Copyright Sociological Research Online, 2002


Tim Butler (2002) 'Thinking Global but Acting Local: the Middle Classes in the City'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 7, no. 3, <>

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Received: 30/9/2002      Accepted: 30/10/2002      Published: 22/10/2002


The paper advances the notion that there is 'metropolitan habitus' in large global cities such as London which distinguishes it from other conurbations in the United Kingdom. At the same time, it is argued that whilst London is becoming an increasingly middle-class city, this group is increasingly stratified along socio-spatial lines. Richard Sennett's work The Corrosion of Character is drawn upon to suggest that, to some extent, different gentrification strategies enable the metropolitan middle classes to compensate for the lack of a long term in contemporary middle-class life.Drawing on fieldwork, recently conducted in five gentrified areas of inner London north and south of the Thames, it is suggested that an important aspect of the socio spatial differentiation within the metropolitan middle class is whether it seeks to embrace or escape the contemporary globalization of consumer culture. Although this process is highly nuanced by individual strategies for negotiating the boundaries between the global and the local, which are exemplified by the distinction between residential areas and the centre of London, it is nevertheless suggested that these socio-spatial divisions account for variations within the metropolitan habitus to a greater extent than socio- demographic and occupational divisions which are only weakly associated with the global/non-global dichotomisation. The paper uses both quantitative and qualitative data to look at the different ways in which cultural, economic and social capital are drawn on in the gentrification of each area and how these reflect not only the capabilities but also the proclivities of the different groups concerned. It is suggested that metropolitan habitus is a concept that needs further analysis and research but which has considerable potential explanatory value in accounting for differences between the middle classes in London and other provincial cities and non urban areas.

Gentrification. Middle Classes. London. Metropolitan Habitus. Bourdieu. Social Capital. Globalization.


The aim of this paper is to advance our understanding of the diverse nature of gentrification in London, reporting the findings from a recently study undertaken as part of the ESRC Cities: Cohesiveness and Competitiveness Programme[1] where we investigated the gentrification of six contrasting areas of London. Our purpose is to bring out commonalities and contrasts, for whilst there were enduring and important differences between the areas, which largely form the basis of this paper, the overall sense was of the existence of what might be termed a 'metropolitan habitus'. This distinguishes middle-class people living in London from those living not only in its extensive suburban travel to work area but also those living in most other British cities (with the partial exception of Edinburgh, which is not only Scotland's capital but also the UK's second financial centre and an important European 'player'.).

The 'London versus the rest' distinction largely rests upon London's identity as a 'cosmopolitan metropolis' which is driven by its status as one of the major global cities in a network of such cities (Sassen 1991). Gentrification is increasingly associated with the global spread of the financial services industries and its denizens whom Lees (Lees 2000) calls the 'financifiers'. Whilst many British cities have, in recent years, hosted spectacular central city revitalization mainly through the conversion and rehabilitation of previously commercial and industrial property, this is a different phenomenon from the ongoing transformation of inner London into an increasingly middle-class city. Little academic research has been undertaken on the gentrification of these cities but what evidence there is suggests that such areas have been strongly associated with the 24/7 night-time economy and a hedonistic consumption culture (O'Connor and Wynne 1995)[2]. This is very different from the gentrification of London which is accounted for not so much by the consumption possibilities of the centre but by the overall 'pull' of the metropolitan habitus which is strongly associated with being a global city and the associated cultural connotations. This is relatively unexplored in the literature; for example, the survey data gathered by Bourdieu in Distinction (Bourdieu 1984) was gathered in Paris, Lille and an unspecified agricultural town and it is not clear from the analysis to what extent there was a Paris and the rest bias in the findings which are focused around distinctions of social class rather than their spatial disposition.

Whilst London's global connections and status may account for its metropolitan habitus, its scale and diversity is leading to a developing sense of localism within its middle class. This reflects more general trends that have identified within global cities a nuanced blending of the global and the local in contrast to the rather hard-edged dichotomisation of the two terms (Amin, Massey et al. 2000; Amin and Thrift 2002). In a rather different context - that of the relationship of the nation state and globalization - Brenner refers to global cities as 'the interface between multiple, overlapping spatial scales' (Brenner, 1998, 27). We are, I argue, witnessing the same phenomenon taking place within such cities between middle-class spaces and those who inhabit them. What we have in London is a super awareness of the meaning of different gentrified areas and what kinds of people live in them and the meanings that they project both to their residents and others who understand the cultural language (Butler 1997). There is it would seem however a complex interaction between the centre as a site of cultural consumption (with its museums, galleries, theatres, restaurants etc) and the gentrified residential zones in the surrounding areas of inner London. They are not therefore self-contained localities and how individuals balance the attractions of the local and the global is a matter of individual taste and considerable variation - in for example how they divide their time between shopping and eating where they live or going, for example, to Covent Garden.

In developing my argument I draw on Bourdieu's conceptual framework, following the lead of Bridge (2000) who has argued that gentrification can be regarded as a specific form of the habitus

...gentrification as a form of habitus presents us with a conundrum and one that goes to the heart of Bourdieu's class analysis as well as our explanations of gentrification. Habitus is largely about the structuring structures that make sure classes are reproduced over time. It is about classifiable practices as well as their classification. But gentrification seems to represent new practices and orders of classification. If the different tastes that lead to, say, inner urban loft living, rather than suburban housing, are merely small perturbations within the overall middle-class habitus, then why all the fuss about gentrification? Why is gentrification held up to be symptomatic of the cultural practices of the new middle class? If gentrification is minor variation in the reproduction of the middle class then why did it happen at all, given the fact that in terms of existing tastes of the middle class (i.e. the existing habitus) the inner urban areas to which early gentrifiers might move were seen as inherently risky? The difficulties that these questions raise suggest why most of the discussion of gentrification and habitus tends to relate to areas where gentrification is well advanced or, if it is in the early stages, research is focused on areas that in some senses are soft, or more secure, for habitus adaption (artists' districts in Manhattan is the classic example....) (Bridge 2000: 206-7)

Bridge sees gentrification as a 'field' (Bourdieu 1987: 3-4; Wacquant 1989: 39; Jenkins 1992: 84-5) within the habitus and raises the specific questions about the issue of variation within this field and how it can be mapped. In the research we undertook in London we investigated five areas which can be understood as 'gentrification by collective action' and one area (Docklands) which can be termed 'gentrification by capital' (Warde 1991). In the former, the habitus (defined crudely as the attitudes, beliefs, feelings and identities) of our respondents and the areas in which they lived were, to some extent, the outcome of a socio- spatial interaction based around choice. In the latter, the habitus is largely a creation of the place- marketing efforts of the developers to commodify the experience of living in a rehabilitated working class area. Both run counter to the accepted sociological wisdom that place is a given. In this paper, for simplicity, I focus on the five areas of 'collective action' gentrification.

The habitus, which is the centrepiece of Bourdieu's conceptual paradigm, refers to the ways in which processes of class formation - and reproduction - are facilitated by the storage and (transposable) transmission of core cultural dispositions in the individual.

'[Bourdieu] replaced the notion of rules which govern or produce conduct with a model of social practice in which what people do is bound up with the generation and pursuit of strategies within an organising framework of cultural dispositions (the habitus)' (Jenkins 1992: 39)

The habitus is the crucial term because it is the bridge between, on the one hand, individual decision-making about lives and, on the other, the structures that constitute society (Jenkins 1992: 74). In other words, the habitus enables sociologists to more or less resolve the troublesome dichotomy between subject/object or structure/agency. It is the 'dispositions of the habitus' which are 'generative of practice' through individuals and provide a basis for what people do.

