'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'
– Danny Dorling, author of Slowdown
A Nation of Shopkeepers explores the unstoppable rise of the petty bourgeoisie, one of the most powerful, but underexplored, classes in modern society.
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.
Originally published by Repeater