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Class in construction: London building workers, dirty work and physical cultures

Thiel, D (2007) 'Class in construction: London building workers, dirty work and physical cultures.' British Journal of Sociology, 58 (2). pp. 227-251. ISSN 0007-1315

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Descriptions of manual employment tend to ignore its diversity and overstate the homogenizing effects of technology and industrialization. Based on ethnographic research on a London construction site, building work was found to be shaped by the forms of a pre-industrial work pattern characterized by task autonomy and freedom from managerial control. The builders' identities were largely free from personal identification as working class, and collective identification was fractured by trade status, and ethnic and gender divisions. Yet the shadow of a class-based discursive symbolism, which centered partly on the division of minds/bodies, mental/manual, and clean/dirty work, framed their accounts, identities and cultures. The builders displayed what is frequently termed working-class culture, and it was highly masculine. This physical and bodily-centered culture shielded them from the possible stigmatization of class and provided them with a source of localized capital. 'Physical capital' in conjunction with social capital (the builders' networks of friends and family) had largely guided their position in the stratification system, and values associated with these forms of capital were paramount to their public cultures. This cultural emphasis offered a continuing functionality in the builders' lives, not having broken free from tradition or becoming an object of reflexive choice.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Builders; class bound; hierarchy; mind-body; masculinity; capital
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 01 Sep 2015 09:04
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 13:16

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