Coming to Terms with London: Middle‐class Communities in a Global City


In this article we contrast the experience of middle‐class life in two areas of South London. We hypothesize that different sections of the middle class will live in different areas. Whilst these differences partly reflect economic capabilities and occupational divisions (such as public versus private employment sector, professionals versus managers), we suggest these divisions are becoming more complex. We develop a threefold model based on the work of Savage et al. (1992) and hypothesize that each group will tend to live in different and distinct areas of the city. In our comparison of two areas in which we have completed fieldwork (Telegraph Hill and Brixton), we are able to show very different accommodations to metropolitan life which provides initial support for our hypothesis. We characterize middle‐class life in Brixton as being essentially unstable, which is largely compensated for by the frisson of living in a cosmopolitan and mixed area. Telegraph Hill is a more stable area, with residents building a long‐term relationship with the area and forming substantial social networks with other residents; it, however, lacks the cultural infrastructure of Brixton. We argue that ‘circuits of education’ are of prime importance for middle‐class families living in London: in comparison to Brixton, our respondents in Telegraph Hill have developed sophisticated educational strategies which have enabled them to come to terms with living in London.