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Classificatory struggles: class, culture and inequality in neoliberal times

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/05/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>The Sociological Review
Issue number2
Volume63
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)493–511
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The fate of groups is bound up with the words that designate them (Bourdieu, 1984).

The problem that the concept of ‘class’ describes is inequality. The transition from industrial to financial capitalism (neoliberalism) in Europe has effected ‘deepening inequalities of income, health and life chances within and between countries, on a scale not seen since before the second world War’ (Hall, Massey, Rushtin, 2014: 9). In this context, class is an essential point of orientation for sociology if it is to grasp the problem of inequality today. Tracing a route through Pierre Bourdieu’s relational understanding of class, Beverley Skeggs’ understanding of class as struggles (over value), and Wendy Brown’s argument that neoliberalism is characterized by the culturalization of political struggles, this article animates forms of class-analysis, with which we might better apprehend the forms of class exploitation that distinguish post-industrial societies. Taking a cue from Jacques Rancière, the central argument is that the sociology of class should be grounded not in the assumption and valorisation of class identities but in an understanding of class as struggles against classification. In this way, sociology can contribute to the development of alternative social and political imaginaries to the biopolitics of disposability symptomatic of neoliberal governmentality.