What's in a vote?

Brexit beyond culture wars

by Insa Koch

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The result of the United Kingdom's EU referendum has been interpreted as evidence of a “culture war” between proponents of liberal cosmopolitanism and defenders of socially conservative values. According to this interpretation, voters on both sides are seen as driven by identity-based politics. But on a council estate (social-housing project) in England, what made the EU referendum different from an ordinary election was that citizens perceived it as an opportunity to reject government as they know it. Citizens’ engagements with the referendum constitute attempts to insert everyday moralities into electoral processes. They provide an opening into alternative, if yet unknown, futures that go beyond any singular narratives that divide the electorate into camps of so-called Leavers and Remainers.

Example of post-war social housing in the south-east of England. Photo taken 17 January, 2016.
Example of post-war social housing in the south-east of England. Photo taken 17 January, 2016. (Insa Koch)