I compare the five fieldwork areas on the basis of the different ways in which respondents deploy their capital assets in making - or more accurately re- making - the different neighbourhoods. Following Bourdieu, I distinguish between economic, cultural and social capital, which together constitute our respondents' capital assets. In Bourdieu's (Bourdieu 1986) model Economic capital refers to monetary income and other financial resources and assets, finding its institutional expression in property rights. Cultural capital exists in various forms, expressing the embodied dispositions and resources of the habitus. This form of capital has two analytically distinguishable strains, incorporated, in the form of education and knowledge, and symbolic, being the capacity to define and legitimise cultural, moral and aesthetic values, standards and styles. Social capital refers to the sum of actual and potential resources that can be mobilised through membership in social networks of actors and organisations. Critically, this involves 'transforming contingent relations, such as those of neighbourhood, the workplace, or even kinship, into relationships that are at once necessary and elective, implying durable obligations subjectively felt (feelings of gratitude, respect, friendship, etc.)' (Bourdieu 1986: 249-50). This makes this form of capital more of a relational phenomenon than a tangible, or easily quantifiable, resource (Butler and Robson 2001).

Essentially my argument is that gentrification is a 'coping' strategy by a generation which, whatever its other differences, is reacting not only to changed social and economic circumstances but also against its own familial upbringing. In other words, whilst the middle class may be relatively autonomous - such as to where they live and what career they choose - in other respects they are experiencing an increasing loss of control over their lives. Richard Sennett's (Sennett 1998) argument in The Corrosion of Character is that the inter-connectedness of work and family has - it would appear - been transformed in a single generation; the very values that continue to drive many of today's middle class in their work lives - insecurity, flexibility - also prove to be the greatest worry in their domestic lives.

...Rico hates the emphasis on teamwork and open discussion which marks an enlightened, flexible workplace once those values are transposed to the intimate realm. Practiced [sic] at home, teamwork is destructive, marking an absence of authority and of firm guidance in raising children. He and Jeannette [his wife], he says, have seen too many parents who have talked every family issue to death for fear of saying "No!", parents who listen too well, who understand beautifully rather than lay down the law; they have seen as a result too many disoriented kids. (Sennett 1998: 25-6)

Sennett's respondent Rico, the son of a janitor who Sennett interviewed extensively in a previous study (Sennett and Cobb 1972), has been upwardly mobile. He has worked his way through a number of jobs in the 'new economy' until he runs his own consultancy which is apparently successful although he clearly struggles both to retain employees who are always being hired away and to keep up with the technology in a fast-moving field. His wife - Jeannette - has a parallel career in financial services and they have moved for both their careers. The real problem that Rico identifies is that there is 'no long term', so that 'behaviour which earns success or even survival at work thus gives Rico little to offer in the way of a parental role model' (Sennett 1998: 26). He has been unable to make up homilies from his own work, as his father had done to him, for the moral and spiritual guidance of his own children.

In fact, for this modern couple, the problem is just the reverse: how can they protect family relations from succumbing to the short term behaviour, the meeting mind-set, and above all the weakness of loyalty and commitment which mark the modern workplace? In place of the chameleon values of the new economy, the family - as Rico sees it - should emphasize instead formal obligation, trustworthiness, commitment, and purpose. They are all long-term virtues. (ibid: 26)

Sennett summarises Rico's dilemma in the following terms

Short-term capitalism threatens to corrode his character, particularly those qualities of character which bind human beings to one another and furnishes each with a sense of sustainable self. (ibid: 27)

I am not suggesting that the inner London middle classes have work lives like those of Rico and Jeannette - far from it; many - if not most - of them have been both occupationally and residentially comparatively stable over years. Many live on their own, even more do not have children; nevertheless the basic insecurity of an increasingly flexible world dominates their lives directly or indirectly. The 'new capitalism' has infected (or at least inflected) the work/home lives of the new middle classes simply by removing the notion of a long term. At a stroke, this removes one of the cornerstones of middle-class life - that of 'deferred gratification' and the values that the middle class used to be able to attach to that and reinforce by parental authority and reference to their own professional lives. In this sense, London's gentrification is seen, in part at least, as a series of 'coping strategies' by its middle classes. This is not to suggest that the middle classes who have been moving into London over the last decade are doing so reluctantly because most cannot really envisage living elsewhere. At the same time, it has presented them with a range of 'challenges' which are very different from the ones they experienced in their own, often middle-class and non-metropolitan, childhoods. These coping strategies, I suggest, have involved them in conscious attempts to create neighbourhoods which are designed to bridge these often contradictory aspects of their lives. The nature of the middle classes in Britain over recent decades is more complex than in the mid 20th century (Savage, Barlow et al. 1992; Butler and Savage 1995; Savage 2000). One of the ways in which this is represented is in deciding where and how to live. In a large, global city like London the diversity of the housing market, particularly in a period of great changes such as have marked the closing decades of the twentieth century, means that the process of middle-class settlement will be complex. The making of an urban middle class will be heavily influenced by such concerns. For their part, the middle classes have a range of different assets which they are able to deploy; some of these will be constrained (such as lack of relative economic capability) whereas others are more a matter of choice and conscious decision, such as the wish to create active middle-class networks. It is likely that these will be deployed in different ways which will give particular areas their own distinctive ambiences and that this can be seen as part of the process of class formation in contemporary London. In this sense, the habitus acquires specific spatial characteristics which in turn influence those living in its ambit. In trying to untangle the nature of the urban middle classes in London, the structure of consciousness is likely to prove important and 'place' to be of enduring influence.

The Fieldwork Context

We undertook our research in five areas of what might be termed 'collective action' gentrification and three sub-areas of gentrification by 'capital' which were all located in London Docklands (Warde 1991). The areas are identified in Figure 1.

Figure 1: London, showing the study areas

This paper is concerned with five areas that have undergone 'collective action' gentrification. Between them, they constitute what might be seen as a 'natural history' of gentrification in London. Gentrification is generally seen as having its origins in Barnsbury which is part of Islington in north London in the 1960s (Williams 1976) although the gentrification of Battersea in Wandsworth in south west London has been nearly as long-established (Munt 1987; Lyons 1996). Our research area in Battersea is called 'Between the Commons' lying, as it does, between Battersea and Clapham commons.

Brixton is one of the best-known areas of London but not as one of inward middle-class settlement. It has long been regarded as the centre of London's Afro-Caribbean community; more recently it has acquired status as the centre of 'new hedonism' based around a 'night time economy' to which people come from all over Europe for a night out. It is only in the last decade that it has become generally perceived as a centre for middle-class habitation although it has in fact had a long-standing - and somewhat alternative - middle-class presence. We chose, partly by accident partly by design, two sub areas Herne Hill and Tulse Hill which are separated by Brockwell Park. The two are subtly different but broadly conform to a Brixton type.

Telegraph Hill, near to New Cross in south east London, has been a middle-class 'enclave' in the generally deprived inner London borough of Lewisham for over two decades. Its gentrification is rather more 'hidden' and is not on the gentrification circuit in the same way as Barnsbury and Battersea, which now have an international repute as upmarket areas. London Fields, which is located on the eastern border of the London Borough of Hackney in north east London, is a yet more discrete/discreet and uncertain area of gentrification (which for many is part of its charm). Even here however its gentrification is not particularly recent - Tony and Cherie Blair lived there before moving to Barnsbury. Whilst, like Telegraph Hill, it is hidden from the rest of gentrified London, it is also a much more mixed area and one in which the middle class have not succeeded in exerting their hegemony over it - or not chosen to. An embryonic 'arts infrastructure' is slowly becoming discernible in London Fields but it is otherwise like Telegraph Hill and devoid of anything that might be described as a consumption infrastructure - unlike Barnsbury, Battersea and Brixton.

