Bread-and-butter politics

Democratic disenchantment and everyday politics on an English council estate

by Insa Koch

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Despite evidence of widespread disenchantment with formal politics among England's impoverished sectors, people on the margins continue to engage with elected representatives on their own terms. On English council estates (housing projects), residents mediate their experiences of an alien and distant political system by drawing local politicians into localized networks of support and care. While this allows residents to voice demands for “bread and butter,” personalized alliances with politicians rarely translate into collective action. The limits of one political party's bread-and-butter strategy highlight the precariousness of working-class movements at a time when the political Left has largely been dismantled. They also demonstrate the need to account for the lived realities of social class in aspirational narratives for “alternative” democratic futures.

Postwar social housing in southeast England
Postwar social housing in southeast England (Maisonettes, 2016)