The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life (Penguin Modern Classics)

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Articles in magazines, internet portals, and in newspapers are increasingly fractionated into bite-sized pieces, aimed at those with short attention spans or little free time for understanding nuance, together with the exact same style of content on social media. The last chapter deals with the experience of those who like Hoggart have largely left the working class through what was then the scholarship system and into non-working class jobs, and what sense of anxiety or alienation can sometimes be caused by this.

It would have been fascinating would Hoggart have still been around to write an update to this study in current times.

The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life (Penguin Modern Classics)

I'm struggling with this one a bit. It is quite dated and patronising. The interview at the end from gives really helpful context. I suggest reading the interview and then dipping into the book.

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There was a problem with saving your item s for later. You can go to cart and save for later there. Average rating: 3 out of 5 stars, based on 3 reviews 3 reviews. Poor basic skills affect many people from different social backgrounds but our argument is that our respondents' experiences of poor literacy originated in distinctively classed encounters in the home, education and labour market.

They had fewer opportunities, resources and support when compared to more affluent children and so the corrosive effects of poor literacy often went unchallenged. By examining the literacy problems of our interviewees we are able to chart some of the ways that social class is internalised — how it is transformed from iniquitous social relationship into embodied forms influencing the psychology and cultural identities of individuals. Since the s economic restructuring and changing patterns of employment in the West has raised questions about the utility of class analysis.

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Many suggest Pahl ; Clark and Lipset ; Pakulski and Waters that people no longer make sense of their identities primarily through ideas of class or skill such as blue or white collar but rather through differences in consumption and lifestyles. Some have responded to these trends by documenting the continuing significance of material inequalities and the role of class in the framing of life course transitions Shildrick et al.

Others point to the ways in which class works through place and culture to influence the life chances and identities of citizens Skeggs One notable development has been the emergence of a 'phenomenology of class' that charts the everyday experiences of the marginalised and how the economic and political structures of class can frame in often opaque ways, the subjectivities of individuals Charlesworth ; Reay We contribute to this latter work on class by showing how problematic learning experiences can leave a lasting legacy of stigma in the adults we interviewed and reveal some of the, 'hidden injuries of class' Sennett and Cobb Sennett and Cobb famously documented how many working class individuals, despite their material success, were still troubled by low self-esteem and stigma, which originated in the privations they experienced growing up in working class communities.

The insight here is that classed experiences can have a long-term influence on wellbeing as subjectivities only slowly change despite efforts by individuals to move on in life. Our research echoes these studies as the symbolic violence that our respondents endured because of their poor literacy was internalised and hampered their efforts to get on in life.

To have poor skills, working class parents and attend working class schools powerfully shaped the subjectivities of our interviewees, their position in the moral economy and their place in hierarchies of respectability. Basic skills as socially situated literacy practices 2. The educational inequalities in the UK are reflected in data that shows that Britain has one of highest rates of working age people with tertiary level qualifications yet also has significant numbers of workers with poor skills OECD Research drawing on data from the British Cohort Surveys also documented the effects of poor skills noting links between poor skills, unemployment and social exclusion Ekinsmyth and Bynner ; Bynner and Parsons as well as poor mental health Bynner and Parsons : 69; DBIS : Bernstein famously documented the variations in vocabulary and expression of school children and the relationships between restricted codes and working class educational under-achievement.

Bourdieu has also examined the differences in literacy use suggesting that modes of expression are an important feature of a person's habitus Bourdieu and Thompson Bourdieu and Thompson suggest that language use can reflect the different class experiences of individuals and hence act as symbolic markers of an individual's place in an unequal social structure. The powerful employ a vocabulary and accent that confer authority - a right to be heard. This is one way that those with economic and cultural resources convert these capitals into other embodied practices and dispositions that can aid their social advancement.

