Why do people care about class?

(254 Posts)

I really don't understand. Why does it matter? I can't think of a single time in my life when I have considered class to be an issue and tbh I have no idea what class I am.

AIBU or just ignorant?

Is there an idiot's guide to class somewhere? It looks like I need it. confused I have friends from all sorts of backgrounds, with wildly varying incomes and education but I still don't get it.

MiniTheMinx Fri 01-Feb-13 20:24:55

The class system is the cause of the inequality. The class system only reflects the inequality.

MiniTheMinx Fri 01-Feb-13 20:25:28

* Class system is not the cause of inequality.

MiniTheMinx Fri 01-Feb-13 20:27:26

Joyful, Jilly cooper wrote a very amusing book years ago

www.goodreads.com/book/show/618334.Class?a=5&origin=related_works It's very funny, 20 years later I still remember snipe the black lab

mercibucket Fri 01-Feb-13 20:46:49

how many people own 1/3 of the land in the uk?

1700

how many people own 2/3 of the land in the uk?

200 000

who are these people?

mostly the monarchy, aristocracy and gentry

how long have they owned the land for?

don't know but i'd guess up to a thousand years in skme cases. very few will be johnny come latelys

class not important? confused

mercibucket Fri 01-Feb-13 20:54:25

this looked interesting
http://www.earlhamsociologypages.co.uk/socclassintro.html

CombineBananaFister Fri 01-Feb-13 21:04:00

I am with maryz- inverted class snobbery is becoming as much of a problem as actual class snobbery. Don't pretend to care, i'ts cool to be disaffected and not give a shit.
I also appreciate people think current politics alienate them because their 'too rich and have it too easy' maybe they do, but what's worse to me are the politicians who pretend to be there with you on the breadline while they are fucking you over on their greedy expenses forms - far more insulting. And really how long are we going to go on blaming Thatcher, it's embarassing.

countrykitten Fri 01-Feb-13 21:14:19

Really agree about the Thatcher thing - it really pisses me off.

GrendelsMum Fri 01-Feb-13 21:28:30

I agree with the people on this thread who have said that it is very, very important to be aware of class - in as far as the cultural capital and aspirations that our families shape in us play a major role not only in people's life choices but in their access to health, justice and education in this country.

GrendelsMum Fri 01-Feb-13 21:30:00

PuddleJumper - on the more fun side, if you want a fairly light-hearted but insightful guide to class through the medium of interior decor and fashion, you might want to watch the 3 Channel4 documentaries by Grayson Perry, still available on 4OD

afterdinnerkiss Fri 01-Feb-13 21:30:25

gothannegesses thanks for the reminder about the concept of Cultural Capital - i remember studying social class intensely in sociology (at my comp) whilst dreaming of (a now achieved) mobility.

social class pervades every aspect of our lives - the resources of the school you went to, the quality of teaching there, the Cultural Capital your parents pass on to you contribute to the university you go to and how well you get on there - social class also shapes who you marry and how your children speak and how well they do in their lives. miserable but true.

Ok, from the very interesting page that merci linked to (thanks for that btw):

Objective Measures of Social Class

If we accept for the time being that there are three social classes in the U.K. we must then decide how to determine the class position of any particular individual. Sociologists emphasise that social class is essentially an economic concept and allocate individuals to social classes on the basis of their wealth, income and occupation.. Broadly speaking, we can say that a person with a relatively low income, working in a manual occupation and with limited personal wealth is working class. People with higher incomes working in non-manual occupations and with considerable personal wealth could be described as middle class. People with very high incomes working in non-manual occupations and those with no occupation but who receive high incomes from their high level of invested wealth may be described as upper class.

There are also other factors which might be considered relevant to the determination of a person’s class position such as the following:

their education;
the social background of their parents;
their standard of living;
their ownership of consumer durables;
whether or not they own their own home;
the value of their home if they do own it;
their leisure pursuits their accent and dress;
their circle of friends and social connections;
their power and influence in society

This kind of information is certainly useful but, again broadly speaking, many of these factors are in any case closely connected with a person’s wealth, income and occupation. For example, people who are defined as upper or upper-middle class as a result of their wealth ,income and occupation are also likely to be well educated, to enjoy a high standard of living and expensive leisure pursuits and to mix with the kinds of people who can afford similar life styles, while consumer durables and homes are, in any case, part of individual’s personal wealth. Conversely, it is very unlikely that people in poorly paid manual work with limited personal wealth will enjoy high standards of living and expensive leisure pursuits. Therefore, in assessing people’s social class position, sociologists concentrate on income, wealth and occupation because the other factors which have been listed are in any case usually connected with income, wealth and occupation.

I think perhaps part of my confusion about all this stems from the fact that according to the definitions above I straddle class boundaries.

Arisbottle Fri 01-Feb-13 21:40:49

I think you are very lucky if you are not aware of class.

I care about the fact that people from my background tend to earn less, be less well educated, be less healthy, less likely to own property and therefore have secure housing and live shorter lives that most people who would identify themselves as middle class.

I agree that class is not a simple things anymore, it is not about money or even the paper you read but lots of social messages.

