Ordinariness was a frequently deployed category in the political debates of 2016. According to one political leader, the vote for Brexit was ‘a victory for ordinary, decent people who've taken on the establishment and won’. In making this claim, Nigel Farage sought to link a dramatic political moment with a powerful, yet conveniently nebulous, construction of the ordinary person. In this paper, I want to historicise recent use of the category by returning to another moment when ordinariness held deep political significance: the years immediately following the Second World War. I will explore the range of values, styles and specific behaviours that gave meaning to the claim to be ordinary; consider the relationship between ordinariness, everyday experience and knowledge; and map the political work ordinariness was called upon to perform. I argue that the immediate post-war period was a critical moment in the formation of ordinariness as a social category, an affective category, a moral category, a consumerist category and, above all, a political category. Crucially, ordinariness itself became a form of expertise, a finding that complicates our understanding of the ‘meritocratic moment’.
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