Published: October 2010
Author(s): Jesse Heley

Journal of Rural Studies 26(4) pp 321-331

In part prompted by a recent spate of media reports this paper explores the emergence of a ‘new squirearchy’ in the English countryside. In doing so, it aims to both illuminate a particular facet of rural social life and help reignite interest in the cultures of rural class. Whilst relationships between rural class and culture were a source of excitement during the 1990s, much of this interest has apparently spluttered if not died, despite class itself remaining very much a live issue for rural dwellers. The paper draws on the findings of an in-depth ethnographic study to highlight the significance of performance and symbolic boundary-marking in the construction and reproduction of social identity. The focus is the activities and sites of ‘the pub’, ‘the hunt’ and ‘the shoot’, which have been key in the emergence of the new squirearchy in the study area. The paper shows the importance of lay classifications based on evaluations of cultural (in)competence and morality, and suggests that the performance and boundary-marking of the new squirearchy in tandem with other identities is evidence of a more extensive, complex and ambiguous ‘culture of middle-classness’ in rural areas.

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Keywords
Middle Classes, New Squirearchy, Culture, Performance, Symbolic Boundaries