We selected the areas according to three main criteria. Firstly, we wanted a range of areas that had been established in gentrification over different lengths of time. Second, we also wanted to include areas to the south of the river Thames because gentrification in London has tended to be associated with 'north London' as a trendy invocation of liberal values (Butler 1997). Thirdly, we were working with Savage et al's (Savage, Barlow et al. 1992: chapter 6) three way taxonomy of the middle classes ('corporate undistinctives', 'liberal ascetics' and 'postmoderns') and wanted to choose areas that would contain at least elements of each and to see whether these social divisions coincided with spatial divisions.

'Between the Commons' in Battersea we felt might equate with a combination of the undistinctive and post-modern middle-class types identified by Savage (1992: 106-18 and 127-31) as being found amongst professionals and corporate managers. Telegraph Hill and, in a less formed way 'London Fields', we surmised as approximating to a 'liberal-ascetic' complex broadly populated by what Savage et al term 'welfare professionals'. In Brixton, we felt the Tulse Hill area to be more 'unformed' and perhaps representative of a more recent 'post-modern' formation which crossed some of Savage et al's boundaries. Herne Hill (known as 'Poets Corner' because of its street names - Chaucer, Milton etc) was, we surmised, more likely to contain 'ascetics'. Barnsbury we imagined to contain a mixture of long-established ascetic residents and more recent post-moderns who were very much in the mode proposed by Savage et al (1992: 113-5).

Our research design called for us to complete 75 in-depth interviews with gentrifiers in each area. In order to generate this number of successful interviews, we estimated that we would need to contact 750 potential interviewees. This proved largely accurate. Non response, owner occupiers and geographical mobility accounted for this - we worded the letter sent to potential respondents carefully to exclude those who did not fit into our category. The sampling frame was drawn from the latest available electoral register, a document whose inaccuracy is well known. Despite these problems, we believe that our respondents are largely representative of the middle-class populations in each of our areas and non gentrifiers were excluded from the analysis. The interviews were conducted face to face, mainly in people's homes. The details of the findings are reported elsewhere (Butler and Robson 2001; Robson and Butler 2001; Butler and Robson forthcoming 2002; Butler and Robson forthcoming 2003a; Butler and Robson forthcoming 2003b). The quantitative material from the questionnaires was coded whilst the considerable amount of qualitative data was written down verbatim and subsequently written up. The quantitative data were coded and then analysed using SPSS focusing for the most part on differences between the research areas. The qualitative data focused mainly on attitudes to, and impressions of, the area, why it had been chosen in the first place and respondents aspirations for the future. Both sources of data are used to illustrate the main themes discussed here.

In what follows I discuss the role played by the local in implementing coping strategies to respond to the complex and contradictory nature of living in a global city. Specific attention is paid to how respondents deployed their relative stocks of capital as defined above by Bourdieu in relation to their chosen neighbourhoods.


Longhurst and Savage (Longhurst and Savage 1996) observe that middle-class individuals may exhibit more complex and contradictory forms of consumption than the attribution to them of straightforward habitus- types allows for. It is argued that Bourdieu's focus on patterns of variation leads him to overlook commonalities across apparently differently structured groups and generate definitions of habituses which may be misleading in their construction of the boundaries around each example. The caution here is against simply setting up in the business of habitus-mapping, as the 'search for variation needs to be placed in direct relationship to the related need to examine patterns of commonality' (Longhurst and Savage 1996: 287). Our data bear this out. Whilst there are important, significant and systematic variations between our fieldwork areas, what is also striking are the commonalities - leading to the notion of a 'metropolitan habitus'. This is well- illustrated by the generational nature of respondents, indicated in table 1

Table 1: Age of Respondent
AreaTelegraph HillBrixtonBatterseaBarnsburyLondon Fields
Number of Respondents7071737170
Minimum Age2227242630
Maximum Age7775787975
Mean Age46.841.543.445.647.3
Std. Deviation10.511.
Some respondents did not wish to divulge their age, hence missing data

Respondents in all areas shared a very similar mean age - in their mid forties - with a remarkably consistent standard deviation, although interestingly there were people in their seventies in all areas. However, the remarkable homogeneity of the respondents as being those who were brought up in the 1950s and 1960s would correspond to the experiences of many of the subjects of Sennett's study referred to earlier. They were overwhelmingly white (98%) and from middle-class backgrounds (60% of their fathers were in managerial, professional or own account occupations). There were variations in the latter - those in Barnsbury and Battersea being most likely to come from upper middle-class backgrounds whereas the more upwardly mobile were found in London Fields and Brixton although the second largest category in London Fields was those who were inter-generationally downwardly mobile. Just under 60% of respondents were either married or living with an opposite sex partner and approximately 30% were living alone - the remainder living with a same sex partner or in some form of collective household. These figures did vary by area as indicated in table 2

Table 2: Household Composition of Respondents by Area %
AreaTelegraph HillBrixtonBatterseaBarnsburyLondon Fields
Other sex partner14.315.36.815.322.7
Same sex partner1.411.
Single Person15.733.334.222.227.3
Total (n)100 (70)100 (72)100 (73)100 (72)100 (66)

More than three quarters of respondents were in social class 1 and social class 2; the overall breakdown is indicated in table 3. There were some relevant area differences - just over half the respondents in Barnsbury (52.8%) were (or were married to/living with people) in social class 1 (higher managerial and professional) whereas this fell to around twenty percent in Brixton (22.5%) and Telegraph Hill (18.3%). By contrast, over half the respondents in these two places were in social class 2 (lower managerial and professional). The only other class that had any significant representation was social class 3 (intermediate occupations) in Brixton (9.9%) and Battersea (8.2%).

Table 3: Respondents' Social Class
Social ClassDescriptionFrequencyPercent
Class 1Higher managerial & professional14835.3
Class 2 lower managerial & professional17942.7
Class 3 Intermediate occupations266.2
Class 4 Small employers & own account workers235.5
Class 5 lower supervisory & technical occupations2.5
Class 6 Semi routine occupations41.0
Class 7 Routine occupations1.2
Class 8 Never worked & long term unemployed41.0
Not classified327.6
Total 419100.0

These figures support the finding that those living in gentrified inner London tend to be found in professional and managerial occupations (Butler 1997). Most in fact were professionals and relatively few were managers and were more or less equally divided between private, public and self-employed sectors with a further ten percent working in the voluntary sector.

Table 4: Area Distribution of Respondents by Sector of Employment %
Area/ sectorTelegraph HillBrixtonBatterseaBarnsburyLondon FieldsTotal (n)
Public 39.737.916.427.933.330.9 (91)
Private18.925.847.536.121.130.1 (89)
Voluntary8. (22)
Self-employed32.827.632.826.338.631.6 (93)
Total (n)100 (58)100 (58)100 (61)100 (61)100 (57)100 (295)

Table 5: Professional-Managerial Distribution by Area %
Telegraph HillBrixtonBatterseaBarnsburyLondon FieldsTotal (n)
Managers13.918.522.422.712.318.0 (59)
Professionals69. (221)
Admin/Secretarial3. (15)
Artistic9. (27)
Other4.63.101.501.8 (6)
Total (n)100 (65)100 (65)100 (67)100 (66)100 (65)100 (328)

Note the discrepancy in numbers between tables 4 and 5 is accounted for by the fact that in table 4 the data refers to those in work whilst in table 5 it includes retired people and those who have stopped working, in which case it refers to their most recent job.

Eighty six percent had received some form of higher education, approximately a quarter had been to 'Oxbridge' (about 30% in Barnsbury) whilst two thirds had studied arts, humanities or social sciences. This is compatible with some aspects of the notion of a metropolitan habitus; these are people working in knowledge and culture industries rather than those responsible for technical or scientific functions or directing the labour of others. Approximately twenty percent of households with more than one adult had an annual income in excess of £100,000 with the modal category of between £60-100,000. For single person households, 35% had an annual income of more than £40,000. These figures varied by area with over half (53.6%) of those in multiple adult households in Barnsbury having an income of more than £100,000 compared to Telegraph Hill (8.6%), Brixton (8.7%) and London Fields (4.8%) - the figure for Battersea being 18.7%.

