Class Divisions in Britain
Historically, societies have operated within a set of conventional norms that define how people relate. Savage (2016) defines class as the order of a society based on economic power and status. The modern Britain has often been defined as a society that is mostly divided by class differences. Most of the time, the differences are based on the variations in life chances, politics, and life styles. However, the origin of the British class system can be traced to the medieval period. This was a period when the feudal system was based on both land ownership and a military organisation. During this period, the English society was divided into the lower and higher orders. The language of upper, middles and working class began to be applied to British social structure in the 18th century. The middle-class became increasingly influential during the Victorian era while new industrialists pushed to become landowners (Savage, 2016). It has to be noted that the middle-class people distanced themselves from the working class lifestyle. The significance of the social classes in Britain peaked in the 19th and 20th century. The orthodox class divisions in Britain are the upper, middle, and working classes with occupation being one of the most used measures to divide people into class groupings.
This paper cites sources to examine the extent of Britain’s class divisions. The four sources focus largely on work and education to review the stratification of British class divisions. They provide the most recent analysis of the British social classes and this is the main reason why I chose them for this expository essay.
Extent of British Class Divisions
Britain is a class ridden society with limited social mobility from one class to the other. He continues to add that occupation, place of residence, and income in that order are the best indicators of a person’s class. This is a revelation that brings out the social division in Britain. It also indicates that income and work are still major influences of class in the English system. A further examination by Horton (2015) indicates that the orthodox and traditional three-class system has been replaced by a seven-tier social class system. According to Horton (2015), Britain is now divided into seven social classes namely the elite, the established middle class, the technical middle class, new affluent workers, traditional working class, emergent service workers, and the precariat. The report documented by Horton (2015), indicated that the elites make up approximately 6% of the population while the established middle class are represented by 25% of the population. However, the precariat subdivision, which is the most deprived and poorest, is represented by 15% of the society. The education and place of residence indicators are seen here to also show the extent of class division in Britain. This is because the elites have been noted to be more concentrated in the South of England and London. They were also noted to be the most likely to have higher education along with the emergent service workers. Education, occupation and place of residence define an individual’s social class.
Clensy (2016), on the other hand, states that Britain is still divided into the traditional three-tier system of the upper, middle, and working classes. He states that about 82% identify as working class while 70% of the population believe they are in middle class. The mobility between social classes has also become relatively difficult even as people in respective social classes tend to elevate their status. However, the key difference that Clensy (2016) notes is that the sense of class as being defined by occupation, education, and income has become less significant. This is because most people in managerial and professional occupations claim that they are in the working class. The class divide is evident in Britain and economic instability of recent years has made mobility between divisions harder (Heath, 2016). The recent voting to leave the EU has accentuated the social class divisions in Britain with some experts citing disaffection and dissatisfaction among the working class. A report by Bukodi, Goldthorpe, Waller, and Kuha (2015) indicates that the working class identity is still widespread. Even when less people are engaged in the working class, a majority of people in Britain still think themselves as being in the working class. He also indicates that those in middle class think to a certain extent that they are in working class. These are clear differences between the research reports. However, the upper class, middle class, and working class appear to be the prominent divisions in Britain.
The examination of the British social class divisions indicates that Britain is still a class-divided society today. While most of the analysis indicates that Britain is made up of the upper, middle, and the working class divisions, other reports indicate that the influence of education and occupation is becoming less significant as social indicators. With an improvement of the economy, the working class identity is expected to decline. This change will be driven more by the income effect and increase in higher education among the population.
Bukodi, E., Goldthorpe, J. H., Waller, L. & Kuha, J. (2015). The mobility problem in Britain: new findings from the analysis of birth cohort data. The British journal of sociology, 66(1), 93-117.
Clensy, D. (2016). Our post-Brexit society is divided by class – new report claims. Bristol Post.
Heath, O. (2016). Policy Alienation, Social Alienation and Working-Class Abstention in Britain, 1964–2010. British Journal of Political Science, 1-21.
Horton, H. (2015). The seven social classes of 21st century Britain – where do you fit in? The Telegraph.
Savage, M. (2016). The fall and rise of class analysis in British sociology, 1950-2016. Tempo Social, 28(2), 57-72.