Sunday, 3 November 2013

Social class - what defines it?

Upper class twit of the year from Monty PythonToday in the office, we got to talking about social class. Don't ask me how, it's normally a fairly touchy subject but me and two English girls had a good chat ranging from what we call the room with the TV in it (in New Zealand it's always the lounge - in England it seems it could be a living room, sitting room or possibly front room instead) to what part your accent plays in advancement at work.

The subject came up because of the BBC Lab UK’s Great British Class Survey earlier this year. We were a bit late to the party as it was published in April but evidently there was some fairly rigorous research involving over 100,000 Brits.

They say "It found a new model of seven social classes ranging from the elite at the top to a "precariat" - the poor, precarious proletariat - at the bottom." and "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 cultural capital, defined as the extent and nature of cultural interests and activities." Link to BBC website.

They are convincing in their explanations, but I just don't buy it. I think that social class is a subtle combination of how you  look, think, speak and behave. I think it's mainly down to how you're brought up rather than things like your education, friends, income and what entertainment you enjoy. That said, all things being equal your class will generally affect things like whether you go to University (and which Uni, and which courses) or whether you like classical music.

Still, I think that it's perfectly possible to score "Elite" while other people think of you as "Traditional Working Class" because you happen to have made lots of money but still have a working class accent and attitudes. And I bet that Prince William doesn't actually like classical music, the theatre or ballet but surely he's pretty much as 'Elite' as it gets in British society?

In discussing it in the office, we were all pretty clear on who was which class and all clear on what class we were ourselves. It's part of the complicated interaction of human society that we all juggle.

What am I trying to say? I guess just that it's complicated, but interesting. Go and do the survey and let me know what you think.

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