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The Rise and Fall of Class in Britain
     

The Rise and Fall of Class in Britain

by David Cannadine
 

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ISBN-10: 0231096674

ISBN-13: 9780231096676

Pub. Date: 08/08/2000

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Although it is widely believed that the British are obsessed with class to a degree unrivaled by any other nation, politicians in Britain are now calling for a "classless society," and scholars are concluding that class does not matter any more. But has class—once considered the master narrative of British history—fallen, failed, and been dismissed? In this

Overview

Although it is widely believed that the British are obsessed with class to a degree unrivaled by any other nation, politicians in Britain are now calling for a "classless society," and scholars are concluding that class does not matter any more. But has class—once considered the master narrative of British history—fallen, failed, and been dismissed? In this wholly original and brilliantly argued book, David Cannadine shows that Britons have indeed been preoccupied with class, but in ways that are invariably ignorant and confused. Cannadine sets out to expose this ignorance and banish this confusion by imaginatively examining class itself, not so much as the history of society but as the history of the different ways in which Britons have thought about their society.

Cannadine proposes that "class" may best be understood as a shorthand term for three distinct but abiding ways in which the British have visualized their social worlds and identities: class as "us" versus "them;" class as "upper," "middle," and "lower"; and class as a seamless hierarchy of individual social relations. From the eighteenth through the twentieth century, he traces the ebb and flow of these three ways of viewing British society, unveiling the different purposes each model has served.

Encompassing social, intellectual, and political history, Cannadine uncovers the meanings of class from Adam Smith to Karl Marx to Margaret Thatcher, showing the key moments in which thinking about class shifted, such as the aftermath of the French Revolution and the rise the Labor Party in the early twentieth century. He cogently argues that Marxist attempts to view history in terms of class struggle are often as oversimplified as conservative approaches that deny the central place of class in British life. In conclusion, Cannadine considers whether it is possible or desirable to create a "classless society," a pledge made by John Major that has continued to resonate even after the conservative defeat. Until we know what class really means-and has meant-to the British, we cannot seriously address these questions.

Creative, erudite, and accessible, The Rise and Fall of Class in Britain offers a fresh and engaging perspective on both British history and the crucial topic of class.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231096676
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
08/08/2000
Series:
Leonard Hastings Schoff Lectures Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Table of Contents

Preface xi
Beyond Class---Forward to Class?
1(24)
Class as History
2(6)
Class Dismissed
8(8)
Class as Social Description
16(6)
Class Here, Now, and Then
22(3)
The Eighteenth Century: Class Without Class Struggle
25(34)
English Social Worlds
26(9)
British Social Worlds
35(11)
Social Life and Social Perceptions
46(7)
Creating a Classless Society
53(6)
The Nineteenth Century: A Viable Hierarchical Society
59(50)
Social Visions and Social Divisions
61(14)
The "Politics of Class" Propounded
75(16)
The "Politics of Class" Denied
91(15)
The Way They Saw Things Then
106(3)
The Twentieth Century: Social Identities and Political Identities
109(58)
The "Politics of Class" Propounded Again
110(20)
The "Politics of Class" Denied Again
130(18)
Class Acts and Class Facts
148(17)
New Society, Old Society
165(2)
Conclusion: Toward a "Classless Society"?
167(28)
Long-Term Retrospective
168(7)
The Impact of Thatcher
175(9)
Major, Blair, and Beyond
184(9)
How We See Ourselves
193(2)
List of Abbreiviations 195(2)
Notes 197(78)
Index 275

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