There are therefore significant income inequalities which are greater than the differences in social and educational background. In so far as income enables access to high-priced areas such as Battersea and Barnsbury, this is of significance in accounting for the differences between areas but it does not explain either the differences or more importantly the commonalities. Neither entirely do the occupational and other background differences. Each area has an identity that is driven by far more than its raw housing market characteristics. This comes across strongly in the qualitative interview data. Relating to the overall theme of the paper, these define the local in relation to the global aspects of the city. Accordingly we group the areas into two categories, those that embrace -albeit in very different ways - London as a global city and those that are concerned to escape that embrace. Barnsbury, Battersea and Brixton fall into the former category whilst Telegraph Hill and London Fields go into the latter. It is important to note that both receive their identity in relation to London's status as a global node and centre of consumption; in other words, it would be misleading to characterise the former as global places and the latter as local. What is also interesting is the way in which respondents relate to their area and how they deploy their stocks of capital or assets as previously defined (cultural, economic and social) in relation to them.

Embracing the Global City

Barnsbury, Battersea and Brixton are, as we shall see, very different places with very different populations nevertheless they all are riding global culture in ways which distinguish them from the escapist enclaves. All have a highly-developed infrastructure based around a culture of consumption and hedonism. In Battersea this is the most straightforwardly commercial, based around its own high street (Northcote Road) which acts as a satellite centre for south west London. The shops here are focused around a limited number of activities: bathrooms, kitchens, exotic food, estate agents and drinking or eating out. The latter are increasingly 'themed' - All Bar One and their like. In Upper Street, Islington which is Barnsbury's High Street and performs a similar satellite role to Northcote Road for north London's middle classes, there is an equal dedication to consumption but it is invested with rather more cultural capital and the commercialism is rather more tasteful. Brixton too is dedicated to an infrastructure of consumption which is, if anything, more internationally-renowned than the others but, at the same time is more hedonistic, and oppositional or alternative - relying on the frisson of its reputation as an area of Afro-Caribbean culture. In all three areas the centrality of the city is emphasised - particularly so in Barnsbury and Battersea whereas in Brixton it is the multiculturalism that is the attraction. Physical closeness to the centres matters in the first two which are both in but not, as it were, of the city whereas Brixton is more physically distant but emotionally blended into an urban multi-culture.


There are two main themes about Barnsbury which intersect and are at least partially contradictory. The first refers to its material and cultural infrastructure of consumption and the second to its 'social capital rich' reputation and the networks associated with this.

It's now very vibrant, with a great 'street' life - a choice of restaurants, bars, theatres etc... recent gentrification is a result of changes in the City. It's more attractive now for young singles, lots more businesses attracted to the area, which has benefited wider populations and the whole area is much smarter. (BY20)
This is quite a close knit area socially. This street pulls together, we have meetings if there's a problem. (BY29)
I like the people who live round here, the left wing feel - it can be a very supportive community when things go wrong. (BY8)

The theme however of centrality was one of the major benefits of living in Barnsbury for many - both to the West End and increasingly to the City. Lawyers could 'pop' into their chambers on a Sunday if they had forgotten to bring home the right boxfile for a case on Monday morning.

It's not central to London, it's in central London, and the West End's accessible for cinema, theatre, shopping. We can walk into town. Not having to commute is the main thing. I can have breakfast with the kids - that is worth an unquantifiable amount. Being with the kids is just not a problem. That's the main thing for me, more than the local commercial infrastructure... I like the local school, it has a good atmosphere with a good mix of social classes and people, quite artistic people around. (BY50)

Many respondents contrasted the city buzz of London and the 'human' scale of Barnsbury although this was often mediated by an awareness of the 'other', however well-hidden by the leafy streets of owner-occupation

It's central, close to the theatres, West End, Barbican. I can walk to the galleries. This is a tremendous advantage, the source of all positives, you feel like you're living in the heart of London, you have the city buzz. London's a wonderful place... the street is quiet with great architecture. It's a delightful, villagey place on a human scale. We have wonderful neighbours. But beyond the area there's Barnard Park - no thank you very much - the area is shabby beyond our locality... (but) it might be more difficult to live here if we didn't have the escape to Somerset that we have, the house down there.. (BY53)

This contrast between the buzz of the centre and the quiet of the local is expressed by both long term and more recent residents. Most respondents cross the city/local divide with its implications of a social gulf easily

It's convenient for work and close to cultural centres. The community is a good cross section. The local facilities are very good; there is a very lively eating scene. It's a comfortable place to live...but it still has a good atmosphere, overall, it's not alienated, there's no antipathy. (BY48)

This sense of community is, as I have indicated, one of the enduring themes about living in Barnsbury. I remain somewhat sceptical how far this notion of community - which was assiduously built by the first generation of gentrifiers in the 1960s and 1970s - persists. One respondent, for example, having thanked me for sending her feedback on the initial survey data said that she was initially a little upset by our speculation that social cohesion might be weakening but recalled that she and some friends had recently been mugged returning home late one night. She felt that this was now increasingly 'par for the course'. Many respondents were now concerned that the stark contrasts in wealth might be having a malign effect. A recurring theme was to relate social cohesion to the architectural style of the privately owned housing

I like the proximity to town, the local history, the built environment itself, I like all these things. The approach to planning in the area has been good, generally, and the place feels connected to the past - in a sense it feels quite undeveloped...the place does somehow manage to maintain a balance of extremes: even the rich lawyers have been of the 'right sort', though I do fear that money is now driving the place in a different direction. (BY54)
We have good, like-minded neighbours, something that was sorely lacking when we lived in Surrey Quays. It's a lively area, with lots of small shops rather than bigger the things. It's central, with good transport, and lots of cultural activities (cinema, theatre, galleries)'s a mixed community...we like the architectural style of the place very's very different here to Surrey Quays. There seem to still be a lot of very heavy old south London types around in the area we were in, although everybody there mixed in together. We had all sorts of things happening around us - people's houses being burned down, robberies, all sorts. It could be really seems much better round here, though the rougher types are still around, on the estates. (BY55)

The diversity and difference of the area is an enduring theme although there seems an implicit contradiction between the way in which respondents welcome both its 'groundedness' in a 'local' economy and, at the same time, the 'improvements' in the housing stock:

There is a strong sense of community here. The visual aspect, the architecture, is very pleasant. The arts are well represented. There are lots of things for young children...Upper Street has a lively nightlife, which is pleasant, the presence of young people and lots of activity. (BY66) It's an extremely cosmopolitan, interesting area which retains its long term's very mixed, with a nice local atmosphere. It's easy to live in. (BY38)
This is a close knit area socially - this street pulls together, has meetings if there's a problem...on the whole, the area is getting better, nicer to live in...I'm glad to see the progress, it's nice to see houses being renovated...much less demolition than in the past. (BY29)

Barnsbury's attraction lies in a combination of its accessibility to the city and its social capital rich reputation. However, the contradiction lies in the fact that its most recent incomers are those who are able to deploy large amounts of economic capital and yet have insufficient time or inclination to invest social capital in maintaining its networks. This is leading to an increasing 'hollowing out' - to a situation in which, unlike their predecessors, they do not send their children to the local schools (not one respondent had a child for example in a local secondary school) nor get involved in local affairs (such as being a school governor). Thus what distinguishes Barnsbury from other high income areas is now in danger because, as a result of re-gentrification, there is insufficient social capital being invested which is resulting in a degree of social alienation which previous rounds of gentrification managed to mitigate and mediate.


