Thursday, 4 April 2013

Class wars.

Once again I find myself somewhat bewildered by a new move in the reclassification of current UK society and in particular a new attempt at putting us into a new "class" structure.  This is the BBC having carried out an experiment if you don't click on the link.

So I filled it in the questions.  I'm apparently "Established Middle Class".  What the hell does that mean?  For a start the important thing surely is how you describe yourself.  I'm working class.  I may have a job that might be defined loosely as a profession and be in a management position but to me I'm working class due to my background.  My sister did the test too and came out as "Technical Middle Class" she stated on Facebook that she is "... definitely working class - dockyard born and bred!!"  My son insists we are middle class but he takes this from simply from our financial position which is born of the fact that I was incredibly lucky to have a ridiculously overpaid job for a good few years which ended with a ridiculously overblown redundancy package (I'm not frivolous about it but recognise largely that was not of my direct making and purely luck and circumstances).  So I get promoted up the class structure on the basis of pure luck?  If I'd have won the lottery does that instantly move me to the new "Elite" class?  I really never get this, it is like saying I'm no longer a Caucasian male when clearly I am as that is my genetic makeup.

I don't mean to say that people can't move up the wealth ladder through luck or hard work, they can and they can change their circle of friends etc. should they find the opportunities to do so.  However I really don't see how that changes their intrinsic class.  See I consider class intrinsic to me social mobility is about wealth and where you live and who you live with but doesn't change who you are deep down, your roots. Subsequent generations - maybe. The fact my son has grown up in a household with considerably more wealth than I knew as a child and he has gone onto university (btw the first person ever to do so in my family) possibly mean he has some legitimacy in his feelings that he is middle class.  Starting his working life with impressive letters after his name and possibly if he does get a PhD placement for September a change of honorific give him some legitimacy to his argument.  However his dear old Dad even in his dotage will still consider himself "dockyard born and bred" along with it seems his Aunt as well.  

Finally the real confusing bit for me is in the questionnaire you have to answer questions on your "cultural capital".  Now here I am lost.  How can listening to jazz or attending art galleries move you from one class to another?  This kind of cultural stereotyping I find most disturbing of all in this new class structure - are we saying an appreciation for jazz or art galleries are too good for the working class?  Whatever happened to the late 20th century emancipation of the masses through public libraries, galleries, museums and the efforts of the education system to promote cultural interest?  Is it now all purely in the name of social ladder climbing?  I find that really sad if that is true.  One thing, to me, that is the greatest leveller of all is a love of some art form, when I stand in front of a picture or listen to some music and the person next to me is a lord or a tramp if we both appreciate it for what it is in a shared mutual love of the art form that to me is the best demonstration of true equality at work.  I feel very sad if today someone is in whatever few HMV shops are still open buying Miles Davis CDs purely to convince their friends, and more worryingly themselves, that their cultural capital is greater than they thought they needed it to be yesterday.


  1. I have the BBC bookmarked and took this survey. The results were preposterous. It claims I am an "Elite," the true meaning of which has nothing what soever to do with my circumstances or background. I got high marks because I like to go to the theater and know a couple of CEOs. Our class awareness here in the U.S. is more subtle. It counts for less, I think. You'd never see a survey like that in the New York Times or Washington Post. This survey is an amusing parlor game. Nothing more.

    1. Funny I now know of three people living in America who have done this and all come out as "Elite". I think the CEO thing is rubbish - I know at least 2 CEOs but they are CEOs of business's turning over very little, i.e. they have set up a small company and called themselves a CEO (as is their right) but I excluded that I presumed they meant I knew Steve Balmer or the like.

  2. This is quite bizarre! Self-reporting your views and perceptions and background and interests leads them to "bin" you into a pre-determined category? Bollocks!