Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Read this. Richard Seymour writes terrifically on how the "chav" fits into our "common sense" worldview that, when all is said and done, hard work pays and that we slot into the natural order of things according to our diligence and aptitude.

The 'Chavs' phenomenon condenses many of the themes of this savage creed. It charges poor people with getting ideas above their station, with being feckless and irresponsible with money, tasteless, stupid, drunk, thuggish, and barbaric. In the guise of lewd satire, celeb-bashing and tart social commentary, it gives us a hit of class hatred. It references, and caricatures, the outward signs of social problems such as poverty, alcoholism, bad education and so on, but does so in the manner of a taxonomising anthropologist or zoologist, naturalising these very signs as qualities of a particular social sub-species: here a 'pramface', there a 'Croydon facelift', and mark the Burberry and inauthentic branded wear. The 'chav' is a folk devil, the quasi-satirical subject of the last decade's repeated moral panics about the 'underclass': nightmare neighbours, feral youths, ASBO kids, and so on. It is the byproduct of a neoliberalised social democracy which, in its acceptance of 'free markets', low taxes, and the language of meritocracy, was unable to directly challenge the growing inequality that, as a consequence of the unimpeded operations of the market, reached new peaks under New Labour. And it was under New Labour, rather than under Thatcher or Major, that the meritocratic 'common sense' was effectively popularised. It was New Labour that shifted the ideological terrain to the right, arguing for right-wing ideas and communicating them far more effectively to popular audiences than the Tories ever could.

I post this partly in dedication to Simon Cowell who, on an episode of a talent show tonight, said to a group of young dancers called Abyss: "You know what I love about you guys? There's so much whinging in the world at the moment - but you guys are prepared to work hard to get to where you want to be" - or words to that effect. Cowell is rather like Cameron - put him in the right situation and he shows his true colours. (I've seen him before say to groups of young black men, it's so great that you are setting such a great example to your peers. What a fucker.)


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