Like Barnsbury, Battersea is based around its accessibility to the City but its attraction is far more reliant on the benefits of market-based provision - indeed its local authority was a flagship conservative borough for Mrs Thatcher's local government policies. It has, uniquely for London, based its policies around facilitating gentrification. The irony is that whilst it does not have the social capital rich attraction of Barnsbury, it has much better local provision of both state and private schooling available in the borough unlike the situation in Islington. Thus social capital remains largely latent and is mediated through market-based relationships. The attraction of 'Between the Commons' is that you get a safe and well-provided environment of like- minded people within easy commuting distance of the City and the West End.

We like it very much. It is very safe, and has all the amenities one could want...We still enjoy what London has to offer, and our friends are here. There is good shopping, and plenty of space...and it has a vibrancy, a buzz, there is a zing to living here...things have really changed in London: black cabs will now come south of the river. (BA1)
Extremely good transport links - this was our original motivation for coming here. Good local primary schools. Open space, good facilities. (BA2)
It's very pleasant and incredibly popular. Everything is here, you haven't got to go over the river for everything you want - we have our own department stores. It's very safe, very middle class. (BA3)

In contrast to Barnsbury where everybody was apparently celebrating being able to be part of the city (but, at the same time, once removed) and where people took the long view about continuing to live there, one of the striking things about Battersea was the incipient anti-urbanism. They had to live in London because of jobs but most hankered, one got the impression, for the countryside and would willingly swop most of the facilities for a pair of green wellies. Although the connections with the rest of London and the upper class villages of Chelsea and Fulham were big plus points, there was a continuing refrain about being able to get out of London easily and also about how they would be moving on in a few years - if things went well up in the City being the implication

It's a good place to live - it's quiet, the people are nice, it's clean and it's safe. The facilities are good, and there are the parks...Transport is good, it's easy to get out of London. It's just nice. (BA7)
It's safe and friendly, and there are a lot of people with a shared outlook, which is important to me - I had nothing common with the people in West Hampstead, where I lived before. There are a lot of people who are here for 3-5 years, before moving on. It's a kind of staging post.... It's convenient for the rest of the world, and people like coming here - it's attractive to outsiders. (BA54)
It feels good and open, with a good neighbourhood feeling ... it's great actually ... more and more people with kids are using the area as a stepping stone before going to the country. (BA32)

Battersea residents are also not un-self critical of the area and themselves (as a social group) but, whereas in Barnsbury this is displaced onto the new rich who have bought into the social capital rich environment but are not prepared, as it were, to put in the hours, the auto-critique of Battersea is more of a self parody.

It's not really my favourite place, I'd prefer Chelsea. This falls in between too many stools. There's too many people going round pretending this is the country, which it's not - it's neither town nor city...The houses all look the same - and the people are all too samey, there's no diversity. I hate that - we're all the same, no's becomes very middle class, private schools, public school backgrounds, far less black people than there were. (BA44)
It had a different feel before, now it's much more 2.4 kids. The types who were around before were more varied in outlook and background. Now it's the huntin', shootin' n' fishin' set, much more homogeneous...what this area really needs is a good tennis club. (BA49)

There is a similar issue of authenticity of belonging, as in Barnsbury, but in Battersea it is mediated through shopping - the infrastructure is almost entirely devoted to consumption and is not leavened by the 'culture' of Barnsbury. There is no Almeida Theatre, Kings Head or Screen on the Green. It is door-to-door restaurants, bars and trendy shops. What is a positive is also, for some, now a negative:

It has a nice, local feel - in London but not of it, relaxed...I've got to know people, so I feel part of a community, which is rare in London. There is good shopping, restaurants, bars, green spaces all around you; very pleasant...It's changed a lot in the seven years I've been here. Northcote Road has changed out of all recognition - there were a lot of boarded up shops, one or two restaurants, and now it's gone very upmarket...the street market has diminished, sadly, but overall the place has improved dramatically, it has a sense of life. (BA18)
People don't talk to each other, there's no neighbourhood's gone upmarket with the fashionable chains of pubs and restaurants coming in. This has generally been a good thing but it's gone far enough now - any more and it will be to the detriment of the area. (BA48)

For the most part what respondents value about Battersea is its 'villagey' atmosphere in which they feel safe and 'comfortable':

It's a very good place - two large commons, good shops, good transport (so we don't need another a car).... It's very village-y, I do a lot of talking to people in the street... it's a nice lot of people, a lot of self employed people like film makers, architects, wine merchants - it doesn't have the uniformity of Chelsea... it's a very safe area. (BA5)

Whereas in Barnsbury it was the architecture that was elided with its attraction, in Battersea, although the houses are pleasant enough, it is the spatial ordering that is commented on which, it is generally felt, the local authority - Wandsworth - has used its powers to enhance. The contrast in attitudes to the local government could hardly be greater and in contrast to Barnsbury; it is seen as providing genuine choice of private and state education on the doorstep. The local primary school prepares children for the Common Entrance examination for entry into private schools as well as grooming them for state selective schools. Time and again, respondents talk about it as the ideal place in London to raise children, primarily because it is perceived as safe and provides all the public and private services that families need

A thriving community. It's good socially, we're always bumping into people, talking to shopkeepers. I know this is almost a cliché, this thing about community atmosphere, but we do have it here... there is an atmosphere of safety, no security grilles, nobody shutting themselves away (BA29)
The commons and parks make it feel good and open. It has a good neighbourhood's great, actually. (BA32). I feel safe in the area - there is relatively little burglary and plenty of security cameras. It has a real community feeling, chatting to shop owners and so on. (BA34)
We worked out very carefully why we wanted to live here before coming: very good school; huge amounts of open space but with proximity to the vibrancy of central London; good transport links and great facilities for families. We are very much amongst friends, having lived here for as long as we have. (BA43).
It's wonderfully convenient and almost crime free - it's very central but without any inner-city feel. (BA46)

In both Barnsbury and Battersea, which are amongst the favourite stopping-off places amongst the international service-class diaspora, there is a growing sense that global culture is homogenising their distinctiveness and they are becoming defined in terms of their infrastructures of consumption. By contrast, Brixton remains distinctively different as a result of the oppositional relationship nature of its cultural infrastructure. Unlike Barnsbury or Battersea, Brixton's distinctiveness is informed by its multiculturalism and its focus as a meeting point for global culture as evidenced by street life which brings together migrants from many cultures and traditions.


Our study areas are to the east of Brixton Hill. Tulse Hill runs off Brixton Hill to Brockwell Park and Herne Hill ('Poets Corner') runs east between the Park and Railton Road (the so-called frontline when Brixton was the nearest Britain could do for the racialised inner-city war zone). What both areas share is the relative calm of their 'interiors' in contrast to the buzzy disorder of central Brixton.

The immediate area is nice and quiet, there's never any hassle. It's secure and safe, with lots of families with kids. Central Brixton is the opposite, it's youthful, with lots of things going on - pubs, cinema, restaurants, clubs. The atmosphere is youthful, trendy in some way. (BN26)
I love it - we have great neighbours and people are generally very friendly. It's central but quiet, and there is actually lots of wildlife...It has a nice buzz to it, it's a good place to go out (though we tend to go to Clapham more)...But it has a good atmosphere, I like seeing all the characters around the tube station and central Brixton...the centre of Brixton has really been cleaned up, and it's a lot more lively. It feels quite safe now, I'm not at all bothered...people look out for each other here, tend to respond to alarms - unlike in some areas. (BN27)

Whilst many might dispute the communal aspect of the area, what unites almost all the respondents is the tremendous 'buzz' and 'vibrancy' of it as a place to live (both words appear frequently in respondents' accounts).

