working-class conservatism(in the UK) manual working-class voting for the Conservative Party, and the attitudes associated with this. Since this behaviour deviates from the working-class norm, and is also sometimes seen as at odds with working-class interests, a number of explanations have been proposed:
- DEFERENCE, i.e. acceptance of the middle class and the Conservative party as the traditional ruling class, especially by older voters;
- a particular tendency to working-class Conservatism among women, explained in part by their different work locations and less frequent contact with traditional modes of working-class political organization such as trade unions;
- affluence and embourgeoisement, seen as occurring especially among voters moving from traditional working localities (see AFFLUENT WORKER, EMBOURGEOISEMENT THESIS);
- MEDIATED CLASS LOCATIONS, e.g. ‘middle-class connections’, such as a spouse or one or both parents with a nonmanual background, leading to ‘cross-pressures’ on manual working-class voters (see GOLDTHORPE et al., 1968a);
- a continuing tendency to generalized ideological incorporation of the working class existing in Western capitalist societies, resulting from an overall CULTURAL HEGEMONY achieved by right-wing values in these societies.
These explanations are sometimes complementary, each of them explaining only a part of the phenomenon, although not all of them are accepted by every theorist (e.g. see DOMINANT IDEOLOGY THESIS).
Whatever reasons, it is clear that the late 20th century has also witnessed a more general decline in working-class support for the Labour Party and perhaps an overall CLASS DEALIGNMENT (Crewe, 1977) in British politics, involving increased working-class support for the Conservative Party but also increased middle-class voting for the Labour Party (see also MIDDLE-CLASS RADICALISM). Some commentators have suggested that this points to a decline in the general salience of class in voting behaviour also shedding doubt on traditional conceptions of working-class interests and any interpretations of working-class conservatism as involving FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS. See also VOTING BEHAVIOUR, PARTY IDENTIFICATION.