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The Likes of Us: A Biography of the White Working Class [Paperback]

Michael Collins
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Jun 2005
Once they were portrayed as the salt of the earth. Nowadays, they take to the streets when paedophiles and asylum seekers are in their midst; they expose their lives in TV documentaries; they love Gucci and hate the Euro - the broadsheets cast them as xenophobes and exhibitionists and mock their tastes and attitudes. Who are the white working class and what have they done to deserve this portrayal? The Likes of Us is a fascinating and wholly original examination of London's white working class.

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New edition edition (6 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862077789
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862077782
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 102,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Gripping stuff, and Collins’s exquisite turn of phrase broadens the appeal of this evocative history' -- The Daily Mail

‘A fascinating blend of memoir and social history… a spiky defence of south London’s white working class’ -- Blake Morrison, The Guardian

‘Collins treads lightly in the footsteps of the first late- Victorian journalists and social anthropologists… lively book’ -- The Times

‘This book brings home the cyclical nature of history... Discussed with enchanting historical detail’ -- Aberdeen Evening Express

About the Author

Michael Collins was born in Walworth, south-east London, in 1961. He has worked as a television producer and scriptwriter, and has written for various publications including the Observer, Guardian, Independent, Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times. www .michaelcollins.info

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Neither an elegy nor a manifesto 10 Mar 2006
Like Michael Collins, I'm another working-white boy who made his way into the professional heartland of the bourgeois-left élite. Like him I get angry at the prejudices of the BBC and the Guardian, not so much towards me, but towards my family, my friends, and the people I went to school with. I enjoyed angrily shouting along with him at the rampaging horde of environmentally-conscious, organic food-eating, inverse racist media trollops who've taken over so much on Inner London. I enjoyed his bitchy putdowns aimed at a class who specialise in the bitchy putdown (for Mr. Collins has a wonderful line in invective). It was a joy to read a book written by and for 'us' for a change.
I enjoyed the in depth trolling through the history of his ancestors in Southwark, his accounts, laced with the right amount of working-class sentimentality, of growing up in the 1970s.
More seriously, I appreciated the way he deconstructed the media-myth of the working-class white as ill-educated, uncouth and prejudiced. London's working-class whites have been at the sharp end of multi-cultural Britain for 60 yeards and, in most cases, have adapted to it and even thrived in it. He lifts the lid not only on the poverty and squalor of life for poor Londoners from Dickens' era onwards, but also exposes the bizarre social experimentation imposed on the British working-class by the bourgeois left in fields from architecture to education, from the 1950s onwards.
And yet, this book could have been so much more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars memories 20 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
book is excellent history of neighbourhood where 4 generations of my family lived. it has thrilled my 90 year old mother
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Controversial and necessary 3 Mar 2010
Do you agree that everyone deserves a fair trial, free of hate mobs? Including racists? Even working class racists? Why then did the liberal establishment collude (I know I did at the time) with the mobs who attacked the defendants during the Stephen Lawrence trial? With this controversial question begins a reappraisal of the white working classes.

It seems that in our multicultural society the only people who can be criticised at will are those who have actually borne the brunt of the influx of newcomers, i.e. the inner city working class. While the middle-class tut-tut from the sidelines, inner city demographics have been torn apart by redevelopment and social engineering. The author is a Londoner and faithfully portrays an example of the cohesive working class communities that, in living memory, were at the heart of British life.

The Lawrence case was ugly but so was the demonizing associated with it. So too the snobby use of words like 'chav'. This book suggests to me that many of us are in denial of where we are from, what we are living through, and how we might develop a fair society.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There's a novelty already; a history of the Working class actually written by a member of the Working class; what will they think of next?!

I bought this and read it over a few weeks off and on. I wasn't at all sure what to expect from this book, but have been pleasantly surprised by it. To be honest, it's a history of Michael Collins' London family throughout the last couple of hundred years or so, rather than a particular history of the Working class in general. But, this is no bad thing; his family are to my mind very archetypal Working class city-dwellers and there is for me a great interest in that alone. As well as talking about his own family tree, which I enjoyed, he talks about the way the English white Working class in general are demonised or patronised or targeted for well-meaning but often missing-the-point 'missionary work' by those educated Middle classes, who always seem to know better than us plebs about how to live life and how to talk and present themselves, and so on and so on. I guess if you're Working class (like I am) you've heard it all before and probably groaned time and time again, at the way even well-meaning Middle class people misrepresent and often totally misunderstand Working class people and our culture and the way we live and behave and relate to each other.

He also talks importantly about how White Working class people now seem to be the latest 'hate-figure' and how it's okay basically to attack White Working class people by nice, respectable Middle class, who, because they're not being racist or sexist or anything else, they can hate us without feeling guilty because of course all White Working class people are racist and sexist and misogynistic and uneducated and...you get the picture!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About Britain's weakest and most vulnerable 2 July 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have a great affinity for Britain's native working class and fell they have been victims of gross social injustice through the centuries, with today those who discriminate against them and downright persecute them in fact being the Britain's modern left elite who have outrageously swapped the noble ideals classlessness to the vile multiculturalism and 'anti-racism' as the author explains in the latter chapters.
Multiculturalism and anti-racism are used as a stick to beat the British white working classes, who are the only group people in Britain it is acceptable for the chattering classes to mock and attack
As the brilliant journalist and true voice of and conscience and nonconformity to the prejudices of Britain's left elites , Burchill captured with great skill as the author quotes in the book in a 2001 article from the Guardian " What we now have is a new version of the deserving and undeserving poor-the noble new British working class, who are ethnic and the thoroughly swinish old working class who are white"
This consummate, passionate and humane biography of Britain's white working class in the 19th and twentieth century is social history at it's best tracing the story of the author's own family with a sympathetic but non uncritical look at the culture and history of Britain's most abused people. People who have nevertheless have a rich and vibrant culture, which is a victim of a new class war by Britain's left wing middle class privileged hypocrite elite.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting to the specialist
Although not skilfully written this is an otherwise interesting history of the author's ancestors in one part of south London from around 1800 to the recent past. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Dr. Barrance
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fookin' brilliant.
Absolutely fookin' brilliant. Seventeen more words required, apparently. Though I thought my input was rather witty and sort of representative. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Tessa the tennis slave
4.0 out of 5 stars About the last racial group in society it's still PC to abuse
What the white working class has experienced and why some prevailing attitudes have developed.

Good on the period since the 1960's - maybe too much information about... Read more
Published 17 months ago by MR RICHARD NORTH
1.0 out of 5 stars Banal and false
This book is similar in certain ways to 'Chavs' by Owen Jones; essentially, a set of assertions without either a) research and evidence; b) any theoretical underpining. Read more
Published on 23 Jun 2012 by Giles Penfold
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Effort
Let me start by declaring my interest - I am a South East London boy from the very social background portrayed in this book. Read more
Published on 22 Jan 2012 by SELondon_Al
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Excellent Book About a Fractured and Demonised Culture
I have no hesitation in saying this is a truly excellent book. It is very interesting and well written and is not a polemic (as might be suggested by the title) but is measured... Read more
Published on 11 Sep 2011 by Dr. R. Brandon
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but doesn't really do what it says on the tin
There's a lot of interesting stuff in this book and it is worth a read, but it isn't really a history of the white working class. Read more
Published on 24 Dec 2007 by S. Riley
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but flawed
Certain other reviewers of this book make good points. While being accessible and largely compelling it is a bit of a hodge podge, taking bits of his grandmother's experiences,... Read more
Published on 22 July 2006 by Charles
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