(2002) 'Thinking Global but Acting Local: the Middle Classes
in the City'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 7, no. 3, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/7/3/timbutler.html>
To cite articles published in Sociological Research Online, please reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary
Received: 30/9/2002 Accepted: 30/10/2002 Published: 22/10/2002
...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)
'[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)
...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)
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)
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)
|Area||Telegraph Hill||Brixton||Battersea||Barnsbury||London Fields|
|Number of Respondents||70||71||73||71||70|
|Area||Telegraph Hill||Brixton||Battersea||Barnsbury||London Fields|
|Other sex partner||14.3||15.3||6.8||15.3||22.7|
|Same sex partner||1.4||11.1||2.7||4.2||3.0|
|Total (n)||100 (70)||100 (72)||100 (73)||100 (72)||100 (66)|
|Class 1||Higher managerial & professional||148||35.3|
|Class 2||lower managerial & professional||179||42.7|
|Class 3||Intermediate occupations||26||6.2|
|Class 4||Small employers & own account workers||23||5.5|
|Class 5||lower supervisory & technical occupations||2||.5|
|Class 6||Semi routine occupations||4||1.0|
|Class 7||Routine occupations||1||.2|
|Class 8||Never worked & long term unemployed||4||1.0|
|Area/ sector||Telegraph Hill||Brixton||Battersea||Barnsbury||London Fields||Total (n)|
|Total (n)||100 (58)||100 (58)||100 (61)||100 (61)||100 (57)||100 (295)|
|Telegraph Hill||Brixton||Battersea||Barnsbury||London Fields||Total (n)|
|Total (n)||100 (65)||100 (65)||100 (67)||100 (66)||100 (65)||100 (328)|
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)...it's a mixed community...we like the architectural style of the place very much...it'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 nasty...it seems much better round here, though the rougher types are still around, on the estates. (BY55)
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 identity...it'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)
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)
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)
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 characters...it'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)
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 feel...it'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)
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)
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 feeling...it'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)
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)
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 metropolis...it'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)
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).
The best things about Brixton are its people, its parks and its cultural side...it'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 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)
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).
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).
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)
It's a friendly, green, family-oriented sort of place, with a good mixture of people...it 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)
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 here...it'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).
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)
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 mix of people is lovely, really excellent, smashing neighbours...it'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 styles...it's close to areas that I like and relatively quiet... (LF29).
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.
AMIN, A. and N. THRIFT (2002). Cities: Reimagining the Urban. Cambridge, Polity.
BOURDIEU, P. (1984). Distinction: a social critique of the judgement of taste. London, Routledge.
BOURDIEU, P. (1986). The Forms of Capital. Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. J. Richardson. New York, Greenwood Press: 241-258.
BOURDIEU, P. (1987). "What makes a social class? On the theoretical and practical existence of groups." Berkeley Journal of Sociology 32: 1-18.
BRENNER, N. (1998). "Global cities, glocal states: global city formation and state territorial restructuring in contemporary Europe." Review of International Political Economy 5(1): 1-37.
BRIDGE, G. (2000). "Rationality, ethics and space: on situated universalism and the self-interested acknowledgement of 'difference'." Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18: 519-535.
BUTLER, T. (1997). Gentrification and the Middle Classes. Aldershot, Ashgate.
BUTLER, T. and G. ROBSON (2001). "Social capital, gentrification and neighbourhood change in London: a comparison of three South London neighbourhoods." Urban Studies 38(12): 2145-2162.
BUTLER, T. and G. ROBSON (forthcoming 2002). "Plotting the middle classes: gentrification and circuits of education." Housing Studies.
BUTLER, T. and G. ROBSON (forthcoming 2003a). "Negotiating their way in: the middle classes, gentrification and their deployment of capital in a globalizing metropolis." Urban Studies.
BUTLER, T. and G. ROBSON (forthcoming 2003b). London Calling: the middle classes and the making of inner London. Oxford, Berg.
BUTLER, T. and M. SAVAGE, Eds. (1995). Social Change and the Middle Classes. London, UCL Press.
JAGER, M. (1986). Class definition and the esthetics of gentrification: Victoriana in Melbourne. Gentrification of the City. P. Williams and N. Smith. London, Allen and Unwin: 78-91.
JENKINS, R. (1992). Pierre Bourdieu. London, Routledge.
KASINITZ, P. (1988). "The gentrification of 'Boerum Hill': neighbourhood change and conflicts over definitions." Qualitative Sociology 11: 161-182.
LEES, L. (2000). "A reappraisal of gentrification towards a 'geography of gentrification'." Progress in Human Geography 24: 389-408.
LONGHURST, B. and M. SAVAGE (1996). Social class, consumption and the influence of Bourdieu, some critical issues. Consumption Matters: the Production of Experience and Consumption. S. Edgell, K. Hetherington and A. Warde. Oxford, Blackwell/Sociological Review: Oxford .
LYONS, M. (1996). "Employment, feminisation and gentrification in London, 1981-93." Environment and Planning A : government and planning 28: 341- 356.
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.
LYONS, M. and C. VOUYOUCAS (2002 forthcoming). "Social polarisation and spatial clustering in seven cities." Housing Studies.
MUNT, I. (1987). "Economic restructuring, culture and gentrification: a case study of Battersea, London." Environment and Planning A : government and planning 19: 1175-1197.
O'CONNOR, J. and D. WYNNE (1995). City Cultures and the New Cultural Intermediaries. ESRC Research Report, Manchester Manchester Institute for Popular Culture.
ROBSON, G. and T. BUTLER (2001). "Coming to terms with London: middle-class communities in a global city." International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 25(1): 70-86.
SASSEN, S. (1991). The Global City: London New York Tokyo. Chichester., Princeton University Press.
SAVAGE, M. (2000). Class Analysis and Social Transformation. Milton Keynes, Open University Press.
SAVAGE, M., J. BARLOW, et al. (1992). Property Bureaucracy and Culture Middle Class Formation in Contemporary Britain. London., Routledge.
SENNETT, R. (1998). The Corrosion of Character: the personal consequences of work in the new capitalism. London, Norton.
SENNETT, R. and J. COBB (1972). The Hidden Injuries of Class. London, Norton.
WACQUANT, L. (1989). "Towards a reflexive sociology: a workshop with Pierre Bourdieu." Sociological Theory 7(1): 26-63.
WARDE, A. (1991). "Gentrification as consumption issues of class and gender." Environment and Planning D Society and Space 6: 75-95.
WILLIAMS, P. (1976). "The role of institutions in the inner London housing markets: the case of Islington." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 3(New Series): 72-82.
ZUKIN, S. (1988). Loft Living: culture and capital in urban change. London, Radius.