International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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1847-1981 :

A thesis presented to the London School of Economics, University of London,
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, by Julia Twigg
©AUTUMN 1981 - Thesis Index

The author is now Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at Kent University, England, and has given permission for this previously unpublished thesis to be published on the IVU website. The ownership and copyright remain hers and no part of this thesis may be used elsewhere without her express permission.

[Numerical links are to the author's footnotes, use your back button to return to the same point in the text. Text links are to relevant items on the IVU website, all open in new windows]


It is appropriate at this point to add a brief note on the class background of vegetarianism.

The early Salford period is in this atypical of the development of modern vegetarianism, for then its social base was strongly in the working class, though always only in a particular section – that connected with educational self-help, intellectualist religion and radicalism. The link dies as that working-class culture, still alive in the late nineteenth century, though in fast decline in the twentieth, itself dies. The expansion of the lower-middle class siphoned off educationally mobile sections of the working class; and the twentieth century saw the continuing erosion of voluntary institutions in the working class and the emergence of mass entertainment and. a consumer society.

The predominant association is not just with the middle class, however, but with sections of it. There are vertical divisions in the middle class that relate to ideology and that are to some degree rooted in different class experience. The 'progressive middle class', though well-known and over-represented in biography, journalism, and written accounts generally, has not been greatly analysed, though Frank Parkin in his study of CND draws attention to the coherence of this subsection. (1) Vegetarianism is also rooted in this milieu, thus its supporters are notable for being, in general only indirectly related to industrial production - they are not commonly found among production directors or sales managers, nor among those semi-professionals like estate agents concerned with selling or making money; often they have a rival ethic, based perhaps on artistic values, or an ideology of 'creativity' - designers, craftsmen, writers, psychotherapists - or on critical values - journalists, academics, media-linked people. It draws on those sections of the middle class who have always been disengaged from and half hostile to industrial society, whether from a radical or traditionalist stance. It is often associated with public sector, especially the welfare professions, and, quintessentially, with groups such as librarians and teachers. Finally in terms of class experience it is never a movement of the dominant centre.

Parkin regards as characteristic of middle-class protest that it is founded in humanitarian causes with a strong value orientation, as opposed to attacks upon the fundamentals of the economic order and of social structure, and. this is certainly true of vegetarianism. In explaining the anti-establishment leftish, sympathies of this section of the middle-class, Parkin, drawing on Lenski's status disparity, argues that through the high valuation they place on education, they have a self-ascribed cultural status that is at odds with their social status, and that this produces a degree of disengagement from the values of dominant society. (2) The educational link is certainly strong in the background of vegetarianism, and there are suggestions of links with first-generation middle class for whom education has not opened up the status levels expected, It is associated with the minor professions - it is rarely found among barristers or surgeons; with the new social-science based subject areas; with what has been disparagingly called in the context of the New Left, the polytechnocracy; and this equivocal status has been an aspect of their attack on certain socially established areas of knowledge like science and medicine.

Education is significant in a second way also. The 'educated middle-class' are accustomed to read books and to some degree to relate to ideas in ways that make them more prone to have 'theories' about the world, to take up 'fads', or to apply knowledge to traditionally governed areas like food. Vegetarianism abounds in such ideas and notions about all aspects of life. (Campbell in his analysis of the counter culture regards the high valuation of, and relation to, ideas as a crucial characteristic of its carriers) (3). Education can also act as a break with established patterns and, while not overestimating its impact, the emphasis it puts on rational rules of thought, is important for a morality that stresses the conscious application of universal principles as opposed to embedded moral rules of a situational nature. (4)

Lastly, there are reasons to suppose that these sections of the middle-class are themselves more meaning-prone. (5) As a group they have a greater tendency to relate to the world – or at least seek to - through consciously articulated forms of meaning. They may also have been more exposed to the eroding features of modernism, not directly through contact with modern technological production and. its logic, but, perhaps as powerfully, though its social, educational and ideological aspects: (6) and the crisis of modernism has been perceived precisely as a crisis of meaning.

  1. Middle Class Radicalism: The Social Bases of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Manchester, 1968. Parkin notes the prevalence of vegetarianism in CND, p29.
  2. Though Parkin believes that the causation also works the other way.
  3. C. Campbell, 'Accounting for the Counter Culture'. Scottish Journal of Sociology, Vol 4, 1980, p48.
  4. Such contextual judgements characterise dominant society's approach to animals.
  5. See, for example, Melanie Cotterill's study of invisible religion where she finds little concern in the dominant middle-class with issues of meaning or personal significance. ('Invisible Religion and the Middle Class', paper read at 1979 Implicit Religion Conference, Denton Hall). Such work suggests that concern with such problems is more characteristic of certain academic and other groups who have tended to dominate written accounts of modern man and his angst.
  6. See the background to this in the Bergers' analysis.

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