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The petty bourgeoisie — the insecure class between the working class and the bourgeoisie — is hugely significant within global politics. Yet it remains something of a mystery.
Initially identified as a powerful political force by theorists like Marx and Poulantzas, the petit-bourgeoisie was expected to decline, as small businesses and small property were gradually swallowed up by monopoly capitalism. Yet, far from disappearing, structural changes to the global economy under neoliberalism have instead grown the petty bourgeoisie, and the individualist values associated with it have been popularized by a society which fetishizes “aspiration”, home ownership and entrepreneurship. So why has this happened?
A Nation of Shopkeepers sheds a light on this mysterious class, exploring the class structure of contemporary Britain and the growth of the petty bourgeoisie following Thatcherism. It shows how the rise of home ownership, small landlordism and radical changes to the world of work have increasingly inculcated values of petty bourgeois individualism; how popular culture has promoted and reproduced values of aspiration and conspicuous consumption that militate against socialist organizing; and, most importantly, what the unstoppable rise of the petit-bourgeoisie means for the left.
Dan Evans is a former academic sociologist who is now a support worker, writer and trade unionist based in Cardiff. He writes about Welsh politics, social class and Marxist theory. He is also the host of the Desolation Radio podcast.
“A brilliant account of how and why “working class” and “middle class” have become such useless labels in the UK, and how we are actually divided.”
“A Nation of Shopkeepers asks important questions about class composition beyond the urban centres and “the left.” For those serious about making sense of class and the potential for transforming society today, Daniel Evans’ book makes an important contribution.”
“This is a vivid and passionate account of the renewal of class divisions in British society and the visceral forms they take. Anyone who doubts the relevance of contemporary class divides is encouraged to read this book.”
“A brilliantly readable exploration of the difficulties and the necessity of class analysis for any imaginably successful left politics.”
“A fascinating and accessible account of a social class that is too often neglected or misunderstood. This book powerfully makes the case for a sociologically informed analysis of the capitalist class structure today.”
“This is a fantastically written romp filled with humour and pathos which takes us through the history and peculiarities of the British Class system and its connections to modern British politics.”
“An intriguing, very political, and unexpectedly personal book for those who are obsessed with class and the global failures of the left.”
“A book of theoretical and political clarity that will help all of us think through the political and economic striation of the petty bourgeoisie.”
“A brilliant examination of the life and ideology of the petty bourgeoisie, the silent majority of ‘normal people’ whose safe, suburban, newbuild lifestyle belies their huge political influence and violent history.”
“Evans does a terrific job of helping us break out of classic class schemas that are either too abstract to help practical political interventions or have not kept up to date with the evolving and complex developments in the formation of classes in Britain. “
“A rigorous and attentive book that will be crucial reading for the contemporary British left.”