by UnHerd
Friday, 26
February 2021
Video
11:57

Rapper Loki: Class, not identity, should drive politics

Freddie Sayers discusses the taboo of social class with the Glaswegian musician
by UnHerd


Class is a subject that, no matter how much we advance as a society, we seem unable to stop talking about — especially in the UK. Glasgow rapper Darren McGarvey, otherwise known as Loki, has been thinking a lot about it for a new documentary series on the BBC. Over the years, Loki has developed a reputation for scathing social commentaries through his music and writing; three years ago he published a book, Poverty Safari, detailing the rapper’s working class upbringing in Scotland and winning the Orwell Prize in the process.

Thanks to Loki for sharing his thoughts on the corrosive effects of identity politics on society, his family’s struggles with addiction and alcoholism, and the phoniness of woke capitalism.

On identity politics:

Identity politics is a public relations disaster, because it emerges on Ivy League campuses from young idealistic middle class students who have no idea about the intersection between their very exclusive way of thinking and talking about reality, and working class communities, where a lot of this language just rouses scepticism, and resentment because it’s the language of officialdom, it’s the language of authority. It’s just another generation of people who don’t want to listen to working class experiences, and don’t want to hear it and people will be dismissed for being aggressive, people will be dismissed for this.
- Loki, LockdownTV

On class division:

One of the great successes of capitalism is that as well as leading to generally higher quality of life for broader numbers of people, access to information technology, innovation, and things of that nature, it also has created parallel societies which have completely different social experiences. They have completely different cultural aspirations. And they have a different sense of identity. Some have an ascribed identity, some have an achieved identity. And so what that does is it puts our democracy and our system under increasing strain. Because as you create parallel societies that don’t have to interact with one another, except for basic economic transactions, then people have to come to all sorts of conclusions about the intentions of the people on the other side of the ravine.
- Loki, LockdownTV

On the term working class:

Imagine your house burnt down, but you couldn’t use the word fire to describe it. Sometimes we need to use the language of class because it helps us to more clearly articulate some of the trends that we see in society along the lines of employment, education, health and political exclusion. With all this emphasis on social mobility, it’s become a sort of a shameful thing that people don’t want to describe themselves as.
- Loki, LockdownTV

On his upbringing:

The only people that are harder on working class people than the ruling classes, are other working class people. We regiment one another so strictly in terms of dress, in terms of the range of topics that we’re allowed to be interested in and discuss, even in terms of things like nutrition, which is changing a little now, but back then, if you were talking about hummus, and couscous, and all of these other things, that sort of marked you out as somebody who thought they were a little bit better than everyone else. And back then everything that fell out of our frame of reference was just labelled with a synonym “gay”, which just described everything.
- Loki, LockdownTV

On woke capitalism:

Look at how the identity politics has found expression within the capitalist system, ultimately it’s led to the Democratic Party and Costa Coffee, and Pret a Manger and all of these, selling cups with rainbow flags on them, while at the same time largely being complicit in a system that economically disadvantages people of all races, of all backgrounds, based on their social class, not on their race, not on their gender. Now, I have to caveat that by saying, there are very specific ways in which people of colour and women and LGBT people and people with disabilities are disadvantaged by our system, both economically and culturally. And these are obvious, and I don’t think most people would dispute that fact. But if you do not have the class analysis, that imposed over the other analysis of identity, then what happens is you create quotas that lead to middle class people of colour, middle class people with disabilities, middle class women and LGBT people moving into positions of authority. And while that does represent progress, and I’m not saying that it doesn’t, it doesn’t address the fundamental inequalities that we say that we’re all fighting for.
- Loki, LockdownTV

On the concept of privilege:

Privilege itself is a word that could maybe have been thought through a little better before academics and before activists and students ran onto Facebook, telling everybody, you can’t deny my experience, but I can deny your experience. It’s not worked out very well. But again, I will say that that’s not the Left. That’s a product of liberalism. That’s almost a product of capitalism in and of itself.
- Loki, LockdownTV

Join the discussion


  • I had a working class start. My father was a shop steward in a car factory. We lived in a council house. My mother wanted better for me and pushed me to school work. At 16 I said that I wanted to go to university and my father was astounded (or should I say gobsmacked). He said, “But you’ll become one of the bosses.”
    After that I became a boss and he virtually never spoke to me again. Education was responsible for this. What am I now? I think of myself as working class but I must be wrong.
    I learned to question everything, diet, clothes, behaviour, music, politics. Always a question. I question now the idea that working class is somehow good and that it is good that working class people dress the same and listen to the same music. To me, there is nothing wrong with being working class but I think that everyone should be trying to improve themselves: to eat better, to get fitter for life, to do different things if only for the sake of achieving something.
    Our culture today is deliberately trying to make everyone the same, presumably so that we can all be managed more easily.

  • The perpetual need to group people mostly succeeds in robbing them of agency and individuality. There are some common factors among classes and groups, but those factors are not necessarily universal. It’s curious how the very people who constantly preach diversity and inclusion are bent on manufacturing homogeneity.

  • Great interview with a very thoughtful guy.
    Interesting contrast between Loki’s broad Glaswegian and Freddie’s well-modulated Oxbridge accent.
    I wonder whether, in modern Britain, someone who sounds like Loki can ever be truly accepted into the social circles inhabited by people like Freddie Sayers, irrespective of how talented and successful that person might be?

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