‘rigged’. These changes are not just the result of the Brexit debate but have longer- term roots. The book highlights the value of political ethnographic methods for researching nebulous concepts such as this one. It will be of interest to a general and political science audience and contributes to debates in political behaviour and political economy.

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