Understanding the Dynamics of Class and Class Relations in Contemporary Scotland
School of Health and Social Sciences University of Abertay Dundee Dundee, Scotland
Department of Social Policy & Criminology, Faculty of Social Sciences The Open University Edinburgh, Scotland
This paper critically reflects on the empirical state and theoretical understanding of class relations in contemporary Scotland. In particular it attempts to re-centre class, both as an analytical category and as lived reality, within the story of the devolved Scotland. Over the past decade and more, class in both senses has been largely eclipsed by a focus on the "Scottish national" question and questions of Scottishness and Britishness. Against this we argue that class,understood here in the sense of exploitative class relations and class as agency, remains absolutely central to our analysis and understanding of developments in recent Scottish (and UK) society. There are several related material, political, social and cultural dimensions to this, including the restructuring of work and employment, workplace militancy and the prevalence of poverty and other dimensions of disadvantage. Neoliberalism has degraded work, employment, social and public services, bringing with it a progressive financialisation of everyday life. At the same time, however, resistance to neoliberal policies, managerialisation, privatisation and work intensification remains an important element of class relations.
As in many other contexts, class is an ever present signifier in Scotland today - or rather an absent present - rarely mentioned explicitly but typically signalled by a range of euphemisms. These betray the divisive material and cultural dynamics of class not only of the matter at hand, but of Scottish society itself. This paper will explore different dimensions of this in relation to the idea of 'problem' populations and 'problem' places.