In contrast, the language use of the working classes, Bourdieu suggests, can often make them vulnerable to derision and exclusion, thus compounding their other material and social disadvantages. It is this focus on language fluency, its links to social background and how it influences social identities and social standing that is at the heart of our research. This situates literacies which refer to writing, reading, oracy and mathematics within everyday activities and shows how these are grounded in social settings and the traditions of language use in families, the workplace and the wider community Barton and Hamilton ; Appleby and Barton This approach employs the idea of literacy practices rather than skills as the latter are not simple isolated, measurable and neutral competencies possessed by individuals but rather are embedded in relationships and the reflexive activities of actors.

The NLS are therefore critical of perspectives that view literacies as forms of human capital as has been common in recent discussions of basic skills, employability and social inclusion Lankshear and Knobel Though the NLS have made an important contribution to the literature, as we note elsewhere Cieslik and Simpson , their concerns have focused mostly on mapping and describing the use of literacies rather than trying as sociologists might do, to link literacy practices to wider class relations and the influence on patterns of inclusion and marginalisation.

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Changing approaches to class analysis 3. There were structured, classed patterns of educational achievement and labour market transitions with limited social mobility for the few. These objective material processes were associated with cultural and subjective features of class membership. Interests in sport, shopping, leisure and politics were related to social class backgrounds. The last 50 years however, have seen changing employment and cultural activities that have challenged the significance of social class to objective relations of inequality and subjective process of identity formation.

Theorists of late modernity Beck ; Giddens ; suggest instead multiple axes of inequality and patterns of identity formation running through gender, 'race', sexualities, ethnicity as well as economics — a 'polycentric approach'.

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  4. The restructuring of institutions families, communities, work, welfare and education — so-called 'detraditionalisation' have added to insecurities forcing individuals to take increasing responsibility for managing their lives. This individualisation can take on the appearance of greater choice for citizens yet underlying such reflexive strategies are shifting social structures that compel individuals to cope with the risks of getting on in life.

    Our interviewees illustrate this pressure to make difficult choices — to reflexively manage their lives, coping with insecure work and uncertain futures. More recently however there has been a resurgence of interest in social class, as recession and austerity policies have helped to cast a spotlight on the nature of social inequalities Savage et al.

    When viewing our respondents' biographies we can see that their ways of coping with insecurity were often shaped by their classed experiences of poor literacy and their identities that emerged with such problems. Our data therefore points to evidence that supports aspects of theories of late modernity but also earlier class-based analyses of education and life course transitions rather than favouring one approach over the other as has been the case in some recent commentary on class analysis Woodman ; Roberts Where some have reasserted the continuing significance of material aspects of class to transitions Shildrick et al.

    This approach offers insights into mundane, everyday practices at home, work and with friends that reveal the longer-term psychological costs of growing up with poor literacy in working class communities. These aspects of identity are often over-looked by the more traditional materialist and policy-focused research into class inequalities. The biographical, narrative research we conducted allowed us to reveal some of the processes by which shaming or stigmatisation occurs. Traditionally, attention focuses on the shame of experiencing poverty and unemployment but we suggest that educational failure and poor literacy also contribute to the stigma experienced by our respondents.

    Behind the apparent successes of some of our interviewees they secured employment, some bought their homes, others got married there were many disappointments, regrets and anguish stemming from earlier problems with literacy. Our interviewee's spoke of their desires for self-improvement, better lives for themselves and their children yet felt constrained by their educational backgrounds and poor skills. Time and again, our interviewees had to struggle for recognition and respect. The significance of these accounts lie in how they show us a world behind the usual, apparent indicators of success such as employment and residence that are commonly used by researchers and policy-makers.

    If, as my interviewees suggest, they were weighed down psychologically by their past experiences despite the appearance of a 'successful' life this poses questions about how we research, document and ameliorate class inequalities.

    The Uses of Literacy : Aspects of Working-Class Life: Richard Hoggart:

    Efforts to cope with labelling and its influence on identities we understood in relation to the different resources as noted by Bourdieu material, social, cultural, symbolic that individuals mobilise and how these work through classed and gendered power relationships [2]. We combined this mode of analysis with insights from Andrew Sayer a; b on the ways that moral sentiments and norms of behaviour frame the relations and identities of working class individuals. There are codes of respectability in communities and to transgress these boundaries renders individuals vulnerable to shaming and 'othering' as we see with constructions of 'rough' and 'respectable', the underclass and contemporary images of 'hardworking families' versus 'welfare scroungers'.

