Talk of aspiration has been running through social policy in the United Kingdom and beyond for decades. Labour and Conservative politicians see it as a way to address inequality and to get working-class people to become more socially mobile. Prime Minister David Cameron called the UK an ‘aspiration nation’ and opposition leadership candidate Andy Burnham opened his campaign with his intention to make Labour ‘the party of aspiration’. In such pronouncements, aspiration remains alarmingly vague. In this guest post, Garth Stahl explores how we can use the theoretical tools of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu to study the identity negotiations surrounding aspiration, and particularly the aspirations of working-class young men and their sense of value.
Posts Tagged ‘neoliberalism’
I’m looking for a job. In fact, I’ve made up my mind to find a career that I can learn and grow into. Who am I? I’m a hard worker. I set high goals and I’ve been told that I’m persistent. And I’m thinking, television news might just be something that I love as well as something I happen to be good at. Now I know that today’s work culture no longer caters to the job loyalty that could be promised to earlier generations. But I believe that good things come to those who work their asses off and that good people who reach the top of the mountain, didn’t just fall there. My motto is, ‘if you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket’.
This pitch is made by Lou Bloom in a television studio in the latest Jake Gyllenhall film Nightcrawler. Lou does indeed find a career in television news – securing and selling hard-to-get footage of crime in Los Angeles to attract viewers to the network and stoke white suburban fear in Los Angeles. Lou and the media industry in which he works are amoral – money matters more than respect or dignity: captured by the explanation Lou is given by TV News boss Nina (played by Rene Russo) that ‘If it bleeds, it leads’. While most of the online discussion of the film has focused on its depiction of US TV news and media ethics, Kim and Heather became fascinated by the way the film uses Lou to link the taking on of neoliberal values – hard work, persistence and aiming high – to psychopathic and bullying behaviour. In this post they explore the film’s messages about contemporary work.
Last week, Laura and Kim were invited to speak at a brilliant one-day conference organised by CRESC and the University of Manchester, entitled ‘A sense of inequality’. They drew on findings from the project to attend to young people’s everyday negotiations and understandings of inequality. In this short blog post, Laura and Kim give a brief report on their presentation and the day itself.
Neoliberalism, the marketisation of everything, including ourselves, runs through our data. Indeed we’ve encountered several of examples of ‘extreme neoliberalism’ where celebrities find ever more excessive and expressive ways to convince us that their wealth and success derive not from luck or privilege but from superhuman levels of hard work and self-transformation. In a recent example, US actor Matthew McConaughey used his Oscars speech to tell us that his hero is himself in ten years, writing his success as the result of endless striving. However, it is the actor, musician and celebrity dad Will Smith who continues to provide the most compelling examples of extreme neoliberalism. Memorably, he once assured us that his commitment to sickening hard work is such that he would rather die than get off a treadmill before someone else. In this post Heather focuses on her favourite example from Will Smith in which he claims that he can choose the answer to two plus two.
This is the third of a series of posts exploring what the young people in our group interviews had to say about key global celebrities. Here Heather looks at the talk about singer and actor Beyoncé. Elsewhere on the website you can read what our participants had to say about Bill Gates and about Will Smith. If you’re interested in how we analysed our data to arrive at this account then follow this link, here I focus on how and why it appeared to be compulsory to like, even love, Beyoncé.
This is the first of a trio of posts about the Slow University that started life as presentations in a seminar at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Durham University. In it, guest blogger Luke Martell, argues that we shouldn’t fetishise speed at the fast university. This distracts from what’s behind it. And we should ask whether slow is what the slow university’s really about.
One is not born, but rather one becomes a woman – Simone de Beauvoir, 1953
This well-known assertion of Simone de Beauvoir, pointing toward the social and cultural mores that form and regulate an individual as a ‘woman’, is especially apt in light of the controversy surrounding the finalists of BBC2’s Great British Bake Off. The three female finalists have been variously castigated for being too miserable, too opinionated, too confident and too feminine. The repeated characterisations of the women in terms of inflexible, binary gender roles, alongside the criticisms of them for either failing to live up to these or – bizarrely – for adhering to them too closely, invites further analysis of the presentation of womanliness and femininity in the media. Moreover, the presence in the criticism of underlying suspicions regarding the race and class status of the women finalists demonstrates the increasing need for more fine-grained examinations of how we approach the still-troubling and troublesome category of ‘woman’. In this co-authored blog post, CelebYouth’s Kim and guest blogger Sarah Burton discuss the relationship between the structural context of GBBO and the individual presentations of gender therein, with a particular focus on the interactions between media, Britishness and public space.
Our universities are continually invoking us to do research that has ‘impact’. They’re thrilled when we get media coverage and, being honest, I also enjoy the aura of glamour that comes with media attention. So, we were pleased when we were contacted by the person in charge of media promotion for this year’s BERA Conference, saying that he was considering press releasing our paper. In this post, I reflect on this experience of talking through possible journalistic angles on our work and on why it all fell through.
In this, the final of three blog posts covering the team’s report of their contribution to the first ever Digital Sociology event, Heather discusses her concerns over the close fit between online communication and current audit demands for research to make a measurable impact.
‘Now’ can feel a lot like ‘then’ – the 1980s – with young people urged to ‘raise their aspirations’, take ‘responsibility’ and grasp the challenge of ‘enterprise’; all in a political context of high youth unemployment and drastic ‘reforms’ to welfare entitlements. Again we hear calls for ‘a nation of young entrepreneurs’. In this guest blog post, Robert MacDonald reflects more critically on the lessons we might learn from research in the 1980s about youth and ‘the enterprise culture’.