Socio-political fracturing: Inequality, stalled social mobility and electoral outcomes

Julie MacLeavy*, David Manley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
104 Downloads (Pure)


The past 18 months have delivered a series of “surprising” electoral outcomes. In the USA, the election of Donald Trump confounded expectations. In the UK, the leave result from the EU referendum and the subsequent snap General Election which saw the Conservative Party lose their majority have been heralded as knife-edge moments and a new period in politics. This paper makes an alternative contention. It posits that the electoral outcomes of 2016 and 2017 were not arbitrary or new occurrences, but instead represent the latest expressions of long-standing historical trends towards increased inequality across the West. Recognising that the impacts of economic and political restructuring have been unevenly distributed between different groups and geographical areas, the paper makes the case that these electoral outcomes must be seen in the light of policy moves creating a more polarised social and spatial structure. Using the UK as an illustrative case, the paper explores the developments that have reinforced spatial opportunity structures and the reproduction of disadvantage over time. In doing so, the paper contextualises the revanchism resultant from processes of social residualisation and articulates the need to focus on the long-run effects of rising inequality now being seen to shape voters’ choices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-688
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Early online date11 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • austerity
  • Brexit
  • inequality
  • intergenerational inheritances
  • social mobility
  • UK


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