    In particular we focus on how our respondent's difficulties with literacy created problems for their social identities and life chances as they struggled to conform to lay norms and manage processes of stigmatisation. Research Methodology 4. All respondents had weaknesses in literacy or numeracy — defined as attaining entry level competency. The original pilot involved men and women between the ages of 30 and 70 who attended an evening basic skills class at a small secondary school in the West Midlands.

    One of the authors worked as a volunteer tutor delivering some of the sessions.

    The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life (Penguin Modern Classics)

    The second project included 55 respondents 31 females and 24 males undertaking basic skills learning in community centres as part of a probation or New Deal programme. Fourteen of this 55 were then re-interviewed in in a follow-up study 11 females and 3 males.

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    4. Modern Classics the Uses of Literacy : Aspects Of Working-lass Life -
    5. These samples were almost exclusively white and working class and this reflected the ethnic make-up of the neighbourhoods where they lived across the North East of England and West Midlands — locales that had witnessed economic decline and shared similar problems of high unemployment, poor housing and schooling. The research employed qualitative, life-history interviews Bertaux and Thompson using biographical 'life grids' Webster et al. These concepts are also incorporated within a broad critical realist framework which allows us to theorise relations between structures and agency as well as the complex ways that inequality and identity are shaped Archer ; This helps to avoid the temptation of reductionism either to the micro level of agency or to the macro level of structure; allowing both their place in the analysis' Walby et al.

      Research Findings 5. As they mature these problematic learning identities have become a fixture of our respondents' sense of self, acting as a barrier to their efforts to get on in life and impinging on their wellbeing. We show economic, social and cultural class processes working through families, communities and education and their influence on the identities of individuals.

      Our interviewees therefore carry through life the embodied traces of these earlier problematic encounters they had at school and at home which condition later life events. It is important to make explicit these connections between learning and later identities as researchers often focus on more apparent 'objective' features of individuals such as poor work and unemployment rather than stigma, shame and respectability Toynbee There can also be the tendency for lay accounts to individualise problems of poverty and poor work whose origins may lie in systemic structures of inequality — the so-called 'epistemological fallacy' Furlong and Cartmel We illustrate then how poor skills and associated stigmas contribute to a complex classed, subjectification process as they influence not only the objective transitions and careers of our interviewees but also their subjective identities and ways of accounting for their difficulties in life.

      Schooling, literacy practices and the experience of stigma 5. This allows us to explore the experiences of different aged cohorts during a time of educational and social change. Interviewees from the pilot project were schooled during the s and s and those from later projects were in compulsory education during the s. What is remarkable is how consistently our interviewees, irrespective of their age at interview, were able to recall the details of their schooling and their problems with literacy.

      This illustrates how such emotionally charged events have become woven into our interviewee's personal narratives. For Jackie and Robin who were interviewed for the pilot project they offer some typical memories of their schooling.

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      At school I was quiet and just plodded along really — not going anywhere — a shame really…I always had problems putting things down on paper…But I was trying my hardest and couldn't do any better. Jackie In lessons just couldn't take it on board. Teacher was writing on the board and then it was gone — turned it over.

      I was still on the first few lines. Couldn't keep up with it…I was the dumbo of the family, couldn't read or write. Robin 5. The expectation from teachers and students alike was that children should have mastered the basic aspects of reading and writing in primary school yet our interviewees made slow progress so that by secondary school they repeatedly failed literacy tests and struggled with routine classroom activities.

      Without the additional literacy support they needed our interviewees became very emotional about their learning — they were confused, frustrated and angry about their inability to be like other children who could read and write fluently.

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      Published January 1st by Transaction Publishers. Andrew Goodwin Introduction.