“Suit-and-Tie Workmen”?

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Economic mobility and right-wing political preferences among border-area working classes
By Stéphane Latté, Simon Hupfel

English

This article is based on field work about a group of workers residing in a rural county of Northeast France and employed across the nearby border with Switzerland. It aims to understand their representations of the social order and the reasons why these wealthy subordinate workers traditionally and massively vote for right-wing parties. First, we present some empirical elements to depict this “on site” migration in order to study the phenomenon it produces: an economic mobility unaccompanied by any significant change of social behavior. Indeed, this raw economic mobility does not lead these workers to invest in human capital, nor to adapt their way of life to the habits of the upper classes. Secondly, we examine the relationships between this group of wealthy workers and educated local elites in greater detail. These relationships exhibit a reversal of the traditional order, where income substitutes for diplomas as a source of legitimation. Finally, we focus on the workers’ position—professionally stable with secure and substantial incomes—to question the hypothesis that their political preferences are symptomatic of a conversion of the working classes to right-wing platforms. Far from being explained by a crisis of the traditional working-class social framework—through lower revenues, social downgrading, the splitting-up of social relationships, and the weakening of collective organizations—their adherence to right-wing political values seems rather to be the outcome of a successful social reproduction.

Keywords

  • border
  • economic mobility
  • conservatism
  • migration
  • working classes
  • rural world
Go to the article on Cairn-int.info