Young Working Class Men in Transition uses a unique blend of concepts from the sociologies of youth and masculinity combined with Bourdieusian social theory to investigate British young working-class men’s transition to adulthood. Indeed, utilising data from biographical interviews as well as an ethnographic observation of social media activity, this volume provides novel insights by following young men across a seven-year time period. Against the grain of prominent popular discourses that position young working-class men as in ‘crisis’ or as adhering to negative forms of traditional masculinity, this book consequently documents subtle yet positive shifts in the performance of masculinity among this generation.
Underpinned by a commitment to a much more expansive array of emotionality than has previously been revealed in such studies, young men are shown to be engaged in school, open to so called ‘women’s work’ in the service sector, and committed to relatively egalitarian divisions of labour in the family home. Despite this, class inequalities inflect their transition to adulthood with the ‘toxicity’ of neoliberalism - rather than toxic masculinity - being core to this reality.
Problematising how working-class masculinity is often represented, Young Working Class Men in Transition both demonstrates and challenges the portrayal of working class masculinity as a repository of homophobia, sexism and anti-feminine acting. It will appeal to students and researchers interested in fields such as youth studies, masculinity studies, gender studies, sociology of education and sociology of work.
Table of Contents
Youth Transitions, Young Men and Social Change
Youth transitions and social change
Outline of the book
Dominant representations of working-class masculinity: the so-called ‘crisis of masculinity’ and the academic response
The so-called ‘crisis of masculinity’: A prominent, problematic, durable
Not exactly a ‘crisis’: Sociology’s reflections on changes, challenges and continuities to masculinity in new times
Changing circumstances, changing working-class masculinity?
A relatively singular account of masculinity across variations in place
Making sense of men: outlining a framework for the study of contemporary masculinities
Social Constructionism vs Post-Structuralism: a genuinely entrenched
Connell’s theory of Hegemonic Masculinity
Critiques of Hegemonic Masculinity Theory
The constraints of HMT’s deterministic outlook
Theorising change: Anderson’s Inclusive Masculinity Theory
Anderson’s concept of homohysteria
Critiques of IMT
Making the most of Mannheim’s legacy: masculinities and the sociology
Bringing in Bourdieu: a fuller account of the social actor
The study context and methods
The research sites
Accessing the sample
The research process
Looking back and looking forward at age 18-24: educational histories and aspirations
Underachieving and disengaged boys?
School days: Just an ‘in-betweener’
‘Ordinariness’ and alienated instrumentalism
Critical moments in post-16 education engagement and drop out
Higher education: Awareness, aspirations, ambitions
Young working class men navigating the precarious world of work: identity in and out of the labour market
Embracing service work: the new normal for young working-class men
Working-class young men’s working lives
Sources of identity beyond the sphere of employment
Contemporary Working-class Masculinities and the Domestic Sphere: the diminishing significance of ‘the man of the house’
Domesticity, Gender Roles and Social Class
Attitudes and imagined futures at age 18-24
Walking the walk, not just talking the talk: Gender dynamics in the home,
seven years later
Emotional disclosure online and offline: changes and continuities in forms of intimate expression among working-class men
Emotion in abundance: an unexpected observation?
Sharing emotional content in research interviews
Emotion-laden activity on Facebook
‘It’s just between mates’: Making sense of misogyny and homosexually
Conclusion: Changing the tune, but not changing the record: Working-class masculinity in transition
Myth busting: the key findings
The transformed working class habitus
Steven Roberts is an Associate Professor in Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Monash University, Australia
‘... fascinating and deeply enjoyable read; it provides significant contributions to a number of areas in academia and sets a high bar for future writings on working class masculinity.’
Dr Chris Devany, Sheffield Hallam University; published in Cultural Sociology.
Global economic restructuring has rippled through the class and gender landscapes, disrupting old norms and creating new opportunities in its wake. But we've heard little about the particularly gendered experiences of working class boys and men. Until now. Steven Roberts has listened attentively and drawn a complex and resonant portrait. Carefully researched, artfully discussed, this is for the 21st century what Paul Willis's book was for the 20th.
