Do Class Identities Still Exist In Contemporary Britain?
Social class is a group of people defined by their wealth, occupation and income. Hierarchical division of society into classes is traditional for capitalism. Britain is divided into working, middle and upper classes. Though, some people today argue the very existence of social class division.
The supporters of the “class death” theory claim that the institution of social class became redundant because people today are socially mobile. This means that they can overcome the disadvantages they were born with and achieve success in business and personal life regardless of their original social standing. However, the very fact that the notion of the “original social standing” exists proves that the class system is still strong in the minds of Englishmen. The influence of a person’s birth circumstances on their future life has indeed been reduced. People can get a chance to succeed climbing the social ladder on their own merits. This means that even though the role of social class changed, the institute itself remains solid.
Another proof of social class existence and strength in today’s society comes from a statistical study of children. According to the National Child Development Survey, an average general ability test score for children of low social classes is 40.2%. On the other hand, upper and middle class children score 50.6% or higher. This is a solid proof of the fact that social class distinction is more than just words. An argument that this difference in scores is caused by genetic factors that influence intelligence is completely implausible. It has only been about three generations from the time where jobs were pre-determined by class instead of intelligence. Such a concentration of intelligence at one end of the perceived class spectrum could not occur during this short time.
The presence of stratification based on the level of income is another indisputable fact. The existence of people who stand below the poverty line is a solid proof of this. One can call them a “low income socio-economic group”,but this will not change the fact that this group will be perceived as a class by the majority of people.
Traditional social class theories of Marx and Weber that ruled the society for many years are not applicable to contemporary Britain, but this does not mean that classes do not exist. While birth circumstances do not determine one’s position in the society anymore, wealth and income of parents still play an extremely important part in the child’s chances of professional and personal success.