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March 17, 2019

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From Arse To Elbow

"If Johnson and Rees-Mogg had thick Brummie accents, how would the media treat them?"

As Jess Phillips would no doubt tell you, it all depends.

e

You missed out a group which surprises me. There are growing numbers of workers who choose not to “fit in” to a damaging self sustaining system that enables the view: “money and crime” get the baddies and all will be fine. Because it's bought 'us' to where we are: leading increasingly precarious controlled lives but for the supposed concern of our employers, be they State or private. Brought us to a renewed Labour party.

Blissex

«If everything comes naturally to you, you don’t need to think so much about how to get it. So you under-invest in learning how to hustle, negotiate or strategize.»

A very important point that I have read about Eton: it has many teams, clubs and societies with elected leaders, which are important status indicators, so Eton pupils compete a lot to be elected, which apparently gives them a keen taste for low and high politics.

«Military service forced posh men into close relationships with poor ones, thus broadening their perspective.»

Some countries maintain compulsory military services in peacetime precisely for this reason, and it works to a large extent; because it means that the posh cannot easily dismiss "hoi polloi" as not-quite-human and have to find other reasons to discriminate against them.

Daniel

I don't really get why this blog pushes such a UK centric viewpoint all the time. As if the only people who care about palistein or other none UK causes are all rich and well to do. I thought a central tenant of Marxism was internationalism?

Peter K.

typo in first sentence

Sevanslux

Yes. And yes, Irish people understand Brexit because they understand the UK better than Brits

Brian

Chris, you always write very well on this topic, and your insights over the years have shaped my thinking enormously. However, I think there is more nuance on the point of what “posh*” is, and I sometimes wish you’d see it. Here goes my effort at a description: old posh, which ended (I think) between the 50s and 80s, educated their sons (less daughters) to be the administrators and soldiers of Empire. Their schooling was spartan, almost in a literal sense, and their wealth lay in cultural capital not financial capital. Their lives were hard, they had power but they were by no means rich. This class of people (largely men) had a strong sense of service and duty, and knew the burden of their privilege. The new upper middle classes are educated in the same schools and universities, but these places of education now serve a very different purpose - and hardly the de facto near borstals of yore designed to create resilient, hard men. This new class lack a sense of their position or privilege, and have a raison d’etre which goes little beyond primative accumulation and turning their power into remtier housing income and capital gains.

There is some overlap between these families: some old posh became new posh. But not all, and in fact many old posh did not return to Britain after the world wars (they were killed in large numbers), or after the end of Empire. And those that did found their values ill-suited for what Britain was to become.

Why am I making this point. There has been a culture change in Britain- and in its ruling.class too. This change of attitude is worthy of study because it might help us understand where things went so wrong and how to rectify them.

* posh defined as upper-middle class. The aristocracy being numerical outliers. I realise there are problems with this definition!

Richard Willmsen

" if you are “just about managing” you are only one decision away from abject poverty. "

Yes, and most discourse around poverty of the last 40 years has wilfully ignored the fact that most of the time that decision is not one that you yourself have taken.

Metatone

One of the interesting things as someone who has through birth and circumstance been much more of an outsider in Britain than you is to observe that in fact the key characteristic of Britons of all classes is utter outrage that they have to learn how to be in a new situation.

You can read it in your own reactions, or in numerous discussions on Twitter of those who have moved into journalism or academia from humble origins. The baseline reaction is exactly that of the posh Brexiteers faced by having to deal with Europe - utter outrage that life can't be simple and comfortable.

georgesdelatour

There’s just too much motivated reasoning to get much out of this post. A tiny number of posh pro-Brexit politicians are being used to generate a general theory of poshness, just so long as it fits the “Brexit Bad” narrative.

But:

1) The founders of the “European idea” were mostly posh (e.g. Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi); Giscard d'Estaing was/is posh; the President of the ECJ is posh, etc.

2) It was largely the posh patrician wing of the Tory party which took us into the EEC/EU and steered our early membership (Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Geoffrey Rippon, Geoffrey Howe etc).

