IN analysing industrial structure and economic differences it is essential to avoid taking for granted the cultural processes which, according to all versions of the labour aristocracy thesis, were linked to economic differences (Hobsbawm, 1964a, seems open to this criticism). Broader reappraisals of ‘class’ as a historical category, which emphasise cultural and political elements in class consciousness, have contributed to a re-thinking of the problem of the labour aristocracy. The economic developments of the mid-Victorian period are seen as ‘a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the formation of the labour aristocracy’; hence ‘we have to look… for evidence that this elite of skilled men actually took on exclusive values, patterns of behaviour and social aspirations that effectively distinguished it from other sections of society’ [Crossick, 1978, 18–19].One aspect of this problem has been the recognition of urban social structure and local community as an important dimension, shaping the context for the development of working-class values and aspirations.


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Copyright information

© The Economic History Society 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Gray
    • 1
  1. 1.Portsmouth PolytechnicUK

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