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Essex: Class, Aspiration and Social Mobility

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Essex is a Southern English county that has become associated in the popular imagination with a train of largely negative, intensely classed associations. From the mid to late 1980s onwards, as Thatcherism increasingly ‘took hold’ of working-class votes and of the political imaginary, the citizens of Essex in particular were often rhetorically linked to both new right political values and new kinds of social aspiration. This chapter explores, then, how Essex has become known as the home of unthinking new right working-class Conservatism and of the worst excesses of consumerism. We begin with a consideration of how Essex people, and especially the people of Basildon, have been regarded as being in the vanguard of Thatcherism, and how they were also looked to by politicians and pundits as a reliable barometer of its popular appeal. Basildon has been described as the ideal measure of the ‘mood of the nation’ (Hayes and Hudson 2001a) and as being at the heart of the ‘new sociology of aspirations’ (Hall 1992).


  • Social Mobility
  • Music Video
  • Labour Party
  • Council House
  • Classless Society

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© 2013 Anita Biressi and Heather Nunn

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Biressi, A., Nunn, H. (2013). Essex: Class, Aspiration and Social Mobility. In: Class and Contemporary British Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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