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Social Mobility: Chavs, NEETs and McJobs

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This talk explores the aspirations of a group of twenty-three working class boys from South London. It responds to a context of persistent ‘educational underachievement’ on the part of this group and a discourse which frequently labels them as having ‘low aspirations’ or indeed no aspirations at all. By comparing four different ‘strands’ of aspiration which emerge from our data, we show that the boys’ aspirations are rooted in their gendered and classed identities. We argue that the current dominant neo-liberal discourse prioritises a view of aspirations that is competitive, economic and status based and employs educational, occupational and material aspirations as proxies for these priorities. In contrast, our participants’ were guided by deeply held but subjective views of a ‘good’ life and articulated their life plans around what we term ‘moral aspirations’. Educational, occupational and material aspirations failed to act as effective proxies for these priorities which favoured notions of loyalty (to oneself and others), friendship, family and patriotism. As a result, the boys were forced to undergo complex ‘identity work’ in order to reconcile competing and contrasting notions of aspiration.

This talk will be followed by a showing of ‘Educating Rita’ as part of the EED Film Series.

This talk is part of the Social Mobility: Chavs, NEETs and McJobs series.

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