Comment

For & Against: A class divided

Xander Mayweather and Max Eshraghi consider the BBC’s recent class calculator and whether this updated class system is a good thing.

For

The class system has been reinvented, and it’s about time too. The BBC uploaded the new short survey over a week ago, and since then, almost everyone I know has taken part in it. This demonstrates one thing – as much as we may harp on about wanting to move away from class divide, become unified and close the gap between rich and poor, we are all inherently interested in it. Frankly, we will not be able to close any gaps of wealth whilst we still have this interest. I don’t agree with having a class system at all, but it’s clear that this country still wants to define itself by its wealth and social standing. As this is the case, I can’t help but think that this new class system is a good thing.

The old class system was outdated. Working, middle and upper class hardly come together to create a coherent representation of modern day Britain. Even when you begin to throw in Upper-middle class and other such bridging classes, things don’t really get covered. This new system takes cultural tastes and social circles into account, as well as the traditional monetary and familial aspects of class.

The new system, with its many levels, will begin to narrow the class divide – the first step in ridding ourselves of it for good. By having many tiers, people will feel less separated than with the previous very distinct classes. More than this, (other than the potentially dubiously named ‘Elite’) the names of the class system do less to label people as richer or poorer. This is undoubtedly a good thing which will improve relations between class as those people who do place importance upon the class system, will find themselves able to associate with a wider range of people than before.

Having taken the not-so-recent extended version of the class system test (one which takes around 20 minutes and takes into account aspects such as food and musical preferences) it is clear that this system is far more detailed, more accurate and more useful. It can tell you why you fit into the class you do, how you compare to the rest of the country through all sorts of graphs and charts and insightful information.

No, I don’t feel the need for a class system, but seeing as we clearly live in a society that cannot do without one, this is a much better alternative to the highly outdated model that has been separating us for generations. Hopefully with a more accurate idea of why we fit into the categories that we do, we can begin to work on what it is that differentiates us as people and move towards a greater amount of equality. XM

Against

The reception that the Great British Survey has received demonstrates what many already knew. We are a nation obsessed with the class divide. But equally many know that class is not important and hasn’t been for a very long time. That makes this new system devised by LSE a largely pointless exercise in a practice that should have been laid to rest long ago. Simply it’s purposeless.

In the past social divisions were perhaps more pronounced but in recent history and even as far back as the post-war years, the population of Britain have undergone a social shake-up. Today in 21st century Britain, class divisions are one of the last things on people’s minds. The word ‘antiquated’ springs to mind.

Nowadays if we do drag up the class system I suspect it’s often to legitimise our own superiority or to serve as the butt of a joke. It seems we are not above branding ourselves with inane titles like ‘elite’ and ‘traditional working class’. But it’s an exercise in division at a time, particularly now, when solidarity is so important. At the risk of mimicking a Red Ed phrase, we should strive for the unification of a ‘One Nation’ Britain, and not be hung up on whether it’s pronounced ‘Bucket’ or ‘Bouquet’.

Even from a political standpoint, usually the sector that relishes these studies, it’s largely useless. There hasn’t been a straight  ‘working class/Labour’ ‘middle class/Tory’ split for some time and this attempt to replace it is not going to help political parties identify a demographic to target. With parties so similar the field is wide open and no amount of social labelling is going to help us pinpoint who is voting for who. Everyone is voting for anyone. How does a political party target the ‘Technical Middle Class’ as opposed to ‘Emergent Service Workers’ anyway?

Even just from an analytical standpoint, the survey is a bit suspect. A total of 161,458 people from around the UK completed the survey with the majority (86%) living in England while 8% live in Scotland, 3% in Wales and 1% in Northern Ireland. They champion this as a ‘very large sample that allowed them to analyse the connections between the different capitals’. But correct me if I’m wrong, those percentages aren’t indicative of the national statistics are they?

We British have liked to identify ourselves with a particular class that we recognise as accurate and our own. But ultimately this survey can’t even manage to create an adequate description of the British system. I don’t imagine the ‘Emergent Service Workers’ will form a class consciousness that many will be able to identify easily. The media storm incited by this ‘Great British Survey’ is thoroughly undeserved. ME

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