Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Making Sense of Wales

Making Sense of Wales: A Sociological Perspective

Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Making Sense of Wales
    Book Description:

    This volume gives an account of the main changes that have taken place in Welsh society since the 1950s, as well as analysing the major effort to interpret those changes.

    eISBN: 978-0-7083-2310-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Series Editor’s Foreword
    (pp. v-vi)
    Ralph Fevre

    The Politics and Society in Wales Series provides an opportunity for the publication of social-scientific descriptions and analyses of Welsh society. Graham Day’s book reminds us that such work was undertaken long before the series was conceived. Social scientists have been making sense of Wales for half a century or more. They have even, from time to time, put on courses for undergraduates and postgraduates to help them do the same thing. Day thinks, quite rightly, that it is time to take stock and appraise all of this effort. The result is a marvellous work which shows us how far...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The opening of a new millennium seems to have thrown British intellectuals into a turmoil of introspection. Hardly a day passes without the publication of some new book, television series or newspaper article in which the nature and direction of British society, the state of the United Kingdom, and what it means to be British or to belong to one of the constituent nationalities of these islands, is put under scrutiny (Paxman, 1999; Marr, 1999; Nairn, 2000; Chen and Wright, 2000). These discussions mingle millennial angst with anxieties about place in the world, and more local concerns to do with...

  6. 1 Visions of Wales
    (pp. 7-25)

    In 1981 the annual conference of the British Sociological Association (BSA) was held at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. Around 300 members of the sociological profession met to discuss the topic of inequality. The conference organizers were taken aback somewhat when certain delegates asked if they could be given a tour of the local collieries. The nearest coal mines to Aberystwyth were some 80 miles away, a considerable journey by country roads, and would not normally have been thought part of the itinerary for any visitor to the locality. Despite their expertise in British society, and critical engagement with...

  7. 2 Wales Remade? The Transformation of Economic Structures
    (pp. 26-47)

    The discussion in the preceding chapter provided support for Smith’s characterization of Wales as ‘a singular noun but a plural experience’ (1984: 1). Its plurality consists of many layers of social meanings and relationships which are interdependent and interacting, but not reducible to one another. Wales is no different to any other society in this regard, although the extent and range of particular variations contained within it may be greater or lesser. For instance, setting to one side for later consideration the obvious and major demarcation which exists within Wales between those who are Welsh and the English, and allowing...

  8. 3 ‘An Ideal Research Site’: Wales and the Problem of Development
    (pp. 48-72)

    What happened in Wales during the 1950s and 1960s has to be put in the context of wider processes of economic and social change operating on a national and international scale, or what at the time appeared to be an almost unlimited prospect of ‘growth’ and social improvement for the industrial nations. This was the ‘golden age’ of the long boom (Hobsbawm, 1994), a worldwide phenomenon stimulated by making good the destruction of wartime, and carried forward by increasing production and mass consumption through the extension of what came to be known as Fordist principles throughout manufacturing industry. The central...

  9. 4 Enclaves, Archipelagos and Regions: Rethinking the Regional Problem
    (pp. 73-93)

    As well as enabling some significant advances in understanding, the application to Wales of approaches from the sociology of development also raised some profound questions. The most important had to do with the need to clarify just what was the object of analysis for a sociology of Wales (Day, 1979). By this stage it was apparent that at least three distinct possibilities were contained within the framework of developmental analyses, and that specific contributions tended to slide between these in often uncontrolled and confusing ways. In effect, Wales could be addressed as a place, as a people or as a...

  10. 5 Divided and Dividing Wales? Explorations in Geography and Class
    (pp. 94-115)

    In an examination of trends affecting the regional division of labour in the 1980s, Cooke (1983b) produces a fourfold grouping of regional patterns which conforms roughly to a breakdown of the geography of Wales at the time. The four areas thus defined are: (i) the emerging major service area centred on Cardiff, which as well as seeing an expanding service sector had also been undergoing significant de-industrialization; (ii) the urbanized centres of the coalfield and in other parts of Wales, which were increasingly becoming focal points for public services together with some limited manufacturing development – for instance, an outer ring...

