Alien nation? New perspectives on the white working class and disengagement in Britain

Published Mon 6 Oct 2014
Through original polling, this essay collection examines alienation among 'white working-class' people, and finds that attitudes towards key issues throughout British society are less polarised and more complex than is commonly assumed.

Recent debates about political disengagement among various groups in British society – particularly the white working class – have put class back on the agenda. Political parties are urgently considering how to position themselves to appeal to working-class voters, but genuine re-engagement requires more than a clever, short-term 'retail offer' designed to appeal to this section of the electorate.

This essay collection aims to move beyond immediate questions of electoral strategy to sketch out a more robust, long-term approach to addressing white working-class alienation. It explores the different ways in which this group has been defined, and how those definitions have been unable to capture the complexities of modern British society. Looking at issues of disaffection and alienation, it uses the findings of new polling conducted by YouGov on behalf of IPPR to seek a better understanding of contemporary white working-class attitudes and experiences in the UK.

In a series of short essays, IPPR experts consider different aspects of white working-class disengagement and disaffection, focusing on community, political equality, the state and public services, and the economy and workplace. Exploring our polling results in greater detail, each chapter discusses the context behind the numbers and suggests strategies for how disengagement can be tackled, both among the white working class and more widely.

Our research challenges the view that Britain is a society of two extremes, and reasserts the need for policies that engage with the concerns of white working-class communities in a way that acknowledges the pressures of rapid social and economic transformation, but does so in the spirit of reinvention rather than recalcitrance.

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