Posts Tagged ‘‘The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class’’

Suzanne Moore’s Review of ‘The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class’

April 30, 2014

I found this linked to on Ian Bone’s webpage. It’s Suzanne Moore’s review of Selina Todd’s history of the working class, The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010 in the Guardian. It’s worth reading. Particularly interesting are the piece where the book refutes some of the myths of working class life over the past century. She shows, for example, that women were not content to go back from the factory work into which they had moved during the First World War to traditional female jobs in service. They particularly resented the bullying and constant control they experienced at the hands of their masters when working as domestic servants.

She also skewers the idea that in the past, a man’s wages were sufficient to support his wife and family. That also is untrue, and women were forced to work outside the home simply to make ends meet. Away from Britain, the Russian Revolutions of 1917 were partly caused by extremely low wages. They were sufficient for skilled and semi-skilled workers to support a wife, but not for unskilled workers. This idea – that in the past wages were proportionally higher as they were intended to support a family, not just the wage-earner himself – needs to be criticised as it is repeated by the extreme Right to justify trying to take women out of the workforce. I’ve read it on one Libertarian blog, which took the view that women working was bad for economy and society because it lowered the relative amount of male wages as prices were raised to accommodate the extra income from working wives. Todd’s book shows that women have always worked because male wages on their own were not enough.

And there’s much more of interest. The review can be read at: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/apr/11/people-rise-fall-working-class-review