It's close to the West End, which is good, but nice and high up - the opposite hill to Highgate, in fact - so we have a terrific view of the's friendly and vibrant with a great, mixed, market. On the whole, there is more racial integration than anywhere else in London...Brixton still has enough of a downside to limit the number of pine strippers who might want to live here. Though the Brixton middle class is a real feature, as I see at my daughter's nursery, I don't see it becoming gentrified as quickly as somewhere like Chiswick...the area has improved in lots of ways. The market is unbelievably vibrant, with the African influence much stronger than it used to be...we have a kind of social ease here - it's much more relaxed than north London. Things are much easier, just talking to our (West Indian) neighbours, there's a lot of give and take. Neighbours look out for one another's kids - unlike in North London. (BN35)

However it is the mix of multiculturalism with an alternative consumption infrastructure which is the attraction of Brixton for many. It shares with Battersea and Barnsbury an engagement with the global economy but one that is much more 'full on' and raw, it is not somewhere that an itinerant banker would be expected to live (although at least one respondent referred to a neighbour who was a banker who shuttled between London and New York). The relative tranquillity of the residential zones in our fieldwork areas contrasts with the energy of the entertainment district of Central Brixton which radiates out from its tube station.

This road is quiet, it's a friendly neighbourhood, but there's plenty to do nearby. It's just good, I like it - the cinema, parks, centrality...I like the cultural diversity, the weird and wonderful vegetables and so on...The Afro-Caribbean flavour is great. So hopefully the improvements will affect everybody. (BN21).

For many the clubs, the independent cinema (the Ritzy) are what make Brixton such a wonderful place to live

The best things about Brixton are its people, its parks and its cultural's a lively, young person's place (which is why I came to live here originally, but it's obviously not so relevant now). I actually met my wife in the Fridge!......these last couple of years the place has just been heaving at night, everything is packed out all the time......A slightly different type of person is moving here now - the type of people who live in Clapham are spilling over to here. It's less run-down, derelict feeling. (BN3)

The attraction is also quite serious, not just that of a hedonistic ageing youth culture; the multiculturalism is attractive not just because it signals an open-ness to differences of 'race' and ethnicity but more generally.

The people here are great - it's still a community. The neighbours are wonderful, friendly but not too friendly. My daughter is mixed race, so it's very comfortable for her to be here. (BN6)

The multiculturalism doesn't work through as intermingling but as a toleration and celebration of difference which largely works through groups ignoring each other - as the following extract indicates:

I like the tension that exists here, and the peculiarity of enjoying this kind of inner city atmosphere while surrounded by people like ourselves - I really enjoy this tension (we've had no trouble ourselves). It's not multicultural, it's black and white - I like the way that people live together and ignore each other...the area is not entirely predictable. It's a genuine model of city living...the edginess of central Brixton is a buzz - I enjoy the madness of it, if I'm not too tired. It's sort of mad, but I love it. (BN15).

We describe this relationship as 'tectonic' (Butler and Robson 2001), whereby people move across each other like the plates in the earth; in some ways this metaphor can be extended to describe the relations between class groupings in middle-class London. In Brixton, this certainly works as a tension-management device which ensures relatively stable relations in an essentially unstable social structure.

We came across more openly gay respondents in Brixton than anywhere else, many of whom felt it was an easier place to place to live than elsewhere in inner London

It's the best place I've ever lived in London. It's very comfortable for me as a gay man in central Brixton - though it can be tense, there is a strong gay and lesbian presence. It's also very ethnically mixed, which makes me feel comfortable. I feel comfortable with the diversity...It took a long time to connect with people in the street at first, probably because we were two men living together, but it's a lot better now...Brixton doesn't feel like it did in 82/83, around the time of the riots. There's not the same desperate atmosphere as there was then... (BN39).
It's a pleasant and safe area. It's very quiet even though there is a lot of activity in the area is general. There's lots to do close by, so I don't need a car; Ritzy, restaurants, fabulous things. And the population is very diverse - we don't stick out here as 2 women living together. (BN15).

Brixton is therefore a very different kind of area to Barnsbury and Battersea; its attraction to many lies in its diversity and multiculturalism although this is more 'ideal' than lived. In reality, most respondents valued the fact that where they lived was relatively quiet and cut off from central Brixton. They took pride in saying that they lived in Brixton; it said something both to and about them. For those who had been there a long time, they wore their residence with pride and regretted what they saw as its passing and a new Brixton emerging which traded on its past but which was now in retreat before the twin forces of a property-driven gentrification and a commercially marketed night time economy that appealed to white audiences attracted to its bad past. Whereas in Barnsbury there was an inability or unwillingness to deploy social capital into local social networks and in Battersea it was unnecessary because it had already been done by the local state, in Brixton there was, at it were, almost a sense of flight from social obligation. Respondents were generally low on economic capital, unwilling to deploy social capital and had less embodied cultural capital than those in other areas. Living in Brixton was an exercise in marshalling alternative symbolic capital - 'which is the form the different types of capital take once they are perceived and recognized as legitimate'. Living in Brixton, by this most London originating of all our groups, was largely a statement about the significance of alternative cultures which were embodied in the idea of a 'Brixton in the mind'.

Escaping the Global City

Whereas Brixton, Battersea and Barnsbury have embraced the city through consumption - albeit in very different ways, Telegraph Hill has kept that aspect of the city at arm's length. There is no such consumption infrastructure and that is what people like about the area - what is celebrated publicly elsewhere is the focus of the private household in Telegraph Hill. Consumption takes place within the home rather than on the street. The resources that make Telegraph Hill work are its middle-class social networks which is what people value about the area. In common with respondents in Barnsbury and Battersea, many respondents here made a point of linking the social environment with its built context:

We like the conservation aspect ... We're into architecture and keeping the original features. The trees and mix of people mean a lot to us, the social mix, actors, artists, people from all sorts of backgrounds. There's a lack of stereotyping, they're not all working in the city, or as solicitors. It's an intelligent group of people, on the whole. So the environmental and the social go together. (TH12)

At face value, the habitus in Telegraph Hill is similar to that of Brixton - a celebration of diversity and difference but, as this respondent hints, it is a different diversity that is being sought out. It is actors and social workers rubbing along with solicitors endogenously within the middle class. We are looking here at a very specific group of middle-class people to whom 'getting along with the neighbours' matters, not just because that is how village life ought to be but because it also provides the social networks which can help them negotiate their way through the potentially hostile waters of living in one of the most deprived areas of South London which is still, in many ways, inflected with a white working-class culture (Robson 2000). The Den, the home of Millwall Football club and iconic of an old way of life is not far away and the fact that many of its supporters have fled to the 'whitelands' of outer South East London and Kent does not stop them returning during the week in white vans to do the building jobs on gentrified housing. Middle-class life is a struggle and nowhere perhaps more strongly than when it comes to education and social reproduction. Telegraph Hill is more home-centred than the other areas and also, given the relative lack of economic capital of its residents, one of the more fragile. What is lacking in economic capital is however compensated for by the strategic deployment of social capital through culturally capital rich networks - 'The best thing about this place is the people' (TH23). Two aspects are emphasised by respondents: the pleasing physical aspect of the area and the sense of belonging to a community of fellow spirits. This is often contextualised within a discourse about difference and diversity but there is a tension here: it is a diverse area but the impression comes across that this is a backcloth to the actual interactions which take place amongst a remarkably homogeneous middle-class group.