2) Some very non-posh Labourites have been passionate Eurosceptics (e.g. Michael Foot, Dennis Skinner). Ernest Bevin, Britain’s most working-class Foreign Secretary ever, famously said of plans to create a European federation “if you open that Pandora’s box, you never know what Trojan horses will jump out”.

Regarding the theory of posh overconfidence: again, I think it’s motivated reasoning. One of the most extreme examples of delusion-level overconfidence was Leon Trotsky’s naïve handling of the Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations in 1918. He was very definitely not posh, but his German and Austrian opposite numbers were all aristocrats.

Andrew Dodds

I can certainly relate to this, coming from a working class upbringing in Leicester to Cambridge and on to a professional career.

What I found was that although there is support up to the age of 21, there is something of a cliff at the end of undergraduate university - no one else in my family had been to university, so their idea was that going to university was a success in itself, and not (as the posher kids would be taught) a stepping stone to more things.

And it goes without saying that if your childhood experience is one of financial precariousness and repeated redundancy crises, then your bias is towards keeping what you have, career-wise, rather than risking something new.

shoreview

I think a lot of people here are missing the point. Most of this post seems to me to be about "posh" people buggering up this whole process without the slightest sense of fear of what might happen as a consequence....Cameron trivializing a massive constitutional issue with a referendum purely out of convenience, Farage trivializing the entire relationship with Europe, Johnson and Gove thinking they could manage Brexit without having the foggiest idea of how trade policy works, Tory remainers in general not even bothering to come up with a campaign message, May and her allies treating the aftermath as a debating society jape instead of a negotiating process, and Rees-Mogg shorting UK investments while publicly maintaining how wonderful Brexit will be for "sovereignty".

georgesdelatour

@shoreview

Supposing if, the day after the Referendum, Parliament had decreed that no one who’d had a private education would be allowed any involvement in negotiating the withdrawal agreement. Not one minister, not one civil servant. Would that change your attitude to Brexit? I suspect it wouldn’t, because your real concern appears to be opposition to Brexit, not deconstructing poshness.

If we try to assess posh vs non-posh attitudes to the EEC/EU since 1957, I think it’s obvious posh people have tended to be more pro-EEC/EU than non-posh people. There’s a far greater statistical likelihood a Remain voter had a private education than a Leave voter.

This whole posh-vs-plebs Brexit argument is like the old-vs-young Brexit argument, and equally mired in motivated reasoning.

When Leave won the Referendum it was discovered that older voters had tended to vote Leave, while younger voters had tended to vote Remain. An argument was suddenly invented claiming that the over-60s generally tend to be callow, impulsive short-termists who really shouldn’t vote, while the under-30s tend to be mature, thoughtful long-term thinkers who should (but who tended not to bother showing up and voting on June 23rd, for some reason).

Interestingly, one year earlier, Pawel Kukiz, an almost-Fascist ex-punk rocker, had secured 42% of the under-30s vote in the Polish Presidential election, largely because of his pledge to legalise marijuana.

OMT

"If everything comes naturally to you, you don’t need to think so much about how to get it. So you under-invest in learning how to hustle, negotiate or strategize."

I'm not sure that's true. There are still plenty of posh boys pretty much like Dicken's Steerforth - and who would take just as much sly pleasure in having a present-day Mr Mell dismissed:

"'If you think, Steerforth,' said Mr. Mell, 'that I am not acquainted with the power you can establish over any mind here' - he laid his hand, without considering what he did (as I supposed), upon my head - 'or that I have not observed you, within a few minutes, urging your juniors on to every sort of outrage against me, you are mistaken.'

'I don't give myself the trouble of thinking at all about you,' said Steerforth, coolly; 'so I'm not mistaken, as it happens.'

'And when you make use of your position of favouritism here, sir,' pursued Mr. Mell, with his lip trembling very much, 'to insult a gentleman -'

'A what? - where is he?' said Steerforth.

Paul Pudney

Thanks, its not economics but this analysis totally chimed with me more clearly than i worked out in my own mind.As a working class lad (by origins) making his way in science rather than economics. I very analytical but this resonated with my own personal journey.

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