Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Bourgeoisification Of Britain

In spite of Margaret Thatcher’s declared admiration for Victorian values, the making of bourgeois Britain was during the much undervalued inter-war period (1918-1939). It was then that Dickensian conditions were to a great extent replaced by the rise of semi-detached suburban Mr Jones, the backbone of English society.

The Victorian era was blighted by a large unskilled, uneducated proletariat paying rent to live in overcrowded slums and engaging in violent crime, drunkenness and prostitution. That changed after the First World War. Mortgages enabled tenants to buy four million new homes. Sprawling suburbs of mock-Tudor, semi-detached houses were built and inhabited by refugees from the slums. They became the new twenty million strong owner-occupier, lower middle class of educated, law-abiding citizens, trying to be part of the existing bourgeoisie. Crime, drunkenness and prostitution declined, and the average Briton became the conservative, respectable person we know today.

Things changed slightly with the advent of the post-war permissive society of the 1960s, but there was no reversion to Victorian society - merely a change in attitude leading to less social class consciousness and deference, acceptance of divorce, homosexuality, promiscuity, and so on. Nonetheless, England remains the predominantly bourgeois society created between the wars ie traditionalist, respectable and mostly Conservative-voting!

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