“If you got money you vote in, if you haven’t got money you vote out”
This phrase belongs to a woman from Collyhurst, a working-class neighborhood in the periphery of Manchester. According to her view, a possible exit from the EU will not have the catastrophic implications that highly educated young British people are mourning as she has very little to lose.
The majority of Collyhurst residents cannot afford to go anywhere abroad, so they do not worry about things such as the free movement that the EU promises. However, what is more concerning is that people who claim to talk on behalf of the Left and progressiveness do not seem to even imagine such a reason for someone to want to leave the EU.
From Greece to the UK, the working-class (employed or unemployed) has been bitterly betrayed by the Left. Both in Greece and in the UK the real needs of the common people seem like a foreign language to the parties of the Left and to people like the so-called leader of the radical left Tsipras, or the radical “new age” of the Labour Party, Corbyn.
A lot of prominent social and political theories these days argue for the supposed “end of the working-class” (see for example Pakulski and Waters, 1995, Clark and Lipset ,1990, Andreannini, 1993). If anything, current events are showing that it is not the working-class that has ended. It is its political representation.
The first day after the British referendum our social media accounts were filled overwhelmingly by comments of our British friends who voted for the Bremain. What was very noticeable was the homogeneity of the general discourse. The referendum's outcome was paralleled with the death of modern Britain and a return to medieval self-referentiality and inwardness.
The values that for them were at stake in this referendum, such as the sense of global citizenship, the habitus of constant mobility, the “diversity” and the erasure of the geographical obstacles in their social imaginary, consist simultaneously the self-realization of the contemporary British middle-class.
Almost nobody we know in Britain and voted for Bremain was slightly critical about the EU as a reactionary institution which is mostly imposing austerity while promoting policies which serve the interests of the economic elites. For them EU was a metonymy of exclusively positive values and the voters of the Brexit were to be blamed as having some kind of personal inability to realize those values.
The material factors that pushed the majority of the working-class people to vote for Brexit, as the social geography of the outcome shows, were not included in the critical comments. Perhaps, this happened because this middle-class hexis as Bourdieu would say inclined them not to think with material criteria, as their physical survival is more or less secured, but with cultural or humanistic ones.
In the aftermath of the historic British vote to leave the EU, openDemocracy is asking for our readers' thoughts on Brexit and what needs to happen next in 350 words. We've had an extraordinary response and you can read them all here.