Space, networks and class formation
This chapter provides an attempt to defend the concept of class in historical analysis, while recognising real problems in its existing usages, and some thoughts as to how it can be developed. It considers the basic features of the ‘class formation’ perspective, indicating both its considerable strengths, as well as some of its weaknesses. The chapter explores how the concept of class formation might be broadened to include a spatial dimension, and suggests that lessons can be learnt from developments in the social network analysis carried out by American sociologists. It shows how space and class formation has been treated by social historians, and points out that nearly all accounts emphasise the role of places as ‘habitats’ for social classes. The important feature, therefore, of ‘gentlemanly’ class formation was the extent to which its everyday routines of life and leisure enabled it to ‘stretch’ itself over space.