Community, identity and social memory
Author: Ben Jones

The idea of Brighton as a hot-bed of radical class-consciousness in inter-war Britain is an unconventional one. That the dominant images of working class England in the middle years of the twentieth century are 'northern' or metropolitan is thanks to a flowering of community and cultural studies for which the research of Mass Observation provided important antecedents. This book argues that a consideration of Richard Hoggart's critics allows us to open up an important set of questions for discussion. It commences with an exploration of class identifications in England since the 1940s. The experience of and meanings attached to class change for individuals across their lives in relation to historically shifting formations of class within cultures. The book then focuses on the twin modernising forces which reshaped working class neighbourhoods in the period between the 1920s and the mid-1970s: slum clearance and council housing. It explores the ways in which people's senses of belonging to and identification with particular neighbourhoods were formed. Conflicts over the transgression of neighbourhood norms regarding acceptable behaviour, arguments over children's noise, over help which went unreciprocated, debts which went unpaid and domestic or intra-family violence were also a feature of neighbourhood life. Through the contested, multivalent remembered experiences of past communities, the complex, relational construction of social memories can be seen. The book also explores the dynamics of working class household economies and examines the continuities which existed between the modern council estates and older districts in terms of cultures of economic and emotional resourcefulness.

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Jobs, families, mobilities and social identities
Ben Jones

This chapter explores class identifications in England since the 1940s. It talks about the ways in which people experience class, the economic, social and cultural processes which shape individual subjectivities, and the extent to which these mould social identities. The chapter shows how individuals display a strong sense of working class identification, often in spite of social mobility. Drawing upon quantitative survey evidence, conceptual work on social identifications and qualitative analyses of class identities, it shows that arguments about the declining salience of class as a social identity and the 'disidentifications' of class are overdrawn. The explanation for the strength of working class self-ascription lies in the extent to which familial, neighbourhood and work cultures shaped class identifications. They continued to do so despite individual occupational mobility and the economic and political developments since the late 1970s, which deprived manual workers of their collective bargaining power as producers and citizens.

in The working class in mid-twentieth-century England
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Ben Jones

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book analyses the experiences of working class people who lived in Brighton during the middle years of the twentieth century. It describes quantitative trends in working class self-ascription within a framework which accounts for structural changes in the occupational structure, local labour markets and patterns of occupational and social mobility. The book charts the massive changes in working class neighbourhoods wrought by suburbanisation and slum clearance. It also analyses the extent to which the working class experience of domestic life was transformed during the middle years of the twentieth century. The book shows how a model of home-centred modernity, founded on cross-class affluence and reaching its apogee in the privatised lifestyle of the nuclear family, was central to discursive constructions of the home during the period.

in The working class in mid-twentieth-century England
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The social geography of working class housing
Ben Jones

This chapter focuses on the twin modernising forces which reshaped working class neighbourhoods in the period between the 1920s and the mid-1970s: slum clearance and council housing. Slum clearance played a key role in residualisation and stigmatisation. The chapter shows that, as older districts were reduced to rubble between the 1930s and the 1960s, the stigma associated with the slums settled on some of the mainly suburban council estates of the inter-war period. In terms of design, layout, household space and amenities the suburban council estates of the mid-twentieth century were a vast improvement on the kind of housing occupied by working class families in the pre-First World War period. To working class residents at the beginning of the century, the housing legacy of Brighton's Regency and Victorian heyday must have been rather less pleasing.

in The working class in mid-twentieth-century England
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Neighbours, networks and social memory
Ben Jones

This chapter explores the ways in which people's senses of belonging to and identification with particular neighbourhoods were formed. It considers the degrees to which everyday sociability, patterns of association and networks based on reciprocal aid were changed by suburbanisation and rising affluence. There were significant cultural continuities in terms not only of conflict and competition but also of neighbourly practices, material poverties and the reconstitution of social networks. The chapter provides a more nuanced understanding of QueenSpark's politics and practices, and emphasises the constitutive role of experience in shaping remembered accounts of working class communities. Reading all of QueenSpark's output from 1974 to 1989, and contrary to the wider arguments of Joanna Bourke and the specific claims of Chris Waters, it is apparent that nostalgia is far from dominant.

in The working class in mid-twentieth-century England
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Family, memory and modernity
Ben Jones

The middle years of the twentieth century have frequently been presented as a period in which a particular version of modern, largely suburban domesticity achieved hegemony in English life. This chapter explores the dynamics of working class household economies and examines the significant continuities which existed between the modern council estates and older districts in terms of cultures of economic and emotional resourcefulness. It scrutinises the extent to which changes in domestic technologies and amenities affected patterns of domestic labour and leisure. The chapter examines the impact suburbanisation had on family economies. Technological changes in the home had an impact upon the use of leisure time, but largely failed to change long-standing gendered patterns of work and behaviour. Material continuities in terms of housing and domestic amenities challenged the notion of modernity as simply a narrative of progress characterised by modernisation.

in The working class in mid-twentieth-century England
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Ben Jones

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book argues that workplace experiences need to be considered alongside the dispositions, values and behaviours instilled in early socialisation. It demonstrates the degree to which occupational experiences intersected with domestic, familial and neighbourhood cultures to mould social identities. The book maps the spatial dynamics of class formation, plotting the changes in working class neighbourhoods wrought by slum clearance, suburbanisation and gentrification. It also argues that narratives of working class neighbourhood life which have often been condemned as tainted by nostalgia or mis-remembering need to be reconsidered as radical reclamations of experience. The disparity between the opulence of certain areas of the town and its working class districts has been an enduing theme in the history of twentieth-century Brighton.

in The working class in mid-twentieth-century England