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How the British working class became white: the symbolic (re)formation of racialized capitalism

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alastair Bonnett


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This article offers an explanation of how and why the British working class, from being marginal to white identity in the nineteenth century, came to adopt and adapt this identity in the twentieth century. The changing position of whiteness within the symbolic constitution of capitalism is discussed. More specifically, the transition from whiteness as bourgeois identity within Victorian, relatively laissez-faire, capitalism to whiteness as a popular, or mass, identity, within the more state interventionist capitalism of the twentieth century is used to exemplify the mutable nature, and political complexities, of the relationship between working class and white identities. The paper concludes with some observations on the implications of this argument for the theory and practice of anti-racism.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bonnett A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Historical Sociology

Year: 1998

Volume: 11

Issue: 3

Pages: 316-340

ISSN (print): 0952-1909

ISSN (electronic): 1467-6443


DOI: 10.1111/1467-6443.00066


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