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A Nation of Shopkeepers: The Unstoppable Rise of the Petite Bourgeoisie

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They can’t settle down early because they’re busy chasing ‘knowledge economy’ jobs, and because urban housing is so expensive. However, a lot of work needs to be done to spread our relevance to other sectors, partcularly those dominated by the TPB and those that combine self-employed workers with wage-labourers, such as in construction, where historic projects such as the Australian Builders Labourers Federation could provide inspiration.

Such notions can readily merge with middle-class liberalism’s ‘dependency on working-class “backwardness” for its own claim to modern multicultural citizenship’. A left hegemonic strategy is not just about building a popular movement but a popular emancipatory one, ranged against gross economic and social inequality both nationally and internationally. A brilliant examination of the life and ideology of the petty bourgeoisie, the silent majority of ‘normal people’ whose safe, suburban, newbuild lifestyle belies their huge political influence and violent history. It would however be a mistake to take Evans’ diagnosis of the class composition of the left as given.An intriguing, very political, and unexpectedly personal book for those who are obsessed with class and the global failures of the left. I'll admit, I don't read much Marxist literature, and it will take study for me to fully understand this book. Yet, far from disappearing, structural changes to the global economy under neoliberalism have instead grown the petty bourgeoisie, and the individualist values associated with it have been popularized by a society which fetishizes “aspiration”, home ownership and entrepreneurship. p. 284) He illustrates his point with reference to the left Twitter discourse over the Deano internet meme – a satire of relatively successful, new-build owning tradespeople who have no qualms about flaunting their lifestyle.

The alternative framework is that in which abstract class categories are reified, resulting in the rejection of the complexity of social structures. When Evans goes so far as to say that the working class’s rejection of the left ‘is an entirely rational one’, (p.

The historic ties in question refer, of course, to colonialism, and in lieu of addressing unequal exchange, the pamphlet in some senses anticipated the Tories’ post-Brexit economic fantasy of ‘Empire 2. How dedicated to the slow building of a workplace union would a NPB member be if they really believe they will only be working at that cafe temporarily, that a better job (that they are qualified for) is awaiting them? The inability of the left to take ownership over the campaign against the European Union compared to the situation in the mid-1970s – when even Tony Benn at times veered perilously close to Powellite nativism – was obvious.

In this way, top-down nationalisation of industries is not satisfactory, and neither is a retreat to isolated self-employment. The right-wing discourse of ‘metropolitan elites’ – often an antisemitic dog whistle – was effectively deconstructed by Runnymede Trust director Omar Khan, who pointedly asked: ‘Why aren’t the ethnic minority and migrant people who live in tower blocks and experience disproportionate levels of child poverty (rising to 59 per cent for Bangladeshi children) viewed as working class? This is a vivid and passionate account of the renewal of class divisions in British society and the visceral forms they take. This individualism is also influenced by the relative autonomy in their labour that many TPB workers exercise, and perhaps even those who do not, such as modern gig-economy workers who are tethered to an algorithm instead of a looming supervisor.The TPB hates stifling bureaucracy and State meddling, it hates the Welfare State because it rewards idleness.

Dan Evans’ book is good for theorising the various conundrums we have been witnessing on the ground. He dubs the idea of a generational divide pitting selfish boomers against a young precariat a new ‘socialism of fools’. Fresh off the back of his 2021 co-edited volume, The Welsh Way: Essays on Neoliberalism and Devolution , he now explores how the triumph of neoliberal capitalism in the 1980s obliterated the old working/middle class divide, replacing it with a new and unclear in-between class. The social base of Corbynism was the young, down-and-out graduates whose social mobility towards the PMC they they were promised during the Blair bubble had been popped and then terminated by austerity.

I think the problem is that Evans remains stuck in a political rather than a thoroughgoing class struggle mindset. This helps to reproduce cultural, social, and ideological positions – such as anti-collectivism, opposition to trade union organising, rugged individualism, promotion-seeking and upward mobility.

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