chapter  One
43 Pages

The ‘new structuralism’: Class politics and class analysis

WithFiona Devine

This chapter focuses on the ‘new structuralism’ as espoused by political scientists and sociologists. The early 1990s, however, has seen the publication of research on the impact of sectoral cleavages on party political allegiances and has resurrected the ‘new structuralism’ thesis as an account of Labour’s misfortunes throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. The ‘new structuralism’ has been the subject of a number of incisive criticisms by political scientists and sociologists alike. P. Saunders’s work has been subject to much attention across a number of sub-fields of sociology and political science. Saunders’s research on one particular mode of consumption – housing – has been beset with the same theoretical and empirical problems faced by proponents of the sectoral cleavages thesis. New politically relevant sectoral consumption cleavages have fragmented class interests and, consequently, have undermined class voting. The LSE team reiterated P. Dunleavy’s argument regarding the growing importance of consumption sector cleavages.