This qualitative study explores the meaning of working-class origin in the life and career of university graduates. Social transition from a working-class background to a middle-class milieu results in loyalty conflicts and communication barriers. The lack of social and cultural capital and the absent sense of an assertive self-presentation are pivotal barriers to gaining management functions. Positions in certain key sectors are not necessarily allocated according to professional capacity, but to obscure social connections, regulated by cultural codes and tests. Matthys approaches social mobility as a trajectory of identity construction in which different classes are integrated, and uses the notion of identity capital to interpret and discuss the meaning of the individual drive in social mobility.
"This research shows the working class as strivers not skivers, but still falling short of the mark – not through their own lack of effort but their reception by others. With social mobility stalled, social inequalities growing and graduate underemployment emerging despite widened higher education, this is a timely book. It is a study that deserves to be replicated beyond the Low Countries with their tight coupling of higher education and jobs."
—Chris Warhurst, University of Warwick, UK (Work, Employment and Society, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp. 669-670)
1. (When) Working Class-Children Enter Academic Learning: Problem Formulation, the Field and Method 2. A Tough Life? 3. Identity, Context and Agency 4. A Firm Foundation 5. A Successful Transformation 6. Career and Life 7. Hicks and Proletarians 8. Reflections: The Part I Have Played 9. Abstract and Conclusions. Appendix: List of Respondents.