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New Left Review I/212, July-August 1995


Michael Mann

Sources of Variation in Working-Class Movements in Twentieth-Century Europe

David Lockwood’s classic essay ‘Sources of Variation in Working-Class Images of Society’ (1966) distinguished three ideal-typical images of society found among workers: proletarian, deferential and privatized. [*] This essay was originally prepared for a conference held in honour of David Lockwood, at the University of Essex, 18–20 April 1995, on the occasion of his retirement. My work owes much to David Lockwood’s own writings on class, but even more to his constant example and injunction to pursue a form of sociology that is simultaneously theoretical, empirical, comparative, historical and socio-politically relevant. I also owe thanks to Perry Anderson and John D. Stephens for their comments on an earlier draft. Lockwood was firstly reminding us of the sheer variety of workers’ beliefs, from classconscious proletarians, to conservative status-conscious deferentials, to the calculative, consumption-minded and mixed class-status images of privatized workers. That reminder was salutary in the 60s and remains salutary now. But he also went on to locate the sources of the three images. In decidedly anthropological vein, he argued they derived from the intersection of individuals’ workplace and community relations, since: ‘For the most part men visualize the class structure of their society from the vantage points of their own particular milieux, and their perceptions of the larger society will vary according to their experiences of social inequality in the smaller societies in which they live out their daily lives.’ Distinct working-class images of society derived from different work and community interactions. For Lockwood, images had a micro but apparently not a macro, society-wide life of their own. [1] In a footnote he notes that work and community relations do not exhaust the range of relevant variables. In particular, he says, social mobility will affect workers’ images—again, however, because it involves direct personal experience of class.

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