374 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    374 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume explores the lives and work of those who are kept out of poverty by their employment, but who occupy tenuous social positions and subaltern jobs.

    Presenting a score of household portraits – urban, suburban, and rural – the authors examine what it means to ‘get by’ in France today, considering the material and symbolic resources that these households can muster, and the practices that give meaning to their lives. With attention to their aspirations and disappointments – and their desire to be ‘like everyone else’ in a supposedly egalitarian society that nonetheless gives them little credit for their effort – this book offers a sociological interpretation of their situations, offering new insights into what it means to be ‘working class’ in a 21st-century post-industrial society. Combining statistical analyses with ethnographically-based examinations of how changes in the structure of the employment market relate to plans for upward mobility, Subaltern Workers in Contemporary France sheds light on the ways in which class identity – along with all its associated practices, tastes, and aspirations – has changed since the sociological classics on the working classes were published over half a century ago.

    As such, this book will appeal to sociologists with interests in the sociology of the family, social class, and the sociology of work.

    List of figures

    List of tables

    List of contributors

    1 Introduction: Subalterns in a ‘society of the similar’: A study of the lifestyles of the stable-modest fractions of the contemporary working classes

    Olivier Masclet

    2 An exploration of the working classes starting from their middle fractions: A two-pronged approach, through statistics and case studies

    Thomas Amossé, Lise Bernard, Marie Cartier, Marie-Hélène Lechien and Yasmine Siblot

    Part 1: Stories of stabilisation

    3 Introduction to Part 1: Stories of stabilisation

    Lise Bernard and Olivier Masclet

    4 ‘We aimed too high’: A household destabilised by its residential and professional aspirations – Élodie Paillé and Clément Jacquet

    Lucas Tranchant

    5 Planning life: A strong investment in activities other than work – Laurent Douillard and Thomas Guillet

    Mateo Sorin

    6 ‘A mellow job’ and living with a friend: A young, single male worker’s adjustment to a subaltern condition – Romain Boyer

    Cyrille Rougier

    7 Holding on: Sparing no effort to stabilise an unstable position – Véronique Delage

    Marie-Hélène Lechien and Marie-Pierre Pouly

    8 ‘Getting it right this time’: Aspiring to join the world of intellectuals – Yamina and Souleymane Diallo

    Clément Degout

    9 ‘You’ve got to fight’: Work as a resource for a fragile success – Mina and Michel Carry

    Anne-Marie Arborio

    10 Making a virtue of simplicity: The hedonistic choices of labouring couple – Yvon and Michou Ratelier

    Jean-Noël Retière

    11 A story of social reclassification: A couple from rural backgrounds gone to the city – Mireille and Roger Monteil

    Henri Eckert

    Part II: Gender relations and domestic space

    12 Introduction to Part 2: Gender relations and domestic space

    Thomas Amossé, Marie Cartier, Olivier Schwartz

    13 Being a mother and unemployed: Resisting being stuck at home – Laeticia and Valentin Dufour

    Angel Baraud

    14 The power of two femininities – Régine and Hervé Leblanc

    Marie Cartier

    15 A business that works: Breaking away from the family model, relying on family help – Cécile and Jean-Marc Pilier

    Violaine Girard and Maulde Urbain-Mathis

    16 An interlude of equality: ‘Stéphanie is there with the children, she can manage the homework’ – Nicolas and Stéphanie Fontaine

    Muriel Letrait and Marjorie Tilleul

    17 Keeping the conjugal peace: A compensatory domestic equality – Cécilia and Éric Dufar

    Olivier Masclet

    18 Being a housewife: Between permanence and evolution of a traditional role – Nadège and Patrick Lancel

    Maulde Urbain-Mathis

    Part III: Triangular social consciousness and institutional ‘goodwill’ – the reconfiguration of relations with other social groups

    19 Introduction to Part 3: Triangular social consciousness and institutional ‘goodwill’: the reconfiguration of relations with other social groups

    Marie-Hélène Lechien and Yasmine Siblot

    20 Being a respectable woman: Between the stigma of housing estates and the union in-group – Chantal Monlouis

    Yasmine Siblot

    21 ‘Simple people’? A local labour family, between social reproduction and openness – Nathalie and Alain Rigaux

    Antoine Younsi and Anya Bouamama

    22 ‘It’s really important to be able to grow’: Social ambitions and political disappointments in a working-class household – Vanessa Le Coz and Samuel Bidaud

    Tristan Poullaouec

    23 Always between two worlds: One couple’s split local social life – Manou and Jean Audouin

    Clément Degout

    24 The cleaning woman and the school parents’ association: Multipositionality in the working classes – Myriam and Nicolino Sanatanazefi

    Olivier Masclet and Gérard Mauger

    25 Getting back to a ‘normal life’: Biographical disruptions and ‘institutional goodwill’ – Sylvie Barderon and Enzo

    Vanessa Stettinger

    26 ‘I’ve had two lives’: Self-improvement work and the infiltration of psychological culture into working-class worlds – Philippe and Marianne Chapalain

    Séverine Misset

    27 Conclusion: Goodwill as necessity: Aspirations of the middle fraction of the working classes and how they relate to norms

    Marie-Hélène Lechien and Olivier Masclet

    Appendix A: Socio-professional categories

    Appendix B: Equivalency chart of the primary and secondary educational systems in France, the UK, and the US

    Appendix C: Educational qualifications



    Olivier Masclet is a Professor of Sociology at the Université de Limoges and co-director of the GRESCO Research Centre, France.

    Thomas Amossé is a researcher at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Lise-CEET Research Centre, Paris, France.

    Lise Bernard is a researcher at CNRS and a member of the Centre Maurice Halbwachs, Paris, France.

    Marie Cartier is a Professor of Sociology at Nantes University, France.

    Marie-Hélène Lechien is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the Université de Limoges, France.

    Olivier Schwartz is a Professor of Sociology at the Université Paris Cité, France.

    Yasmine Siblot is a Professor of Sociology at the Université Paris 8, CRESPPA-CSU Research Centre, France.

    'Olivier Masclet and his team of expert researchers have produced an exemplary account of those in the middle tier of the working class today: those who are not so poor and insecure as to be the subject of moral panic and political censure but not so affluent and privileged as to be on the edge of the middle class. They are getting by, struggling on, trying to be "like everyone else", with hopes, dreams, struggles, failures and fears for the future. Embedding rich, detailed case studies of individuals and couples within rigorous reviews of the changes sweeping France as much as any other Western social order, the team skilfully manage to unpick the effects of declining working class solidarity, precarisation and feminisation of employment, changing gender relations and the race for credentials on the everyday experiences, biographies, self-perceptions and self-evaluations of workers and families in the 21st century. This is a must-read for anyone interested in working-class life in contemporary Europe'. Will Atkinson, Professor of Sociology, University of Bristol, author of The Class Structure of Capitalist Societies and Beyond Bourdieu