The traditional class approach to politics maintains that the working class 'naturally' votes for left-wing parties because those represent their economic interests. This traditional working class voting pattern has however become less typical, giving rise to today's 'Death of Class Debate' in political sociology. Against this background, we study why so many people, working and middle class alike, today vote for parties that do not represent their 'real class interests'. Critically elaborating on Lipset's work on working-class authoritarianism and Inglehart's on post -materialism, we first confirm that 'natural' voting perfectly complies with the logic of class analysis. 'Unnatural' voting, however, is not driven by economic voting motivations and class, but by cultural voting motivations and cultural capital. Right wing working class voting is thus caused by its cultural conservatism that stems from its limited cultural capital. Voting for the two small leftist parties in Dutch politics underscores the significance of this cultural explanation: those with limited cultural capital and culturally conservative values vote for the Socialist Party ('old left') rather than the Greens ('new left'). The spectre of the rightist working class that haunts today's political sociology can thus be dispelled by breaking the traditional monopoly of the one-sided class approach and give a complementary cultural approach its proper place in the explanation of voting.

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Centre for Rotterdam Cultural Sociology (CROCUS)
Sociologische gids
Department of Sociology

Achterberg, P.H.J, & Houtman, D. (2003). Het spook van de rechtse arbeidersklasse : Een culturele verklaring voor 'tegennatuurlijk' stemgedrag. Sociologische gids, 50(1), 8–25. Retrieved from