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Social Class in the 21st Century
by Mike Savage
Nov. 13, 2017 - Nov. 13, 2017

Done

Savage, M. (2015). Social Class in the 21st Century. Pelican.


Pelican, 2015. 462 pages.

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No terms yet!
p.84
ageing and accumulation reinforce each other
[...] As the Hills report noted, thus 'economic...
p.46
social class as the accumulation of advantage
[...] Social classes, we contend, are fundament...

1

Introduction
The Great British Class Survey and the Return of Class Today

analysing the results of the Great British Class Survey from 2013. overrepresentation of certain groups with higher status: CEOs, highly educated, areas like Kensington & Chelsea, white. consequently, this survey was supplemented with a smaller survey as well as interviews. draws on Bourdieu's theory of econ/social/cultural capital with the goal of bringing social class back into public discourse

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1

Introduction
The Great British Class Survey and the Return of Class Today

analysing the results of the Great British Class Survey from 2013. overrepresentation of certain groups with higher status: CEOs, highly educated, areas like Kensington & Chelsea, white. consequently, this survey was supplemented with a smaller survey as well as interviews. draws on Bourdieu's theory of econ/social/cultural capital with the goal of bringing social class back into public discourse

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23

1. Contesting Class Boundaries

  • history of class studies in the UK: various rich people came up with maps/tables based on their own biases and distaste for the poor
  • unlike in some other countries, the upper classes of the UK were never deposed via revolution (i.e., slicey bois)
  • conservatives would use the middle class as their base, against what they saw as the moral degradation of the left's working class
  • John Goldthorpe, working in the 60s, did pioneering research into social class; came up with a table (NS-SEC) based on occupation but without social, cultural judgments (thus its biggest weakness: doesn't explain non-occupational class markers based on taste, culture)
  • the biggest thing to remember is that social class is about the accumulation of advantage over time
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23

Contesting Class Boundaries

  • history of class studies in the UK: various rich people came up with maps/tables based on their own biases and distaste for the poor
  • unlike in some other countries, the upper classes of the UK were never deposed via revolution (i.e., slicey bois)
  • conservatives would use the middle class as their base, against what they saw as the moral degradation of the left's working class
  • John Goldthorpe, working in the 60s, did pioneering research into social class; came up with a table (NS-SEC) based on occupation but without social, cultural judgments (thus its biggest weakness: doesn't explain non-occupational class markers based on taste, culture)
  • the biggest thing to remember is that social class is about the accumulation of advantage over time
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57

2. Accumulating Economic Capital

  • analysing interviews: most people seem to think they're somewhere in the middle
  • the wealthier act somewhat embarrassed about the raw numbers; make it seem like they just do what they love and the money is incidental
  • those at the very top tend top be more class-conscious than those at the bottom
  • note the importance of housing as wealth (more than in the US, and more than ~30 years ago)
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57

Accumulating Economic Capital

  • analysing interviews: most people seem to think they're somewhere in the middle
  • the wealthier act somewhat embarrassed about the raw numbers; make it seem like they just do what they love and the money is incidental
  • those at the very top tend top be more class-conscious than those at the bottom
  • note the importance of housing as wealth (more than in the US, and more than ~30 years ago)
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93

3. Highbrow and Emerging Cultural Capital

  • those with traditionally "highbrow" tastes are more unapologetic about it; they see the good quality of their preferences as obvious
  • comes down to confidence that their tastes are "good" tastes, legitimacy of their personal preferences
  • there's an age gap: young are less interested in traditional highbrow culture, instead latching on to emerging contemporary trends
  • they're more likely to be "cultural omnivores", with eclectic tastes (though they'll feel the need to qualify their interest in "popular" things, demonstrating that they know that others look down on it)
  • lots of interviewees exhibit the classic Ayn Randian tendency to think of others as mindless, sheep-like consumers
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93

Highbrow and Emerging Cultural Capital

  • those with traditionally "highbrow" tastes are more unapologetic about it; they see the good quality of their preferences as obvious
  • comes down to confidence that their tastes are "good" tastes, legitimacy of their personal preferences
  • there's an age gap: young are less interested in traditional highbrow culture, instead latching on to emerging contemporary trends
  • they're more likely to be "cultural omnivores", with eclectic tastes (though they'll feel the need to qualify their interest in "popular" things, demonstrating that they know that others look down on it)
  • lots of interviewees exhibit the classic Ayn Randian tendency to think of others as mindless, sheep-like consumers
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127

