The high vote for Brexit in England’s former industrial areas is often, reflecting historic class-based stereotypes, presented as a result of the incapacity of the working class to act in its own interests. Based on ethnographic research in a former milling town and a former mining town in northern England, this article articulates a logic for Brexit that cross-cuts ideological divisions within the working class. We highlight the affective afterlives of industry and, drawing on the classical sociology of Ferdinand Tönnies, argue that places such as these are characterised by a post-industrial industrial gemeinschaft whose centrepiece is industrial work, and which is reinforced in the very absence of that industrial work. In turn, we argue, the popularity of Brexit relates significantly to that political project's potential, whether real or illusory, to offer a future of work, and industrial work in particular.
- Northern England