Liberal democracy appears in crisis. From the rise of ‘law and order’ and ever tougher forms of means-testing under ‘austerity politics’ to the outcome of Britain’s referendum on leaving the EU, commentators have argued over why democracy has taken an illiberal turn. This book shifts the focus from the ‘why’ to the ‘how’ and the ‘what’: to how citizens experience government in the first place and what democracy means to them. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork, it takes these questions to Britain's socially abandoned council estates, once built by local authorities to house the working classes. From the perspective of these citizens, punitive shifts in welfare, housing and policing are part of a much longer history of classed state control that has acted on their homes and neighbourhoods. But this is only half of the story. Citizens also pursue their own understandings of grassroots politics and care that at times align with, but at others diverge from, official policies. An anthropology of state-citizen relations challenges narratives of exceptionalism that have portrayed the people as a threat to the democratic order. It also reveals the murky, sometimes contradictory desires for a personalised state that cannot easily be collapsed with popular support for authoritarian interventions. Above all, this book exposes the liberal state’s disavowal of its political and moral responsibilities at a time when mechanisms for voicing working class citizens’ demands have been silenced.