The aestheticization of everyday life and the de-classicization of Western working-classes

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Abstract

This paper explores the relation between contemporary aesthetic features and the formation of cultural dynamics. We examine the role of the symbolic and ideological universe of the aestheticization of everyday life (AEL) in the formation of specific symbolic variables among younger generations of the working-classes, mostly in the service sectors. The analytic lens focuses on the aestheticization of everyday life as a relevant cultural process of de-classicization of collective representations. According to Leroux, Rouanet, Savage and Warde, ‘much of the (mostly qualitative) research on class identity and awareness insists on “dis-identification” (ie, people do not readily identify as class members or consciously adopt “class specific” activities’ (Leroux et al., 2008: 1050).1 In the same article, the authors state that ‘people's stated intentions, desires and practices are marked by their hopes and fantasies, but these dissemble, rather than being the reflex of, their class locations’ (idem). Consequently, they focus on how lifestyles are, to a large extent, connected with specific class locations, not how social agents conceive subjectively their cultural practices. This social discontinuity between class objective processes of social and cultural causality and the individual/collective perceptions of social life is the main theoretical object of our study. In this sense, processes of aestheticization presented in the paper (performativity, narrativization of self, body as practice, fragmentation, the role of image, and prosthetics) contribute decisively to the production of a general set of dispositions around an absence and invisibility of class languages in everyday life practices. The paper covers three interrelated sections. First, how aesthetics had configured relevant dimensions in the structuration of political life in Fascism as Walter Benjamin had envisaged at the time. Then, we will describe pertinent topics of the AEL and, to finish the article, how it induces a set of processes of de-classicization among new strata of Western working-classes. That is, de-classicization is posited as a cultural dynamic capable of displacing class dimensions from everyday life.

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