The Uses of Literacy: A Classic Revisited

Hoggart, the Working Classes and Social Mobility
By Paul Pasquali, Olivier Schwartz

Since it was published in France in 1970, La culture du pauvre (translation of The Uses of Literacy) has exerted a strong influence on several generations of social scientists and historians. Its analysis of working-class lifestyles and the experiences of scholarship students still has a significant impact on French studies dealing with social mobilities and class relations. Paradoxically, though, these analyses have rarely been debated or revisited. Based on recent research and various empirical evidence (including unpublished material), this paper aims at answering the following questions: How did this book become a classic in French social sciences? What new perspectives has it afforded, or neglected? Finally, and above all, is it still relevant when looking at contemporary French society? Through the history of this intellectual importation, a close reading of the texts and new leads for some updating, this paper is an invitation to more reflexive and informed uses of the Hoggartian analysis. While revisiting Hoggart, our goal is to contribute to an unroutinization of his work, mainly by focusing on the strengths and limits of two important aspects of his book that are still frequently used: the “us” vs. “them” structure, as well as his chapter on “the uprooted and the anxious”.

Go to the article on