Professor Michael Kimmel, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, Executive Director, Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, Stony Brook University, New York.
In this book, Steve Roberts sensitively captures the experiences of working class young men and the impact of social and economic transformations. He expertly challenges pre-occupations with stereotypes of traditional men, by recognising the complex non-uniform ways young masculinities are being lived out in contemporary society. This ground-breaking book has been long over-due for those working in the fields of gender, work and young people.
Dr Chris Haywood, Reader in Critical Masculinity Studies, Newcastle University, UK.
This engrossing and thought-provoking monograph sets out to challenge many of the orthodoxies surrounding the representation of working class masculinities in academic research. The longitudinal nature of the study upon which the book is based, including fascinating insights gleaned from social media ethnography, allows for a nuanced picture of the everyday lives of working class young men to emerge, one which is suggestive of change and transformation in many respects. Set against a backdrop of increasing precarity and powerlessness amongst working class youth, Roberts’ book is a passionate call to take seriously ‘the missing middle’ in youth research."
Professor Sue Heath, Co-Director, Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives, University of Manchester, UK.
With this book Roberts presents an impressive account of young working-class men’s lives. Impressive because of its sensitivity and attention to nuances in the empirical data; because of the theoretical ground it covers; and not least because of the intervention it poses by insisting on a positive story about young working-class masculinities. The book is essential reading for everyone interested in young people, gender relations and the potentials for social change.
Dr Signe Ravn, Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow, University of Melbourne, Australia.
'Overall, Young Working-Class Men in Transition was a delight to read, and to gain insight into what many would regard as the ordinary, everyday lives of young working-class men in Britain. It is necessary to explore and examine such ordinariness, something that is often ignored in scholars’ attempts to capture the exceptions and, as Roberts contends, vital for development of policy to support these men. A timely addition to the study of men and masculinities, this book is essential reading for its tying together of strong sociological methodology, application of social theory, and nuanced and sensitive exploration of young, working-class men.'
Dr Andrea Waling, La Trobe University, Australia; Journal of Gender Studies.
'One of the greatest strengths of this book is the commitment to addressing [working-class men's] lives in empathic ways, without letting this dampen the analytic and theoretical impact of the work.'
Dr Frank G. Karioris, University of Pittsburgh, USA; Men and Masculinities.
'a much-needed intervention into the field of critical studies on men and masculinities... [the book] provides a timely and important contribution to knowledge of, theorising on and work towards equality'
Dr Karla Elliott, University of Melbourne, Australia; LSE Review of Books.
‘Roberts refreshingly utilises a comprehensive theoretical approach long overdue in the critical study of masculinities...this book has the potential to change the way we look at masculinities for generations, particularly with how masculinities scholars engage with theory to engender a more flexible, class-centred, and intersectional analysis of change and continuity in masculinities’
Luis Morales, University of Winchester, published in Journal of Sociology.
‘The book also provides a valuable counter-narrative to the dominant discourses that positions lived realities of young working-class males as epitomic of crises in the male identity as expressed in the catch-all term ‘toxic masculinity’. Fundamentally, it (re)assesses how far expressions of being male, young and working class is conforming to the cultural toxic masculinity zeitgeist, hence underlining the book’s timeliness’.
Dr Caroline Cresswell, University of York, published in Acta Sociologica.
'Roberts makes sure the book is highly readable and is written in accessible language. The crossing of theoretical and practical insights inflates far more often than I had first anticipated, and the text is studded with new, persuasive insights for practitioners and policymakers.'
Dr Craig Johnston, University of Winchester UK, in Journal of Applied Youth Studies.
‘Roberts has operated exemplary academic citizenship through citing and engaging with early career and postgraduate research scholars... this is an excellent book and well worth reading.’
Liam Wrigley, University of Sheffield, in Journal of Boyhood Studies.