Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Diff'rent Class

People in Britain now fit into one of seven distinct social classes, a major survey conducted by the BBC suggests. Take it yourself, dear blog reader, it's a reet good laugh. The survey - conducted by ... some people - suggests that the traditional categories of working, middle and upper class are outdated, fitting just thirty nine per cent of the population. It found a new model of seven social classes ranging from 'the elite' - those at the very top of society with money, power, influence and a staggeringly offensive arrogance to match (see, for example, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith) to a 'precariat' - the poor, precarious proletariat underclass - down at the bottom. 'Scum from the estates' in other words. More than one hundred and sixty one thousand punters took part in The Great British Class Survey, the largest study of class ever undertaken in the UK. Not that, previously, most people were bothered about it as as issue. They 'knew their place' as a particularly famous TV sketch had it.
Class has traditionally been defined by occupation, wealth, education and housing location. But this research argues that these indicators are too simplistic, suggesting that class has three dimensions (economic, social and cultural). The BBC Lab UK study measured economic capital (income, savings, house value) and social capital (the number and status of people someone knows). The study also measured what it describes as 'cultural capital', defined as the extent and nature of cultural interests and activities. The new classes are defined thus:-
  • - The Elite. The most privileged group in Britain by a distance, distinct from all the other six classes through its wealth and, especially, through its arrogance towards those less fortunate than themselves. Which is everybody, basically. They look down on all men. And they guffaw like braying hyenas whilst going so. This group has the highest levels of all three capitals. But, mainly the capital involving money. Includes the entire government (including all the Lib Dems and most of the Labour party as well), posh people generally and bankers in particular. Downton Abbey author Lord Snooty. Members of Mumford & Sons and Coldplay. Victoria Beckham. Stephen Fry. Everybody on University Challenge. Including Jezza Paxman. Lord Monty, Lord Snot, Miss Money-Sterling, the thirteenth Duke of Wymbourne and Rowley Birkin QC. Financial Times readers. Foxhunters. Judges. The Queen.
  • - The 'established' middle class; the second wealthiest, scoring highly on all three capitals (but, not as highly as the elite in at least one of them). The largest and most gregarious group, scoring second highest for cultural capital but quite prepared to drop any of their acquaintances like hot shit if they should happen to lose their jobs. Includes the cast of The Good Life. Daily Scum Mail readers. Racists and homophobes (oh, hang on, Daily Scum Mail readers sort of covered that collective, didn't it?) Patrick Nice. Miranda Hart. Jeremy Clarkson. And Piers Morgan. 
  • - The 'technical' middle class - a small, distinctive new class group which is prosperous but scores low for social and cultural capital. Distinguished by its social isolation and cultural apathy. Includes social climbers that nobody likes, people who would sell their own grandmother if they thought they'd make a tidy profit, everybody that works in IT. Daily Scum Express readers. Most premier league footballers. The majority of the BDS&M community. Swiss Toni. Alan Partridge. Matt Smith. And, Ian Hislop.
  • - New affluent workers - a young class group which is socially and culturally active, with middling levels of economic capital. Includes, the vast majority of people on Facebook and Twitter and the four people left on My Space. All stand-up comedians ... except Michael McIntyre. But, especially Stewart Lee. Pretentious wankers who attend football matches in the second most expensive seats but then spend more time chatting with their mates about nonsense than actually watching the game. Independent readers. People who talk loudly in restaurants. Russell Kane (very popular with students). And Jordan.
  • - The 'traditional' working class - scores low on all forms of capital, but is not completely deprived. Its members have reasonably high house values, explained by this group having the oldest average age at sixty six. Includes the TUC and almost nobody in the Labour party except Dennis Skinner. Jimmy McGovern, Tony Garnett and various other bitter old reds annoyed that it isn't the 1960s any more. Sir Alex Ferguson. Ron Manager and Alan Latchley. Daily Mirra readers.
  • - Emergent service workers - a new, young, urban group which is relatively poor but has high social and cultural capital. Includes Gruniad Morning Star readers. Most of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's friends. And, yer actual Keith Telly Topping (well, according to the survey, anyway).
  • - 'Precariat' or precarious proletariat. Underclass scum, basically. The poorest, most deprived class, scoring low for social and cultural capital as well as any money they might have hidden in an old sock under the mattress. Includes people from council estates, criminals, the homeless, the unemployed, the sick, the old, the vulnerable, people who shop at Poundland and everybody employed by Poundland. Those who set fire to their own homes. Those who kidnap their own kids and hide them with a relative whilst selling their story to the tabloids for profit and infamy. Anybody the Daily Scum Mail doesn't like. Daily Lies readers. Daily Lies journalists. Daily Scum Mail journalists. In fact, all journalists. Harold and Albert Steptoe.  Everybody who watches - or takes part in - Geordie Shore, Made In Chelsea or The Only Way Is Essex. And Kerry Katona.
The researchers said that while the 'elite' group had been identified before, this is the first time it had been placed within a wider analysis of the class structure, as it was normally put together with professionals and managers. At the opposite extreme they said the 'precariat', the poorest and most deprived grouping, made up a shocking fifteen per cent of the population. The sociologists said these two groups at the extremes of the class system had been 'missed in conventional approaches' to class analysis in the past, which have focused on the middle and working classes. Professor of sociology at Manchester University, Fiona Devine, said the survey really gave a sense of class in Twenty First Century Britain. 'What it allows us is to understand is a more sophisticated, nuanced picture of what class is like now. It shows us there is still a top and a bottom, at the top we still have an elite of very wealthy people and at the bottom the poor, with very little social and cultural engagement,' she said. 'It is what's in the middle which is really interesting and exciting, there's a much more fuzzy area between the traditional working class and traditional middle class. There's the emergent workers and the new affluent workers who are different groups of people who won't necessarily see themselves as working or middle class. The survey has really allowed us to drill down and get a much more complete picture of class in modern Britain.' The researchers also found the established middle class made up twenty five per cent of the population and was the largest of all the class groups, with the traditional working class now only making up fourteen per cent of the population. They say the new affluent workers and emergent service workers appear to be the children of the 'traditional working class,' which they say has been fragmented by de-industrialisation, mass unemployment, immigration and the restructuring of urban space. The findings will be published in the Sociology Journal and presented at a conference of the British Sociological Association on Wednesday. Researchers asked a series of questions about income, house value, savings, cultural and leisure activities and the occupations of friends. They were able to determine a person's economic, social and cultural capital scores from the answers and analysed the scores to create its class system. Of course, it's just about possible that some of those taking part might have lied. The GBCS was launched online in January 2011, but data showed participants were predominantly drawn from the well-educated social groups. To overcome this a second identical survey was run with a survey company GFK, with a sample of people representing the population of the UK as a whole, using the information in parallel.

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