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Abstract

Recent research on social class and whiteness points to disquieting and exclusive aspects of white middle class identities. This paper focuses on whether ‘alternative’ middle class identities might work against, and disrupt, normative views of what it means to be ‘middle class’ at the beginning of the 21st Century. Drawing on data from those middle classes who choose to send their children to urban comprehensives, we examine processes of ‘thinking and acting otherwise’ in order to uncover some of the commitments and investments that might make for a renewed and reinvigorated democratic citizenry. The difficulties of turning these commitments and investments into more equitable ways of interacting with class and ethnic others which emerge as real challenges for this left leaning, pro-welfare segment of the middle classes. Within a contemporary era of neo-liberalism that valorises competition, individualism and the market even these white middle classes who express a strong commitment to community and social mixing struggle to convert inclinations into actions.