Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain

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9781447309956: Getting By: Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain

Over the past thirty years, the United Kingdom’s poor have become increasingly stigmatized, while many poor communities have become the subject of great public concern and media scorn. In this book, Lisa Mckenzie offers rare insight into life in one of these neighborhoods, St Ann’s Estate in Nottingham. Notorious for containing many of the city’s gangs, guns, and drugs, the area is also known as the place where the unemployed and the feckless take up as long-term residents. As a former inhabitant of St Ann’s, Mckenzie is able to delve into a community often wary of outsiders, providing an important account of the effects of recent policy changes and the complexities faced by those living in poor neighborhoods in contemporary Britain.

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About the Author:

Lisa Mckenzie is a research fellow in the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science.


“Enticing and inspiring in its authentic, emotionally charged honesty. . . . Getting By aims to challenge the stereotypes and ‘happy with their lot’ myths that patronize the complexity of human experience and emotion. An insider as well as a scholar, Mckenzie confronts the simplistic, judgmental ways that council estates and those in them are so often presented, via the stories of people who don’t merely survive, but who are resourceful, resilient, and brave. . . . Mckenzie writes without a shred of sentimentality, but with a conviction and passion that never allow us to be emotionless spectators. She hits out at the stigmas—gangs, drugs, guns, single mothers—applied by those on the ‘outside’ to communities such as this. The narratives are not only recounted with humor, love, and care but are also grounded in social and cultural context. She exposes the contradictions and complexities lived by the people of St Ann’s, and shows them trying to make sense of them from their place in a society built on inequality of opportunity and choice. . . . Her voice and those she presents here need to be brought to other silenced communities, to inspire their inhabitants to tell their own stories and put voices of resistance into the public domain.” (Vicky Duckworth, Edge Hill University Times Higher Education)

“Mckenzie has managed to transform several academic pieces of work into an accessible book full of humanity and honesty about St Ann’s and some of the people who live there.” (Spokesman (UK))

“The book excels in bringing to life the realities of life lived in hard circumstances and the ways in which people respond to troubling experiences and harsh life conditions.” (Journal of Social Policy)

“A book that pulls no punches about its politics and commitment to challenging the anti-working class hatreds that are so prevalent in the United Kingdom today.” (Journal of Poverty and Social Justice)

"I recommend Getting By to anyone searching for a more complex and authentic picture of life in poor neighbourhoods than that depicted in the barrage of increasingly banal selection of TV programmes which dominate our screens."  (Probation Journal)

“McKenzie did not try to paint an idyllic view of the council estate with its ethnic tensions across families that settled many generations ago. However, her ethnography, which describes a mixed race community facing racism and endogamy from the middle classes, balances the narrow-minded view that often associates lower classes with racism.” (

“A very personal approach to the topic of low-income working-class families in poorer communities in the context of the gradual implementation of austerity measures in Britain. . . . [McKenzie] leads the reader to examine their own understanding of the working class by challenging the stigma attached to this identity and by representing this silenced community in modern Britain.” (Frederike Scholz Network, Magazine of the British Sociological Association)

“This book challenges social scientists to think again about how working-class life on urban estates is portrayed, both academically and in the mainstream media.” (Social Policy & Administration)

“The stories within this book lay bare what it means to be regarded as inferior and an outcast in your own society. This is a resolutely impressive book written with authenticity and passion.” (Mary O’Hara, journalist and author of “Austerity Bites”)

“Essential reading for twenty-first-century Britain.” (Andrew Sayer, Lancaster University author of “Why We Can’t Afford the Rich”)

“A very fine ethnography of life in austerity Britain, charting the resilience and creativity of the community it describes, as well as their injuries and mistreatment by others.” (John Holmwood, University of Nottingham)

“As a child of St Ann’s and son of Jamaican immigrants, this is one of the most powerful celebrations of working-class and multicultural Britain I have ever read. I challenge you to read this book and not be ignited by a range of emotions such as sadness, anger, pleasure and joy. Read and enjoy. I did.” (Donald Mclean, vice-principal of Longley Park Sixth Form College)

“Who am I to pass comment on this book? But that’s the trick they play on you isn’t it. We are all used, processed, slashed, but the under class, the worker, well they are thoroughly abused.” (Jason Williamson, Sleaford Mods)

“An essential antidote to media and governmental depictions of poverty, drawing on the powerful voices of working-class people themselves.” (Imogen Tyler, Lancaster University author of “Revolting Subjects”)

“A moving portrait of stigma and inequality that shows, powerfully, why we must put value at the centre of class analysis.” (Tracey Jensen, University of East London)

“A heart-wrenching, eminently readable, powerful book, uncovering incredibly resourceful survival strategies for staying human in conditions of inhumanity.” (Bev Skeggs, Goldsmiths, University of London)

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