Educational Afterworlds of Neoliberal Britain: Class, Politics and Sexuality

  • Paul Goddard

Student thesis: Phd


There is a widespread sense that Britain is an unfair society with an unfair education system, and that this ought to change. Yet the prescribed panacea of 'equality of opportunity' is bound up with new extensions of middle-class privilege. In an attempt to historicise the social basis of that paradox, this thesis offers the 'educational afterworld' as a theoretical framework for prising open the determinations formal schooling exerts in adult British society. It is written from a Marxist perspective and treats the Blairite mantra of 'Education, Education, Education' as part of an ideological history in which structural inequality has been reproduced through the three-tier school system that emerged in the late Victorian period. As a point of entry into the educational afterworld, this project explores long-established categories of culture as they were articulated at key moments in this unfolding history. The legacies of three major Kulturkritikers-Matthew Arnold, F.R. Leavis and Richard Hoggart-and their preoccupations-class, politics, race, the city and commodified life-entered the 80s as a repertoire of motifs, patterns and axioms. I am interested in how these cultural co-ordinates were reconfigured by critiques of and collusions with the mercurial socio-political changes of the period on which I focus. Moving through the 80s and 90s, and with periodic glances back to earlier episodes of British life, the chapters map 'high' and 'low' culture onto the hierarchy of educational institutions that continues to produce the gulf between exquisite prose and 'underclass' illiteracy. A focus on sexuality is a notable feature of each chapter, honing discussion of these educational afterworlds through consideration of the ways in which gay male sexuality and an emboldened female sexuality mediate social status and distinction (in Bourdieu's sense). For these reasons, the texts selected are Alan Hollinghurst's The Swimming-Pool Library (1988) and The Line of Beauty (2004), the BBC2 drama serial This Life (1996-97) and, with his BBC sitcom Gimme Gimme Gimme (1999-2001), Jonathan Harvey's 'feel-good' play Beautiful Thing (1993).
Date of Award1 Aug 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Alderson (Supervisor) & Hal Gladfelder (Supervisor)


  • Sexuality
  • Culture
  • Politics
  • Class
  • Britain
  • Neoliberalism
  • Education

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