chapter  4
24 Pages

Class, subjectivity and motherhood

Structural and social relations have a major impact on the perception of self and others. In Chapter 2, I outlined how the middle classes came to construct themselves as distinct from a working-class mass, and argued that individuality remains a marker of moral superiority. In this chapter I will explore alternative working-class subjectivities and demonstrate how they can represent a challenge to middle-class individualist values. More specifically I draw on working-class mothers’ accounts of their lives and their children to reveal a more relational experience of self. Moving from a general discussion of personhood and disadvantage I focus on the particular accounts given by Liz and Sally to highlight class-specific meanings and values around child development. The real lived consequences of a contemporary backward slide towards individualised understandings of class are also laid out in this chapter. I show how working-class families are used as markers of individual failure, enabling the middle classes to distinguish themselves as rational, autonomous, reflexive selves and thereby claim an apparently natural entitlement to privilege.