Where do students fit in to social class?


With deadlines looming, MA madness has taken its toll and blogging has taken a backseat...but here's my final post for 2015 to mull over! The University of York was lucky enough to recently welcome sociologist Professor Mike Savage to talk about his (and colleague's) new book "Social Class in the 21st Century" and I have been keen to report!

The book is based on Savage's involvement in the BBC's 'Great British Class Survey' which launched in 2011 at an appropriate time for thinking about a new formulation of social class encompassing economic, as well as, social and cultural factors. Anyone willing to could take part in the survey and uptake was 161,000, suggesting that the public were keen for their voice to be heard and to see where they fitted in. The findings reveal a model of seven classes and in the book, it's the quotes straight from participants' mouths that are most striking of the differential in resources, outlook and lifestyle.

A slimmed down version of the survey, 'the Great British class calculator', remains available to test yourself online. As the name suggests though, it's a simplistic calculation which doesn't take into account the subtleties of lifestyle, unlike the original survey. As a student, it seems especially problematic or indeed thought-provoking, as going by my parents' household I get 'established middle class', but otherwise I may be a 'precariat'. Should my education account for a higher class than my economic situation suggests? Or perhaps 'precariat' aptly captures the instability of living between two places and the fear of unemployability. It seems that Bourdieu's (1986) preoccupation with the accumulation of social, cultural and economic capital could mean that as a student starting out, I haven't the experience or opportunity to accumulate the resources. Yet, I find it uncomfortable to think of myself as 'deprived' in any way, shape or form! So when does identity become your own and not dictated by (parental) 'background'? Class in all its forms is complex, much more so than stereotypes dictate. A three class system is outdated but as the survey reported, disparities persist.

Do you identify with a social class? Do you think others would agree with you?

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Bourdieu, P. (1986) The Forms of Capital. In: Richardson, J. G. (ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood, 241 - 258.

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