The traditional three classes – working, middle and upper – are no longer sufficient to contain and explain Britain's enduring obsession, according to a new survey that offers no fewer than seven categories.
The Great British Class Survey, a collaboration between the BBC and academics from six universities, used economic, social and cultural indicators rather than occupation, wealth and education to define the new classes. Researchers found theestablished model of an upper, middle and working class had fragmented to such a degree that there are now seven categories ranging from the "precariat" to the "elite".
Bottom of the newly configured heap is the "precariat" (or precarious proletariat), who make up 15% of the population. Its members earn just £8,000 after tax, have average savings of £800, and are extremely unlikely to go on to higher education, with just one in 30 having a university qualification.
Next in the study are the "emergent service workers" – "a new, young urban group which is relatively poor but has high social and cultural capital". They are the youngest group, with a mean age of 34 and high proportions of ethnic minority members.
The "traditional working class", described as "not completely deprived" despite scoring low on all forms of capital, then appear. Its members tend to have properties with reasonably high values because they are, on average, aged 66. The category, making up just 14% of the total population, "is fading from contemporary importance", say the academics.
Next come the "new affluent workers", a young, socially and culturally active group with middling levels of economic capital, followed by the "technical middle class", "a small, distinctive new class group which is prosperous but scores low for social and cultural capital".
The group is further distinguished by its "social isolation and cultural apathy".
On the next rung is the "established middle class", described as the largest and most gregarious group, scoring highly when it comes to economic, social and cultural capital. Comprising a quarter of the population, it is the largest group, with household income of £47,000 and some "highbrow" tastes.
At the top is the "elite" – 6% of the population – whose members have extensive social contacts, are educated at top universities and have average savings of more than £140,000.
The research was carried out by academics at the London School of Economics, the University of Manchester, City University and the Universities of York, Bergen in Norway, and the Université Paris Descartes, France.
Professor Mike Savage of the LSE said the researchers had been struck by the existence of a distinctive elite class "whose sheer economic advantage sets it apart from other classes".
He added: "At the opposite extreme, we have discerned the existence of a sizable group – 15% of the population – which is marked by the lack of any significant amount of economic, cultural or social capital. The recognition of the existence of this group, along with the elite, is a powerful reminder that our conventional approaches to class have hindered our recognition of these two extremes, which occupy a very distinctive place in British society."
Professor Fiona Devine of the University of Manchester said the most interesting aspect of the research was the groups they had identified in the middle: "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 findings, based on 161,000 online responses, will be presented at a conference of the British Sociological Association on Wednesday, and will be published in this month's Sociology journal.
Sitcom guide to the new classes
Elite: General Melchett from Blackadder Goes Fourth. Braying, bellowing, incompetent and utterly contemptuous of the lower orders, Melchett would naturally expect to find himself at the top of the pecking order.
Established middle class: Margot and Jerry Leadbetter from The Good Life. As the establishment pillars of comfortable and conservative 1970s suburban society, the couple existed in pointed contrast to their more free-thinking neighbours Tom and Barbara Good.
Technical middle class: David Brent from The Office. Despite his supposedly rock'n'roll past, Ricky Gervais's fist-gnawingly embarrassing general manager was resolutely middle class.
New affluent workers: Miranda from Miranda. Miranda Hart herself may be established middle class, but the heroine of her eponymous sitcom sits comfortably in a slightly lower category.
Traditional working class: Jim Royle from The Royle Family. Could Ricky Tomlinson's armchair-bound, TV-addicted patriarch be anything other than proudly working class? My arse!
Emergent service workers: Maurice Moss from the IT Crowd. Young, nerdish and living at home with his mum, Moss could fit the emergent service worker class but probably needs a little work to increase his social and cultural capital levels.
Precariat (Precarious - prolatariat): Rab C Nesbitt. Gregor Fisher's much-loved and enduring sitcom creation has assumed the status of folk hero despite his resolutely unglamorous life.
Post a Comment
PLEASE ADD COMMENTS SO I CAN IMPROVE THE INFORMATION I AM SHARING ON THIS VERY IMPORTANT TOPIC.