Georgos Poulimenakos, Vrije University Amsterdam
Dimitris Dalakoglou, Vrije University Amsterdam
“If you got money you vote in, if you haven’t got money you vote out”
This phrase belongs to a woman of Collyhurst, a working-class neighborhood in the periphery of Manchester (Harris, 24 june 2016). For her a possible exit from the EU will not have these catastrophic implications that highly educated young British people are mourning as she feels that she has very little to lose. The majority in Collyhurst residents do not afford to go anywhere abroad, so they do not worry about things such as the free movement that the EU promises. However, what is more concerning is that people who claim to talk on behalf of the Left and progressiveness do not seem to even imagine such a reason for someone to want to leave the EU.
From Greece to the UK, the working-class (employed or unemployed) has been bitterly betrayed by the Left. Both in Greece and in the UK the real needs of the common people seem like a foreign language to the parties of the Left and to people like the so-called leader of the radical left Tsipras, or the radical “new age” of the Labour Party, Corbyn.
A lot of prominent social and political theories these days argue for the supposed “end of the working-class” (see for example Pakulski and Waters, 1995, Clark and Lipset ,1990, Andreannini, 1993). If anything, current events are showing that it is not the working-class that has ended. It is its political representation. As both British and Greek referendum shows, the losers of the capitalist globalization are keep wining under immense pressures, but under the current political climate they cannot harvest their gains, whilst their victories are profiting politically the far-Right.
“Why the hell would someone vote to be enclosed to ourselves”
The first day after the British referendum our social media accounts were filled overwhelmingly by comments of our British friends who voted for the Bremain. What was very noticeable was the homogeneity of the general discourse. The referendum's outcome was paralleled with the death of modern Britain and a return to medieval self-referentiality and inwardness. The values that for them were at stake by this referendum, such as the sense of global citizenship, the habitus of constant mobility, the “diversity” and the erasure of the geographical obstacles in their social imaginary, consist simultaneously the self-realization of the contemporary British middle-class.
Almost nobody we know in Britain and voted for Bremain was slightly critical about the EU as a reactionary institution which is mostly imposing austerity while promoting policies which serve the interests of the economic elites. For them EU was a metonymy of exclusively positive values and the voters of the Brexit were to be blamed as having some kind of personal inability to realize those values.
The material factors that pushed the majority of the working-class people to vote for Brexit, as the social geography of the outcome shows (Kirk & Dunforth 2016) were not included in the critical comments. Perhaps, this happened because this middle-class hexis as Bourdieu would say inclined them not to think with material criteria, as their physical survivor is more or less secured, but with cultural or humanistic ones.
Andreanni, T. & Feray, M. (1993). Discours sur legalize parmi les homnes. Paris: L’ Harmatan
Bourdieu, P. (1984) Distinction: A Social critique of the Judgment of Taste. Cambridge: Harvard University Press
Clark , T. N. & Lipset, S. M. (1991) Are Social Classes Dying? International sociology, 6(4):397-410
Harris, J. (2016) ‘If you’ve got money, you vote in... If you haven’t got money, you vote out. The guardian, 24 June 2016. Available at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/commentisfree/2016/jun/24/divided-britain- brexit-money-class- inequality-westminster
Pakulski, Jan and Malcolm Waters. 1995. The Death of Class. London: Sage.
A version of this article is included in the Forum on Brexit of the journal Social Anthropology.
And a longer version of this article will follow soon.
Diatribe is an online journal created by a collective who consider antagonistic politics to capitalism and authoritarianism
as part of everyday struggles for freedom, space and the commons.
Diatribe is 'an angry and usually long speech or piece of writing that
strongly criticizes someone or something'