It's a friendly, green, family-oriented sort of place, with a good mixture of feels like it's really coming up. There are a lot of self- employed, arty people coming into the area - it's a flux, not static. (TH17) Huge gardens with plenty of wildlife - only 3.5 miles from the centre of town, and travel can only get better with the new extensions (to Jubilee line and DLR)...a nice, mixed community, not exclusively middle class or one ethnicity (TH19)

The area is undoubtedly pleasant, as we have indicated previously, particularly in contrast to the 'mean streets' aspect of much of the surrounding deprivation of New Cross and North Peckham that make up some of the roughest areas of South London. The streets are wide and tree-lined and the houses generous with wide, sunny gardens - in contrast to much of gentrified north London where the terrace style leads to long, narrow and often sunless gardens. The juxtaposing by many respondents of the physical pleasantness with the social closeness is noticeable:

It is an oasis of calm, with a calm, green, quiet atmosphere. Community spirit is good, lots of people I can socialise with. My daughter has good friends's central, with good transport links. (TH65). I like the parks, the physical aspect of the area. It's quiet and orderly...the local school is a big plus...there is a nice mix of people, we know quite a lot of people through neighbours, and take part in activities in the area, etc. (TH67).
I love living here, really like it. Architecturally it's super, and the environment is lovely. You have, on the hill, a mixed atmosphere, and the people are lovely...I like living in the city, having lived in Kent... (TH33).

Telegraph Hill respondents have a lower socio- economic status than in other areas, with the majority of respondents in social class 2. This is compensated for by assiduous community-building through the deployment of social as opposed to economic capital and it is this that is the distinguishing characteristic of the area. The 'retreat from the city' is signified by the lack of a consumption infrastructure and the relatively poor transport links to the rest of the city - although some respondents welcomed the improvement in the transport infrastructure as enabling them to draw on the leisure and cultural resources of the centre. Telegraph Hill stands, as it were, out from the surrounding deprivation and unlike Brixton there is no sense of 'New Cross of the mind', its relationship to its surrounding areas is one of isolation.

London Fields

London Fields shares with Telegraph Hill a sense of being an enclave but in ways which are less assertive of middle-class presence; for example, whereas in Telegraph Hill the park is middle-class ground in London Fields it remains largely controlled by non middle-class youth. There is more social contestation than elsewhere, with the exception of Brixton. As in Brixton, there is a celebration of the area's connections with a radical working class past 'Hackney of the mind' (Butler 1997). However, unlike Brixton, there is not an alternative consumption infrastructure nor a flight from social obligation. The area is generally more 'unformed' and less easy to categorise. It does however represent a withdrawal from the middle-class city which in a sense distances it from all the other areas.

The diversity of the area is why we live here - it's brilliantly colourful and international ... we will NEVER live anywhere else... we love the dynamism, particularly of the ethnic mix. It never stays the same, it's become much more African and Turkish in the last twenty years, and there's always new things in the mix. (LF2)

Time after time, respondents stressed the friendliness of the area, its diversity and the fact that it was 'improving'

It's not suburban, I like the urban feel and the cultural mix ... there are a lot of arty people around, things are just starting to happen in the area, but it's not too upmarket. There is a sense of community, other parents around who are teachers, lots of like-minded people around...but the important thing is the mix; my son is mixed race, and it's good that there are a lot of people like him around, which is very important...there are more restaurants and a slight feeling of the area going more up market, but it's not a case of obvious gentrification - I like the rough edges. (LF7)
It's an attractive and friendly neighbourhood, with its own 'London Fields' identity... the physical appearance of the place has improved enormously as a result of the activities of the newer buyers... social housing has, by and large, improved, the newer developments are much better than the 70s monsters, and the older ones have been improved, so a general improvement in the look of the place overall. (LF15)

The observation that the improvements 'have not gone too far', together with references to the flagship regeneration under the New Deal for Communities initiative of the Holly Street Estate which is on the borders of the area, indicate some of the problems but also what appears to be a genuine wish to live in a mixed area and work through the problems.

The mix of people is lovely, really excellent, smashing's quiet and the space is great, plenty of room in the parks...we were made to feel very welcome when we moved here, which was a concern...We've had no problems with neighbours (old working class and middle class alike), so it didn't really conform to what might have been expected, our moving here and settling in. (LF36).
It's not a trendified place, it still has quite a lot of character, which is quite unusual for London...there are some nice houses and interesting buildings in a mix of's close to areas that I like and relatively quiet... (LF29).


In this concluding section, I attempt to pull together the commonalities and differences between the five areas. In particular, I do so in the light of the remarks made in the introduction: that our respondents chose where to live as part of a 'coping strategy' to deal with living in a globalising metropolitan centre. In choosing areas respondents prioritised differently their deployment of cultural, economic and social capital. In part, this was an outcome of their availability - in terms of economic capital whether they had it, but in terms of social capital whether they had the inclination or time to invest it in local social networks. Almost by definition, gentrification requires the investment of cultural capital in the social and built environment structures of multi-class inner city neighbourhoods (Jager 1986; Butler 1997).

Barnsbury, Battersea and Brixton have embraced London's emergence as a contemporary global metropolis albeit in rather different ways and involving quite different sets of feelings towards their local sense of place. Battersea and Barnsbury not only display all the symbols of contemporary globalisation but also do so in ways which would display taste and distinction. This applied not just at the level of the ubiquitous 'themed' drinking places but also the provision of food, decorating materials and 'ideas' for the bathroom and kitchen. As one respondent put it, you could buy many varieties of ciabatta or varieties of olive oil but a wing nut - forget it! Although apparently similar, the routes into these two gentrified play zones were very different. In Battersea belonging is enabled by a narrative more in the nature of a 'template' for middle- class living, in which residents slot into a set of pre-existing market-based structures which require low levels of reflexivity, these being less appropriate, necessary or possible. Even if it didn't turn out that way, the place was transitory -somewhere to stay until you had made your pile in the City with which you could buy one in the country. This is not to comment on the nature of the social relations or the stock of cultural capital held by respondents but to make the point that, for most of them, their considerable assets of both were mediated primarily through the market and via the possession of actual or potential economic capital.

Barnsbury was different in that there was no template as such, the discourse of entry was based much more around a 'narrative of belonging' which, although it was social capital rich, in reality required high stocks of both economic and cultural capital to access. The contradiction here was that the discourse rested on a prior round of gentrification which was predicated on some measure of social integration which the current residents were, despite protestations to the contrary, unwilling or unable to enter into. The prime example of this was schooling but this was symptomatic of a general ability to 'talk the talk' but an unwillingness to 'walk the walk'. Many of the longer term residents felt that Barnsbury and Islington more generally was becoming increasingly like Wandsworth; what perhaps was a critical difference is that they wanted to live in the inner city and had a longer term perspective than respondents in Battersea who treated it either as a temporary stage as part of a longer term move to the country or else as part of a more traditional town and country existence. Life in Battersea was made easier by the fact that its gentrification seems to have established the hegemony of the market over the wider area in a much more consistent and upfront way than in Islington where there remains an issue of 'authenticity' particularly amongst the more recent incomers. Its traditional working class population, although often not visible in its non high-rise tenements, remained a presence which was increasingly perceived as threatening.

We noted in Brixton a dialectic which recognises and draws the local excluded into a 'Brixton of the mind' which is unquestionably 'tectonic', but which insists on the middle-class right to belonging and identification. This is despite what appears to be a significant difference between Tulse and Herne Hills; in the former we discern a flight from, or refusal to engage in, social capital building, in the latter its conscious construction. On both sides of the park, Brixton represents an irreplaceable model of city living in which the ideal of the multicultural city is very prominent. However, as in Barnsbury, there is an inherent tension between the interior of the area (the residential streets of Herne and Tulse Hills) and the exterior of Brixton particularly around the underground station. It was this juxtaposition of the real and ideal which most respondents managed so adroitly.

