Young Working Class Men in Transition

Frank Tate Room, Level 9, Melbourne Graduate School of Education 100 Leicester Street, University of Melbourne

Youth Research Centre Seminar Series 2018

Presented by Associate Professor Steven Roberts, Monash University.

Recent social and economic transformation has radically restructured contemporary young people's experience the transition-to-adulthood. Set against this context, this talk draws on a recently published book which followed experiences of a group of young-adult, white, heterosexual, working-class men from the South East of England over a seven-year period. Using biographical interviews and longitudinal social media ethnography, I analyse how working-class masculinity informs and is informed by these generationally specific conditions.

Blending insights from masculinity theorising with Bourdieu's theory of practice, I interrogate processes of continuity and change, and aim to disrupt the harmful, limited stereotypes that emerge from thinking about working class masculinity only in relation to hegemony. The young men display a ‘getting on with it’ attitude to education, a positive embrace of interactive service work and egalitarian ideals in relationship to the gendered division of domestic labour. A complicated story of enhanced emotionality also emerges in their accounts and in their facebook activity. This discernible shift towards an emotional-capital-rich, working-class masculine habitus is, though, not an antidote to the pressures of the neoliberal economy and class inequalities, and traces of more orthodox masculinity remain present in amongst more inclusive attitudes.

Dr Steven Roberts is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Monash University. His research focuses on the changes and continuities in contemporary transitions from youth to young adulthood, and on the changing nature of young masculinities and the attendant implications for social inequality. He is co-editor of the BSA/Sage journal Sociological Research Online, an associate editor of Journal of Youth Studies, and a member the international editorial board of Men and Masculinities. His latest books are “Young Working-Class Men in Transition” (Routledge, 2018); “Masculinity, Labour and Neoliberalism (co-edited with C. Walker, Palgrave, 2018) and “Youth and Social Class: Enduring Inequality in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand” (with A. France, Springer, 2017).