There are a few things that I have been thinking about this week, but I don’t know if I will get to blog all of them as I am due to teach in twenty minutes. So we’ll see where it goes…
The first is class. I know it may seem an odd thing to think about, but I work in humanities/social sciences. We think about class all the time (along with gender, race, sexuality etc). I think within our field and within the media it’s generally agreed that the notion of a ‘classless society’ in relation to Britain is completely bollocks. However, what is class, who is in what class and how do we define it? I don’t have any answers, by the way, this is all about the questions.
We traditionally refer to class in one of two ways: using the ABC1C2DE system or the three-tier (upper, middle, working) system – the two are compatible, so you will often see both used. But these terms are complicated.
For example, a lot of the people I grew up with in Grimsby were C1, C2. We’d probably have described ourselves as ‘working class’ – we didn’t live in the posh bits on the Willows etc, most of our families didn’t have cars (or if they did, they were used by a parent going to work – we all walked to school in those days) and so on. Our parents did standard jobs: building, dinner lady-ing, office work, childminding, factory work, roofing etc (with the odd teacher, but maybe those kids would fall into the m-c bracket). But we went to school with people from the estates whose families mostly fell into the DE brackets. And when you hear the phrase ‘working class’ used it is generally about those families – people who live on estates. Although it is something of an oxymoron, as large numbers of these ‘working class’ people don’t actually work. So what were we? Lower-middle class? Upper-working class? Inbetweeny class?
I suppose technically I could be considered middle class these days. I have a couple of degrees (so far) and I work in a professional role. At least for some of the year! I fall into the ‘B’ class bracket – and yet I don’t earn a huge amount (because I am part-time and temporary), I don’t own a home, I can’t afford to spend much on holidays etc. Some of the more traditional C1 C2 jobs are higher paid than many of the AB ones (and in some cases require as much ‘on the job’ training, and increasingly qualifications) so what does the class status really mean in my case? What does it mean in anyone’s case (and that’s not to mention people who don’t work because they are retired)?
And what about those educated people from middle-class backgrounds who shun the capitalist stuff and become organic chicken farmers or whatever? Where do they fit?
Anyway, what I am trying to say is that class is still sort of important, and yet it is almost impossible to define… Any thoughts?