Aspects of the English working class viewed from the Working Men's Club

Vowles, Michael Harry (1983). Aspects of the English working class viewed from the Working Men's Club. MPhil thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f74c

Abstract

Working Men's Club were part of the Victorian reform ideology, An attempt, when Mechanics' Institutes failed to cope with, at worst a seriously threatening, at best an inconveniently fractious social group. Quickly taken over by the working class from the early patronage of their 'betters'; overturning the temperance based educative functions, the clubs became an important element in the working-class culture which arose in response to the poverty, subordination, degradation and indignity visited on the working class by industrial capitalism. This culture was, apart from the odd outburst, a passive culture. It was different from the surrounding bourgeoise culture having resisted attempts at its improvement by the middle classes, but it was by no means threatening. Working-class culture emphasised collectivism and solidarity, a sharing and co-operative coping with the uncertainties of capitalism. This was reflected in the Working Men's Club. These became the expression of solidaristic collectivism in the local community. Rooted in locality, clubs became the focus of much working-class leisure. Never seriously political, they avoided association with any political party and concentrated on pleasure. As the working class changed, in the context of the 'welfare state', higher wages and improved work conditions, so too did the clubs. Increasingly the working class abandoned the soliderism of former years and took to itself the individualistic values of the market place. Only that which was bought has value, people were to be judged by their possessions rather than on the basis of wider more human considerations. Working Men's Clubs aptly reflect these changes. No longer places for coping with the common predicament they have become stages for the display of the new values of consumption A true reflection of the market place.

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