The de-civilizing process and the urban working class in Scotland

Law, Alex and Mooney, Gerry (2012). The de-civilizing process and the urban working class in Scotland. Social Justice, 39(4) pp. 106–126.


This paper seeks to overcome the rather static effect of de-historicized, fixed categories of the British ‘underclass’. Crucially, we map the socio-historical development of class disdain and disgust across the distinct state-societies of Scotland and England through the frame of Norbert Elias’ account of civilizing and de-civilizing processes. Differences in the historical development of urban Scotland produced a colloquial common sense about lower working class ‘neds’ that oscillates between ‘humour’ and moral outrage, lubricated at regular intervals by a distinctive, semi-autonomous Scottish media. This is closely associated in the public imagination with more than a century of de-civilized violent gang disorder. In turn, this is accentuated by an autonomous Scottish criminal justice system and, since 1999, the devolution of major administrative state functions culminating in the prospect of Scottish independence dissolving the UK state. This fact colours all discourses about the underclass in Scotland.

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