Organisation of the Book

In this introduction we have set out the book’s main cross-cutting themes. In doing so we have discussed at some length the ongoing relevance of class for politics and nationalist politics in light of contemporary changes. Chapter 2 provides a theoretical and empirical analysis of the relationships between the experiences of classes and class fractions and national sentiments. Here we also examine the specific connection between class- related resentments and sentiments about the nation. The theorising of resentment and its connections to class and nation is then illustrated empirically through a discussion of research into class resentments as well as a presentation of interview data with ethnic majority people.

Chapters 3 and 4 are devoted to English identity and nationalism. In Chap. 3 we focus on popular constructions of English identity and their relevance for contemporary political debates about English nationhood. It begins specifically with scholarship concerning the relationship between class and Englishness, contrasting this with the more recent emphasis on the diversity and plurality of English nationhood. We present interview data in order to capture some of the varied ways in which English people themselves talk about England and Englishness. Chapter 4 then examines the politics of English identity and nationalism to determine the extent to which there has been a rise in both English identification and English nationalist politics. It begins by considering the historical circumstances which have made English national identity so problematic. We then discuss both survey and qualitative evidence for an emerging English identity and nationalism. The final section considers the significance of national identity for political parties. We argue that attempts to carve out a ‘progressive’ Englishness require much greater empirical scrutiny than they have received to date and that there remains a significant question concerning the viability of a progressive, or leftwing, form of Englishness amongst ordinary people themselves.

Chapter 5 examines the relation between nation and class in Scotland with a specific focus on the Scottish independence referendum and support for the SNP in the period 2014-2015. The 2014 independence referendum saw a number of left-wing activists and groups lending their support to the independence campaign. We argue that contemporary Scottish national and nationalist sentiments cannot be understood without also understanding how transformations in economic and social structures have shaped the political identities and values of Scottish middle- and working-class people. In Chap. 6 we extend our analysis by examining the case of Wales, where we pose some questions about the relationships between Welsh identity, class and political attitudes. We argue that national identity in Wales has not converged upon a civic Welshness but is associated with a range of political sentiments, including those which remain attached to Britishness, and with right-wing and populist politics. As in England, support for UKIP in Wales can be explained through the experiences of declining classes in the deindustrialised areas of Wales and who do have a ‘nationalist’ alternative in the same way that declining working classes in Scotland do.

Throughout the book we make use of a varied body of existing data and material. The origins of the book lie with the “Nation and Class” research project carried out as part of the Leverhulme Programme on Migration and Citizenship (2004-2009), (For further details see Modood and Salt 2011; Fenton and Mann 2011). For this project we conducted 140 interviews and 8 focus group discussions with ethnic majority peoples distributed across various research settings in the south of England. These sites were a small market town in a rural setting (June 2004-March 2005), a multi-ethnic neighbourhood and a predominantly white housing estate within a large city (April 2005-December 2005), and a prosperous area within a small university city (February 2008-July 2008). Taken together we have held interviews—or more accurately conversations in individual and group settings—with approximately 200 white English respondents from a variety of social class and demographic backgrounds, making this one of the most extensive empirical studies carried out on the ethnic majority in England.

Alongside this data set, we make use of three additional sources of material which, to varying degrees, recur in each of the chapters. First, at various points we draw on existing historical, political and sociological scholarship with the aim of placing nations in the context of economic change and development of political institutions. Whilst our approach is a sociological and contemporary one, it is clear that at least some sketch of a historical context, however selective, is required before one can consider how people orientate with respect to nation today. Second, we utilise social scientific evidence, both quantitative and qualitative, on national identities. Our own qualitative approach and research in England is key to our analysis of class and popular sentiments. But we combine this with quantitative evidence. Survey data enable us to make some broader connections between nation and social structure. Our own data were collected in England and thus provide a basis for comparison across three nations. We also have access to some relevant qualitative data on Wales.

Third, for our political analysis, we attempt to capture as much of the relevant commentary and data on elections, opinion polls and referenda as possible.

As we indicate, this book draws upon previous qualitative research carried out with the ethnic majority in England, as well as on survey research based on samples of the general population. With both types of data, our aim is to highlight differences between classes, and particular class fractions, in attitudes towards nation and state, as well as national differences in these attitudes across England, Scotland and Wales. Given this focus, we have less to say about differences relating to the ethnic composition of classes, as well as differences between ethnic groups in attitudes towards national identity. In some places in the book, there is an explicit focus on white working-class or white middle-class people, especially when we make use of qualitative interview data. But we also recognise that, in some contexts, our references to the British working class are tacit references to the white working class. According to the 2011 UK Census, the white working class make up 90.4 % of the total working class (that is, the total figure for whites for NS-Sec occupational groups 5, 6 and 7).[1] But we should also recognise that the class-related experiences and attitudes of the non-white working class may be different from those of the white majority in several respects. For instance, the employment of certain ethnic groups is concentrated in particular industries and occupations (for example Chinese and Pakistanis and self-employment) (ONS 2005). Overall non-white groups are also more likely than whites to experience unemployment. In addition, non-white groups in the UK have younger age structures compared to whites and are more geographically concentrated in urban areas in England, and especially London, than in other parts of England or in Scotland and Wales. Another component of the working class is composed of migrant workers originating in the EU, mostly from Eastern Europe. Analysis by Rienzo (2015) shows that the proportion of the total working population who are foreign-born rose from 7.2 % in 1993 to 16.7 % in 2014. Furthermore, it is the lowerskilled occupations and sectors, like food processing and cleaning, that have witnessed the sharpest rises in numbers of migrant workers (Rienzo 2015: 9-11).

For these reasons, it can be argued that the ‘memory’ of deindustrialisation amongst ethnic groups and migrant workers will be quite different to that of the white working class, especially the older white working class. The extent to which the white and non-white working class express similar levels of resentment towards nation and country remains an important issue on which there is limited evidence. On attitudes towards immigration, one report from the Runnymede Trust (Khan and Weekes-Bernard 2015) finds that the black and minority ethnic population are proportionally more positive about immigration and more pro-EU than whites (Khan and Weekes-Bernard 2015). This report also suggests that minority ethnic perceptions of immigration can differ quite markedly themselves between those who are third generation and born in Britain and those who are longer-term settled and born overseas. In certain places in the book, these differences in attitude and experience between ethnic groups receive an explicit mention (for example p. 16 in this chapter and in Chap. 3, pp. 69 and 76-77). Thus whilst we do not ignore these differences, we acknowledge that a full discussion of the significance of ethnic or migrant status for class resentments and national identity would be a different book to ours.

  • [1] This figure from the UK 2011 Census was calculated using Nomis official labour market statistics.
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