I care that when I managed to achieve my first good job, having overcome many obstacle thrown in my path, I was made to feel unwelcome because I was seen as thick and a bit rough . I care that a teacher once told me that kids from council estates don't go to university , never mind Oxford or Cambridge. I care that my son's grammar school is packed with children from " middle class" homes.

GrendelsMum Fri 01-Feb-13 21:46:37

I think if you're not aware of class, it may well be because your friends are very homogenous in cultural capital, although they're different in levels of education and income. Or of course, it might be that you've always put it down as 'that's just how X does things and it's different to how Y does things'. My mum is not only an anthropologist but non-British, so for her the class system is endlessly fascinating, and she finds it pretty easy to allocate anyone into a social grouping.

Ok, several people have mentioned 'cultural capital'. Can someone explain what that is please?

GrendelsMum I think I have always seen it as people just doing things differently. Obviously I'm aware that my friends have varying backgrounds but I've never thought of it in terms of class until now

Arisbottle Fri 01-Feb-13 21:58:04

I suspect that is another factor grendels, most of mine and DH's relatives have been in benefits for much of their lives. Most of my friends through work are teachers , friends from my former job and DH's job are mostly very high earners in the private sector.

We are quite aware that we don't really fit in with either group. My closest friends tend to be people like us, those from tough backgrounds who have cash to indulge our love of bling.

chandellina Fri 01-Feb-13 22:00:18

JuliaScurr, all the political parties have lots of well educated people. Chip on your shoulder?

BigAudioDynamite Fri 01-Feb-13 22:36:07

I think the reason people dont care about class in RL/ on a day to day basis...is because generally people spend time with people who are the same class, so you maybe dont think about it so much.

On the internet/mumsnet...people from all backgrounds come together.

My class is important to me. I feel defined by it. It determines a persons culture.

GrendelsMum Fri 01-Feb-13 22:46:56

Here's a nice summing up of the idea of 'cultural capital':

"Pierre Bourdieu pioneered the concept of cultural capital, which consists of familiarity with particular types of culture or activities, which can act as a powerful barrier to – or facilitator of – social mobility. Cultural capital is used to describe cultural goods, knowledge and experience which confer power or status in the social hierarchy. Here the relationship to social mobility is that cultural knowledge, goods and experiences can help to bridge access to social groups and ownership of it can bring power and social advantage. Cultural knowledge and familiarity may, thus, act as a ‘hidden’ barrier to social progress for those that do not possess it or for those that are associated with the ‘wrong’ forms of cultural capital."

There's also a concept of "social capital": "Social capital is usually used to refer to the network of relationships (in terms of both quantity and quality) that derive from a particular social position or group membership"

"Webster et al. (2004) found that few of the socially excluded young people studied had established social networks beyond their immediate circle, which restricted the wider support and opportunities available to them. ... On the other hand, high levels of bonding social capital among middle class communities, and within the ‘middle class’ as a whole, might underpin and help to explain the apparent ability of middle class parents to protect their less able children from downward social mobility, as identified by Saunders (1995:36-7; 2002:563-4), Lucas (2001) and others (see Section 6). For example, one study found that 56 per cent of children whose parents have a professional career wish to have a professional career, compared to 13 per cent of those whose parents are partly skilled (Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit 2003). There is a further theme of importance concerning social mobility and social capital. ... Perri 6 (1997) found that middle class people had much more diverse social networks than working class people, with extensive weak ties with, for instance, former colleagues and acquaintances, which can be helpful to middle-class children."

So you might sum 'social capital' up as the idea that it's much easier to get work experience in a TV company if your best friend's mum works there. 'Cultural capital' might be that the teenager who arrives at the TV company and dresses 'right' and talks about the 'right' films / books / music / news stories will be seen as more intelligent and better suited to the role.

Sorry, mega-post but I hope it helps!

It helps a lot, thank you!

This thread is really educational.smile

chandellina Fri 01-Feb-13 22:57:15

I do consider myself lucky to have had the opportunities I've had by virtue of being a nice middle class girl, and don't blame those with less opportunity for resenting it.

But my education and achievements have probably had even more to do with the expectations around me from family and peers that supported me on those paths.

Society should encourage everyone to achieve and aspire, and follow through with actual opportunity, whatever your background. (ie meritocracy)

chandellina Fri 01-Feb-13 23:00:06

Cultural and social capital thing is bang on, for example people are most likely to hire people just like themselves. I have definitely benefited from this bias.

Arisbottle Fri 01-Feb-13 23:00:46

But some people need a little more encouragement and support than others. My children need very little additional support, I am quite happy for them to be sidelined so others can have the spotlight.

It is why my son's grammar school annoys me so much , I clench my teeth whenever I enter it. Full of children who already have lots of advantages whilst those who lack the contacts, supportive parents etc are left to rot in some of the worst schools in the country.

LaFataTurchina Fri 01-Feb-13 23:01:31

YY Chandellina - I'm the same (ie, nice middle class girl, supportive family, wishes everyone could get the same encouragement to achieve that I did)

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