The social position of working-class men across the Western world has been transformed in recent decades. In material terms, the replacement of industrial sector jobs by unemployment and hyphenated forms of service work has all but removed old pathways into a respectable working-class masculinity for young men, while even those retaining a position in skilled manual labour find themselves worse off than their fathers had been relative to the rest of the workforce. Furthermore, both young and older working-class men are not only the losers of neo-liberal transformation, but are commonly depicted as its enemies, apparently unable and unwilling to heed the prevailing rhetoric of responsibility, flexibility, and self-improvement that has come to dominate life domains from employment and education to health, consumption and leisure. Having once been valorized for their authenticity and resistance, working-class men are often pathologized as part of the newly abject, left behind in the last modernity and without a legitimate place in the present.
While such notions have been a mainstay of popular and policy discourses, the academic literature exploring the making of masculinity amongst working-class men has presented a range of portraits illustrating not their inflexibility, but the structural and institutional barriers to the forms of self-invention now expected of them. This book intends to build on this literature, exploring the active ways working-class men construct and perform masculinities in the context of wider shifts towards individualization and self-making associated with processes of neoliberalization. Crucially, since such processes are not confined to the core countries of Western modernity, the book adopts a global perspective, inviting contributions addressing the lives of working-class men in countries across the world. Following attempts to understand how re-constructions of hegemonic masculinity have both reflected and been central to the cultural and economic projects of neoliberal globalization (Connell and Wood 2005), the book seeks to explore the ways in which working-class masculinities across a range of countries have been re-positioned by these same global processes, and the ways men have negotiated this through forms of adaptation, resistance and rejection. While the impact of transformations in employment is a central concern of the book, it seeks contributions that understand constructions and performances of masculinity as multi-sited, being enacted not only within and through formal spheres such as employment, training and education, but also in informal work, family life and leisure.
Editor: Charlie Walker, University of Southampton, UK
Abstracts of around 500 words should be sent to Charlie.Walker@soton.ac.uk by Friday 3 July 2015.
Book website: https://masculinitylabourneoliberalism.wordpress.com/