By contrast in Telegraph Hill there is no 'New Cross of the mind'[3]; rather a middle-class enclave is made distinctive by juxtaposition with what is around it. The area's hegemonic narrative of belonging functions, we thought, like a 'theme' course in creative writing: newcomers are given an outline and invited to get on with it. This appears to make it no less successful an experiment, in its own terms, in building an urban village. Just as in Brixton, there was a gap between rhetoric and reality but a somewhat different one. In Telegraph Hill, respondents were, as it were, invited to participate in creating a community and were provided with some basic tools so to do. There were mainly focused around the household and social reproduction whereas in Brixton they were focused around the idea of Brixton. In both cases, a satisfactory pursuit of the strategy had the (often unintended) consequence of marginalising 'the other' that, in abstract, was an important element in the discourse. However, there is another importance difference between the two areas apart from their approach to their locality which lies in their approach to 'global culture'. A large element of the attraction of Brixton is its 'night time economy' with its bars, clubs, eating places and cinema which are at some form of cutting edge. Even if they rarely go and the areas in which they live are to an extent cut off from the entertainment zone around the underground station, our respondents saw this as an enormously important element of living in Brixton which they did not wish to see blunted by housing market émigrés from Balham and Clapham. This was simply not the case in Telegraph Hill where its isolation was seen by more than one respondent as the best defence against the impact of globalization. This was described in terms of homogenization which threatened a loss of distinctiveness but often gave the impression of being seen as more of a direct threat to respondents status and well-being particularly in relation to their children.

This leaves London Fields, which in some ways is the most difficult to 'read'. It shares an ambiguous relationship with Islington with which it has a number of essentially uneasy links. There is a long-standing upgrade trail from London Fields to Barnsbury - the current Prime Minister and his wife is not atypical of this: young, with not much economic capital or income at the start of their careers but experiencing a rapid rise in both. There is also a route the other way of single people with a small flat in Islington who want more space for their money. In both cases the migration has not always worked: as a number of respondents told us, there were many cases of people fleeing east to London Fields searching either for more space or more authenticity but could not 'hack' the latter and moved on. Counterfactually, there were a number of households in London Fields who, despite being able to afford the prices, couldn't stomach the social costs of the move to Islington. What matters a lot to those living in London Fields is the 'idea' of Hackney; this is a version of the same attractions of Brixton but is based around an often idealised notion of Hackney as a radical and working class location - although the idealism is muted by the 'reality' of Hackney council. In many ways this is the least 'formed' of our areas in that there is no clear process of socialisation and the Hackney identity is not as clear as that presented by Brixton which is able to concretise it in relation to Brixton's developing cultural and consumption infrastructure. On the other hand, although lacking in such infrastructure, it is not eschewed as it is in Telegraph Hill. The development of the arts and cultural quarters in Hackney is welcomed by respondents - partly in the potentially misguided belief that jobs in this sector are somehow more worthwhile than other service jobs and partly for the benefits it brings in terms shops and cafes which are more authentic than the branded varieties found elsewhere. London Fields is thus slowly being transformed through what Sharon Zukin has termed an Artistic Mode of Production (Zukin 1988). If the logic of the transformation of SoHo in New York which Zukin plots is followed in Hackney then it may not prove to be such a good long term strategy in terms of social inclusion.

In conclusion, two main points need to be made lest the foregoing pen portraits of the areas, their socio-demographic characteristics and their relationship to globalisation seem too trite and easily-drawn. First, what comes across from the data is that there are clear commonalities both at an aggregate and an area level that support at the same time the notion of a metropolitan habitus and of an urban middle class which is fractured along socio-spatial lines. Nevertheless, the qualitative data shows that there are important ways in which individuals draw the boundaries differentially between the local and the global which approximate to what they choose to do in their local area and what they use the centre for. For example, in Telegraph Hill many did not want to see an improvement in public transport to the centre because they did not want it to become like Battersea, whilst others welcomed such improvements because it enabled them live in relative seclusion yet sample the cultural and consumer delights of a global metropolis. In Battersea, many respondents expressed an aspiration not to live in the city but to become part of the landed gentry or else waspishly characterised their fellow residents for being part of the "huntin', fishin' and shootin' set". They were forced, as it were by economic circumstances, to remain in and of the city although it may well be that this was a nuance of the metropolitan habitus which was balanced with some form of 'rurality' either through an aspiration to move to 'the country' or more commonly to 'leaven' the city through the ownership of a country cottage - whether it be in Norfolk, Somerset, Wales, Provence or Tuscany. Clearly, if the notion of a metropolitan habitus is to be sustained it will need further investigation. It does however seem entirely credible that it is more likely to contain a rural component than amongst those living in and around major provincial cities. The point referred to earlier by Longhurst and Savage (1996) about the dangers of 'habitus mapping' and imposing dimensions of difference at the expense of commonalities is well taken. I believe the socio- demographic and socio-spatial referred to in this article supports the broad claims made for the existence both of a metropolitan habitus and for socio-spatial segregation within the city, but these are negotiated by individuals in ways which must become get submerged in the general picture. The ways in which individuals draw the local and global boundary is an example of how this might operate.

The second point concerns the extent to which the area differences can be ascribed to socio-demographic characteristics. We chose the areas partly in the light of the Savage et al. (1992) typology of 'ascetic, post-moderns and undistinctives'. This was only partly borne out with relatively little data to support the existence of undistinctive corporate types anywhere except perhaps in Battersea; even here they often displayed post-modern characteristics despite their alleged predilection for field sports. In no area were less than 60% of respondents professionals; managers constituted approximately 20% in Battersea, Barnsbury and Brixton and only about 13% in London Fields and Telegraph Hill. The last two areas also had less respondents working in the private sector than the other areas as shown in Table 4. In neither case however, would the data strongly suggest that crude socio-demographic characteristics particularly those rooted in occupation could explain the distinctions between the areas and the tendency to embrace or escape on a daily basis the lived experience of globalised consumer culture. Whilst therefore there is some suggestion that those in the private sector are more likely to embrace global culture and those in the public to escape it, the evidence for this is weak. It would seem that the evidence for this is therefore not to be, for the most part, rooted socio-demographically but more in the complex structure of ideas, beliefs and attitudes that not only constitutes the metropolitan habitus and its divisions but also structures choices about personal identity. Given the rapid and recent change in the structure of the metropolitan professional labour market, it is likely that not only traditional but also more recent lines of occupational demarcation (including those suggested by Savage et al) have become even more blurred - including those between professional and managerial but also across private, public, voluntary and self-employed sectors. This requires that we look beyond the familiar socio-demographic indicators to those - broadly defined - of lifestyle, politics and ideology. This requires further analysis of the data and undoubtedly further research.


1'The middle class and the future of London' Grant Number L13025101. I would like to acknowledge the work of Garry Robson who collaborated in designing the questionnaire, undertook the majority of the fieldwork and drafted several of the papers that have come out of the project. Also many thanks to Mike Savage for many helpful comments, not all of which I have been able to incorporate into the final draft. Otherwise the usual disclaimers apply.

2In making this assertion, I am grateful to the following who have shared their initial research findings with me: Rowland Atkinson (Glasgow); Martin Boddy (Bristol and elsewhere); Gary Bridge (Bristol); Tony Champion (Newcastle); Paul Dutton (Leeds); Mike Savage (Manchester); and more generally Loretta Lees (who raises some of these issues in her 2000 article) and Liz Bondi. Michal Lyons was also very generous in letting me have sight of the results of her project on social polarization in English cities Lyons, M. and J. Simister (2000). "From rags to riches? Migration and intergenerational change in London's housing market 1971-91." Area 32: 271-285. and Lyons, M. and C. Vouyoucas (2002 forthcoming). "Social polarisation and spatial clustering in seven cities." Housing Studies. Needless to say, the overall assertion is my responsibility and I am grateful to them for sharing work that is in most cases still very much in progress.

3Telegraph Hill is located in a highly deprived area South East London near to New Cross which is essentially a run down ex-white working-class ghetto that has attracted many migrants and refugees from global conflicts in recent years.


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Need to take this quote out from chapter 8 18