Feeling it: habitat, taste and the new middle class in 1970s Britain

Highmore, Ben (2016) Feeling it: habitat, taste and the new middle class in 1970s Britain. New Formations, 88 (Spring). pp. 105-122. ISSN 0950-2378

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In 1964 the furniture designer and entrepreneur Terence Conran, along with various partners, opened a shop in London selling furniture and household goods. It was a ‘lifestyle shop’ called Habitat. By the late 1970s is was a fixture of many cities and towns across Britain. In this essay I treat Habitat as a taste formation, as part of a structure of feeling that was specific to what many social commentators were calling the ‘new middle class’. This essay charts some of those feelings and the material culture that supported them, and argues for an approach to taste that treats it as an agent of socio-historical change as well as a practice that maintains and reproduces social class. The feelings that Habitat could be seen to activate ranged from ‘cottage urbanism’ and improvised sociability to a sense of middle-class-classlessness. Habitat’s role was ambiguous, nurturing both middle class radicalism and the marketization of democratic impulses. In the transition from welfare state socialism to neoliberal hegemony Habitat’s role was both surreptitious and substantial.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: feelings, Habitat, Angela Carter, Raymond Williams, class, history, design
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain
Depositing User: Ben Highmore
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2016 15:31
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2019 00:22
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/59009

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Habitat and the making of Taste 1964 - 2011G1272LEVERHULME TRUSTMRF-2013-158