  11. 6 Beyond the Basics
    (pp. 116-140)

    As the epitome of classic proletarianism, and the repository of a particular type of Welshness, the fate of the coal-mining communities of Wales has assumed an exceptional significance. The case of mining has been gone over so thoroughly by sociologists that its special features barely need stating. It is among that select band of ‘extreme’ occupations which are so all-pervading in their impact that entire modes of life appear to be dictated by them. At the level of the local community, this has meant the overlapping of ties of work, leisure, neighbourhood and friendship, to form close-knit collectivities of people...

  12. 7 Rural Wales: The Sociological Account
    (pp. 141-161)

    Up to this point the discussion has been preoccupied mainly with developments that have occurred in the more heavily populated industrial centres of Wales, and with the way in which they have helped entrench particular images and emphases within the various discourses of Welsh life. This emphasis is justifiable in that it corresponds to the experience of the majority of the Welsh population, three-quarters of whom live in the towns and cities which take up less than a third of the country’s geographical space. In many respects, the major challenge to the ascendancy of this perspective has come from an...

  13. 8 Contemporary Rural Wales: Via Development to Dependence?
    (pp. 162-183)

    Discussion of the nature of rural change in Wales since the 1960s has reprised many of the same arguments and debates already discussed in relation to more industrial settings, especially with regard to the extent to which local people can be said to be able to exert any real control over what occurs. Williams (1980) identifies two common modes of development applicable to peripheral rural areas, both of which he sees as harmful. One involves large projects, with significant capital investment, designed to take advantage of the prime rural asset base, its natural resources, in circumstances where popular resistance is...

  14. 9 Debating the Transformation: A Welsh Economic Miracle?
    (pp. 184-211)

    As has been noted previously, of all the British regions, Wales was hit most heavily by the recession of the 1980s, losing almost a third of its manufacturing employment in the short period from 1979 to 1983. Among male employees in south Wales manufacturing, job losses reached 32 per cent and female losses were even more severe at 41 per cent; the rest of Wales fared somewhat better, with losses of 19 per cent and 12 per cent respectively. Differences among local economies were even more stark: Barry town saw no less than 80 per cent of its jobs disappear....

  15. 10 Language, Culture and Nation: Wales in the Melting Pot
    (pp. 212-229)

    Since the 1980s, sociology has taken a notable turn or, conceivably, detour towards stressing the importance of cultural issues. Questions of meaning and significance, of value and interpretation, have been accorded far greater priority than they were given in the past, along with a cluster of related topics, such as social identity and difference, variations in lifestyles, forms of communication and patterns of representation. Their growth in prominence has been linked to the rise of social constructionist perspectives, which emphasize the active processes through which these meanings and significations are created, reproduced and changed by social actors. Among the issues...

  16. 11 Nation, Nationalism and Ethnicity
    (pp. 230-257)

    Sociology has long abandoned any pretence that nations and national identities are fixed and static realities which reflect some underlying genetic or other such essential structure, such as a common language. Rejecting such views positions us on what McCrone refers to as ‘the familiar if somewhat boggy terrain’ of considering whether or not nations are ‘real’, or should be treated as items of discourse situated within social and political practice (McCrone, 1998: 4). This is likely to occasion fierce debate, because there are many who have major personal and political investments in advancing a particular type of answer to the...

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 258-265)

    It has been said that sociologists enjoy picturing themselves astride some major historical watershed, and that this leads them to conceptualize social change as a succession of clear-cut breaks, rather than grasping it as an uneven combination of leads, lags and continuities (Bradley, 1996: 213). In Wales, as has become clear, there is also a temptation continually to hail the new dawn. Bringing these two tendencies together might be expected to result in a great exaggeration of the novelty of current circumstances. Undoubtedly there are deep continuities running through Welsh society, but nevertheless it is apparent that over recent years...

  18. References
    (pp. 266-289)
  19. Index
    (pp. 290-295)