chapter  4
21 Pages

The mechanics of non-change

There is a story of a senior SUll journalist who in 1986 passed his father every ll10rning on the way to his office at 'Fortress Wapping', Rupert Murdoch's East London dockland centre for his News International publishing empire. The father was a member ofthe National Graphical Association union and stood resolutely on strike duty as his son negotiated his way through police road-blocks, razor fencing and high-speed lorries carrying newspapers frolll the plant. At the beginning of the dispute, the father refused to talk to or even look at his son; after a year, they had patched up their differences. The import ofthe story is in two areas, both of which bear directly on the assessment of class in the United Kingdolll. First, the process of the son's social nl0bility suggests ways in which the class structure tllaintains its stability: by absorption and fluidity. Second, the ability and willingness ofthe father to challenge and protest, yet still keep his focus wide enough to compromise within a COlllmon perspective, indicates why that same structure has not been under sustained, direct attack. The reason seems to be that class conflict has been institutionalized, that is, regulated through a series ofprocedures that take place within a framework regarded by all as legitimate. There is an agreement over the limits ofconflict.