4. Social Capital

  • Bourdieu on social capital: it's not just about benefiting overall society (with denser networks), but primarily about preserving advantages among the upper class
  • within the upper class, it's less that everyone knows each other and more about an "extensive series of weak ties"
  • looking at clusters of who people know by occupation: elite occupations are the most socially exclusive
  • this has implications for political engagement: lower class less likely to know political elites (or really anyone who can affect the political landscape) thus feel disempowered
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127

Social Capital

  • Bourdieu on social capital: it's not just about benefiting overall society (with denser networks), but primarily about preserving advantages among the upper class
  • within the upper class, it's less that everyone knows each other and more about an "extensive series of weak ties"
  • looking at clusters of who people know by occupation: elite occupations are the most socially exclusive
  • this has implications for political engagement: lower class less likely to know political elites (or really anyone who can affect the political landscape) thus feel disempowered
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163

5. The New Landscape of Class

  • homology between different types of capitals
  • 7 proposed classes: elite, established middle class, technical middle class, new affluent workers, traditional working class, emerging service workers, precariat
  • not exactly a hierarchy but arranged by income (varies slightly in terms of social/cultural capital)
  • intersects with class and age: traditional working class older; elites fairly old, whitest
  • service workers tend to be younger, more ethnic minorities
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163

The New Landscape of Class

  • homology between different types of capitals
  • 7 proposed classes: elite, established middle class, technical middle class, new affluent workers, traditional working class, emerging service workers, precariat
  • not exactly a hierarchy but arranged by income (varies slightly in terms of social/cultural capital)
  • intersects with class and age: traditional working class older; elites fairly old, whitest
  • service workers tend to be younger, more ethnic minorities
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185

6. Climbing Mountains

  • 1958, Michael Young's book The Rise of the Meritocracy came out (meant as a satire about grammar schools)
  • because of standardised tests (meant to separate wheat from chaff), a very narrow definition of merit was developed and institutionalised
  • looking at social mobility based on the class one's parents came from vs current class, it's obvious that those higher up have it easier (analogy with climbing a mountain & diff starting points)
  • the elite class is obviously more exclusive than the others
  • occupation-wise, some newer job categories are more open to underprivileged
  • there are pay gaps within each occupation based on social class background
  • "mutual reinforcement" of advantage in the upper levels of social hierarchy
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185

Climbing Mountains

  • 1958, Michael Young's book The Rise of the Meritocracy came out (meant as a satire about grammar schools)
  • because of standardised tests (meant to separate wheat from chaff), a very narrow definition of merit was developed and institutionalised
  • looking at social mobility based on the class one's parents came from vs current class, it's obvious that those higher up have it easier (analogy with climbing a mountain & diff starting points)
  • the elite class is obviously more exclusive than the others
  • occupation-wise, some newer job categories are more open to underprivileged
  • there are pay gaps within each occupation based on social class background
  • "mutual reinforcement" of advantage in the upper levels of social hierarchy
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219

7. A Tale of Two Campuses

  • when Young wrote in 1958, only 5% of children went on to graduate from uni; since then, the landscape has changed (expansion of higher ed)
  • you don't need a uni degree to enter the elite but it certainly helps
  • 50% of elites have a degree, though that rises to ~2/3 among the younger generation (25-50) so there's a generational factor too
  • the elite class has highest percentage of uni grads, though only 15% of the total pop of uni grads (established middle class has half; precariat has very few)
  • inequalities between unis: huge difference in elite/middle class ratios for top unis (oxbridge, University of London etc)
  • interesting spousal dynamics: marrying someone you met at uni -> household income advantage gets doubled (thus exacerbating household income inequality)
  • conclusion: simply expanding access to uni degrees won't unsettle social hierarchies, given the stratification among unis (that has developed due, at least partly, to expanded access imo)
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219

