This is pretty good:
What do you think of when you hear the phrase \’white working class\’? Tattoos? Dangerous dogs? Shellsuits? Scratch cards? Chips? Binge drinking? The BNP? It would be no surprise if the images conjured are negative; in the past four decades, the image of the white working class has gone from hero to less than zero.
In these tolerant days, the one underprivileged group that it\’s OK to find intolerable is the white working class. In our multicultural society, they\’re the unlucky ones deemed to be without a culture. Last year, for example, the editor of Eastern Eye went on television to condemn Channel 4 for allowing \’illiterate chavs\’ on to Celebrity Big Brother. Eyelids remained unbatted. Trevor Phillips was not called upon to issue a statement. The Sky News presenter to whom this comment was made simply nodded his head in silent agreement.
But it wasn\’t always open season on proletarian whites. Back in the late Fifties and early Sixties, the working class was flavour of the decade. Films such as Saturday Night, Sunday Morning found something noble, if harsh, in the condition of the indigenous poor. The theatre was filled with angry young men with earthy accents railing against the class structure. Pop music was transformed by cocky lads from humble backgrounds, as were photography and advertising .
A working-class hero was something to be, as the only middle-class Beatle, John Lennon, later sardonically sang. And then, almost overnight, white and working class became a deeply unfashionable combination.
Back in the Sixties, there was a nobility to the working class and also, crucially, a mobility. It was on the way somewhere. But that optimism has gone. Those who could get out have left, joining an expanded middle class, and those left behind have become the underclass: ugly, obnoxious, feckless and amoral.
Recast the phrasing. There always was a distinction made between the proletariat and the lumpenproletariat. The proletariat have become the bourgeois, petty or not, leaving the lumpens alone to be described as the "working class".
Here\’s an idea though: not one I hold very strongly, rather, I put it forward simply as an idea. Something to be explored.
Say that this rather Marxist distinction is in fact true. Does this explain both the social mobility of earlier decades and the decline of it now? That there was a group both desirous and capable of such, held back by the institutions of the time, and when those constraints were removed, they moved? And that there is no such group now so constrained or desirous?