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Lecture 2: Social Class, Social Stigma and Inequality

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Robin Smith

on 11 October 2018

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Transcript of Lecture 2: Social Class, Social Stigma and Inequality

Blaming the Victim?
In 2002, 77 per cent of children in year 11 in England and Wales with parents in higher professional occupations gained five or more A* to C grade GCSEs. This was more than double the proportion for children with parents in routine occupations (32 per cent)
In 2002, 87 per cent of 16 year olds with parents in higher professional occupations were in full-time education. This compares with 60 per cent of those with parents in routine occupations, and 58 per cent with parents in lower supervisory occupations.

Sources: Youth Cohort Study; Department for Education and Skills
Labour Force Survey; Office for National Statistics
The Significance of Class
The decline of social class thesis

Relationship between work, rewards and life experiences no longer as strong as they once were

Less differentiation between different kinds of work; less demand for unskilled and manual labour

Culture no longer so strongly based on social class

Social fluidity and social mobility – mass education and rise of meritocracy

Political action no longer based on class organisation
A classless society?
Three main (contested!) theories
Closure thesis
Buffer Zone thesis
Counter balancing thesis
Social Mobility?
Social Class Description Example
I Professional Doctor
II Intermediate School Teacher
III (N) Skilled Secretary
III (M) Skilled Manual Electrician
IV Partly Skilled Post man
V Unskilled Labourer
The Registrar General’s Classification
The Feudal System
Nobles, Clergy and Commoners

Brahmin, Rajputs, Vaishyas, and Shudras

Capitalist Society and Economic Classes
Economic relations, ownership and labour
Social Strata
Social Stratification
Definitions, Measurement
The Significance of Class
Culture, consumption, and class
A Classless Society?
Social stigma and class struggles
Social Class, Social Stigma and Inequality
Economic – Increase in unemployment, part-time work and low paid ‘flexi-workers’, single parent families and dependency upon welfare. Welfare hasn’t matched numbers of claimants (Oppenheim, 1993)

Social – Long term unemployed, single parent families and elderly pensioners. Support networks important (Field, 1998)

Cultural – That the members of the underclass hold different attitudes, norms, and values from the rest of society
The 'Underclass'?
Social stigma and class struggles
Life Expectancy by Class
Life expectancy at birth for men rose to 77.7 years for Social Class I and 68.2 years for Social Class V. For women, life expectancy at birth rose to 83.4 years for Social Class I and 77.0 years for Social Class V. The difference in life expectancy between Social Classes I and V was 9.5 years for men and 6.4 years for women in 1996 (Hattersley, 1996)
Life Expectancy by Region – (ONS, 2005-7)
Highest: 83.7 (Kensington and Chelsea)
Lowest: 73.7 (North Ayrshire and Renfrewshire)

The Significance of Class
Conspicuous consumption (Veblen)
The high/mass culture divide
The contribution and protection of high culture (F.R. Leavis) and ‘consumer sovereignty’ (Keat)
Commodification and the Frankfurt School (Marcuse – One Dimensional Man)
Culture is ordinary (Raymond Williams) and symbolic creativity (Paul Willis)
Class and Culture
Even with the same qualifications women do worse

Women are more likely to end up in routine clerical and unskilled manual jobs

Whereas men are more likely to end up in skilled manual jobs and in the salariat

Women fill disproportionately few higher professional and skilled manual positions

More absolute downward occupational mobility for women, though chances skewed by class of origin

Marital mobility and more complex occupational biographies
Gender and social mobility
Relative high levels of absolute inter-generational social mobility in the UK in last 50 years
Upward mobility into an expanded service class (changing nature of work and the labour market)
Low levels of downward social mobility
Little movement out of the higher class positions
Working class as intergenerationally stable
Signs of mobility
Intragenerational social mobility – within a lifetime
Intergenerational social mobility – between generations
Upward and downward mobility
Absolute mobility – proportion of individuals in a category who have been mobile
Relative mobility – chances of mobility of one group compared to another
Social Mobility?
Theoretical – power relations
Descriptive - objective / subjective

Occupation – Registrar General’s Social
Class table
Consumption – Market Research,
lifestyle, ‘spending
Measuring Class
The ‘3 Ps’
Economic Privilege
Social Prestige
Social Strata
Blaming Society?
Benefits Street powerfully demonstrates the pivotal role of media culture in naturalizing the ideology of Broken Britain. Love Productions, 70% owned by Rupert Murdoch’s global media conglomerate Sky, describes Benefits Street, as a ‘documentary series’, ‘an honest depiction’ which ‘reveals the reality of life on benefits’ and ‘give[s] voice to a community that don’t really have a voice’ ). However, television, as Pierre Bourdieu reminds us, is ‘an industry which edits and organizes perception, offering visions of the world, classified, portioned and divided in specific ways’ (Bourdieu in Crossley and Slater 2014). The accumulation and repetition of televisual figures of ‘the undeserving poor’ exerts powerful limits on the political imagination by establishing a consensus that Britain, in the words of one viewer, is ‘crawling with workshy, malingerers’ (ref northern echo). In this way, programmes like Benefits Street establish new rules for the ‘audio-visual policing’ of precariat populations: the marginal, disenfranchised, the underemployed and the unemployed (Rancière 1999, p. 29).

Things that are considered real, are real in their consequence.

W.I. Thomas

Social class virtually disappeared as a central site of analysis within cultural and media
studies in the late 1980s, a disappearance that was mirrored by a similar retreat from class
within wider social and political discourse (Skeggs 2005, p. 45). This is not to say that class
distinctions, however we measure them, have been eroded or are in decline. On the
contrary, class disappeared as a central site of analysis at precisely the same time as
economic polarisation reached unparalleled depths in Britain (Skeggs 2005, p. 45). As Skeggs
suggests, the disappearance of class as an analytic category occurs alongside the rise of
political rhetoric of inclusion, classlessness, and social mobility, whilst terms such as “social
exclusion” and “the underclass” rapidly took the place of terms such as “working class” (2005,
p. 47).

Tyler, 2008
it is arguable that changes in the configuration of social class in Britain and shifts in traditional markers of social class (such as accent or education) have made it more difficult to ascertain class difference. In the context of shifting class definitions, the vilification of the chav can be interpreted as a symptom of a middle-class desire to re-demarcate class boundaries within the context of contemporary consumer culture.

Tyler, 2008
This particular social minefield has been created by the combination of consumerism with rising inequality. This was not a rebellion or an uprising of famished and impoverished people or an oppressed ethnic or religious minority but a mutiny of defective and disqualified consumers, people offended and humiliated by the display of riches to which they had been denied access
(Bauman, 2011)
'Yesterday's underdogs were non-producers, while today's underdogs are non-consumers'
Bauman (1995: 204)

Structural conditions and political and economic crises are reimagined as individual pathologies
The fate of groups is bound up with the words that designate them
(Boudieu, 1984)
The politics of classification
"Broken Britain"
Spatial inequality and

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