Dr Lisa McKenzie on Class, Austerity and Academia

There’s an interesting and important article at the Guardian (apologies for getting to it a little late now) by Dr Lisa McKenzie, a Fellow in the Department of Sociology at LSE. McKenzie’s research concerns the negative impact of austerity politics on working class people, especially in the context of council estates, and she draws on her own perspective as a working class woman who has lived in council housing for most of her life. She describes her book, ‘Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain’, as follows:

Getting By is the outcome of eight years’ ethnographic study, based on both theory and practice. Working-class people, and the communities where they live have been devalued to such an extent that they are known simply as “problematic” and in need of making better. It is the deficit model that working class people have something wrong with them, which needs putting right by intervention, by carrots and sticks. They are misrepresented and devalued. This is damaging and painful at best, and dangerous and vicious at worst.

She also has some very interesting things to say about her experiences as an academic with a working-class background:

Unfortunately, offhand and casual comments relating to class prejudice and snobbery are very common. Now “I have made it”, I am not supposed to react angrily to it, I am supposed to know my place, and be grateful for getting out. However, I am angry and so are other working-class people when we have to deal with and hear these simplistic and stigmatising views of our lives. I have written about how working class life is misunderstood, and reduced to simplistic one-dimensional narratives from both the prurient poverty porn, but also the middle class do-gooders. We are not expected to attempt to defend our choices, become angry, or resist. Getting By was written to tackle this type of prejudice, and stereotype, and to explain the complexity of working-class life, and life on council estates.

Well worth a read.