The ‘dual tension’ created by negotiating upward social mobility and habitus: a generational study of skilled working-class men, their sons, and grandsons following deindustrialization

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Abstract

This article presents an intergenerational study of 28 skilled working-class men’s life stories of negotiating social mobility in the wake of deindustrialization. This contributes to emerging qualitative research that aims to build a framework that understands the personal tensions social mobility creates for individuals. In this study, the tensions that men experienced were not exclusively the consequence of ‘habitus clivè’ (Friedman, 2016), i.e. men feeling a dislocation from their working-class backgrounds as they climbed the occupational ladder. Men’s tensions also arose from internalising the generational pressure to improve their occupational position. Pressed by these competing tensions, men developed a ‘getting-on outlook’ over their careers, which meant that each generation pursued upward social mobility while also seeking to have the integrity of their working lives authenticated by their parents. To build on habitus, Bertaux and Bertaux-Wiame’s (1997) description of the ‘dual tension’ is advanced as a means to frame the conflict between belonging and individuality that social mobility provoked. This article suggests this ‘dual tension’ could be reduced by families in a process named ‘authentication’. ‘Authentication’ reflects intergenerational dialogues and practices developed by the younger generations to have their achieved status recognised as in keeping with their family background.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Pages (from-to)891-911
Number of pages21
JournalCurrent Sociology
Volume68
Issue number7
Early online date5 Dec 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • deindustrialization
  • occupational and class values
  • crisis of masculinity
  • intergenerational transmission
  • working class

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