A Tale of Two Campuses

  • when Young wrote in 1958, only 5% of children went on to graduate from uni; since then, the landscape has changed (expansion of higher ed)
  • you don't need a uni degree to enter the elite but it certainly helps
  • 50% of elites have a degree, though that rises to ~2/3 among the younger generation (25-50) so there's a generational factor too
  • the elite class has highest percentage of uni grads, though only 15% of the total pop of uni grads (established middle class has half; precariat has very few)
  • inequalities between unis: huge difference in elite/middle class ratios for top unis (oxbridge, University of London etc)
  • interesting spousal dynamics: marrying someone you met at uni -> household income advantage gets doubled (thus exacerbating household income inequality)
  • conclusion: simply expanding access to uni degrees won't unsettle social hierarchies, given the stratification among unis (that has developed due, at least partly, to expanded access imo)
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259

8. Class and Spatial Inequality in the UK

  • gross value added per capita is 7x higher in London than the next highest city (Manchester)
  • financial crisis -> rest of country falling behind London even more, rise of nationalist identities partly due to this?
  • rural-urban divide: those in cities tend to know fewer people but higher aggregate status
  • ranking by social/economic/cultural capital validates our preconceptions of certain areas, mostly in London, as "top"
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259

Class and Spatial Inequality in the UK

  • gross value added per capita is 7x higher in London than the next highest city (Manchester)
  • financial crisis -> rest of country falling behind London even more, rise of nationalist identities partly due to this?
  • rural-urban divide: those in cities tend to know fewer people but higher aggregate status
  • ranking by social/economic/cultural capital validates our preconceptions of certain areas, mostly in London, as "top"
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301

9. The View at the Top

  • here we're focusing on the ordinary wealthy elite (not the super-rich), ~6% of pop
  • lots of them feel a sense of guilt/discomfort with the rising house prices that propelled them into this class
  • for those who are there due to income, meritocracy is very useful as a morally loaded term (or alibi) that lets them feel absolved of guilt (they "deserved" to be there)
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301

The View at the Top

  • here we're focusing on the ordinary wealthy elite (not the super-rich), ~6% of pop
  • lots of them feel a sense of guilt/discomfort with the rising house prices that propelled them into this class
  • for those who are there due to income, meritocracy is very useful as a morally loaded term (or alibi) that lets them feel absolved of guilt (they "deserved" to be there)
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331

10. The Precarious Precariat

constant anxiety necessitates (it could be argued) self-medication with hedonism as a coping strategy

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331

The Precarious Precariat

constant anxiety necessitates (it could be argued) self-medication with hedonism as a coping strategy

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359

11. Class Consciousness and the New Snobbery

  • only 1/3 of general pop consider themselves part of a class at all (half of all GBCS respondents though lol)
  • class consciousness rises with income, unlike what Marx might have predicted
  • lots of interviewees were uncomfortable with this idea of class as a totalising factor, prefer to emphasise individual agency/merit instead
  • class snobbery is still alive just more hidden and underground
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359

Class Consciousness and the New Snobbery

  • only 1/3 of general pop consider themselves part of a class at all (half of all GBCS respondents though lol)
  • class consciousness rises with income, unlike what Marx might have predicted
  • lots of interviewees were uncomfortable with this idea of class as a totalising factor, prefer to emphasise individual agency/merit instead
  • class snobbery is still alive just more hidden and underground
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389

Conclusion
The Old New Politics of Class in the 21st Century

  • changing relationship between politics & class in recent years, esp due to Thatcher/Blair years
  • occupation becoming less important
  • meritocracy is not a solution for greater social mobility & dissolving class boundaries

imo: perhaps the younger generation (who are starting to see the cracks in the edifice) are realising what older ones couldn't, or wouldn't: that the whole structure is unnecessary and should be torn down. rather than simply taking their place in it (the way their parents may have done) they're rejecting the concept of the hierarchy entirely? that's the hope anyway

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389

Conclusion
The Old New Politics of Class in the 21st Century

  • changing relationship between politics & class in recent years, esp due to Thatcher/Blair years
  • occupation becoming less important
  • meritocracy is not a solution for greater social mobility & dissolving class boundaries

imo: perhaps the younger generation (who are starting to see the cracks in the edifice) are realising what older ones couldn't, or wouldn't: that the whole structure is unnecessary and should be torn down. rather than simply taking their place in it (the way their parents may have done) they're rejecting the concept of the hierarchy entirely? that's the hope anyway

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