Wednesday 3 April 2013

The Working Class Can Kiss

Assuming you know the rest of the version begun in the title, sung to the tune “Tannenbaum”, but not the words used at meetings of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, you may suspect a doubt in my mind.  Today the BBC and others have featured the attempt to redraw the class structure of the nation into one that seems to fit more closely to the present.

It suggests seven divisions, Elite, Established Middle Class, Technical Middle Class, New Affluent Workers (are there any at the moment?), Traditional Working Class (where on earth have they gone?), Emergent Service Workers (not much money, not in physical work, do their own thing?), Precariat or Precarious Proletariat (sometimes they work often they don’t).

In the Elite something is pointed out that was evident in centuries past but has now returned there is a distinction between the one per cent who command the greatest wealth and within them the zero point one per cent who hog both most of it and the levers of political power.

I did the survey but claim Leveson Privacy Protection in case the bailiffs come banging on the door.  But the result applies only to the “now”.  What it might have been thirty years ago in what passed for my prime would have been different.  Thirty years before that again would have differed markedly and at birth differed yet again.

This applies to a greater or lesser degree to many people.  As it happens, this is not a grumble at the classification proposed; it will do, so long as it is used with proper discrimination and care.  But for very many people it is only a snapshot in time.  Like others, just where is it taken and who on earth is that in the background?

Our difficulty is that we like simple structures and explanations if only to create an identity for ourselves and for those governing to get away with it when they make decisions.  What has been learned in my lifetime is that often things are more uncertain and maybe chaotic than we think.

One serious problem was that the old “pyramid” structure that became the basis for class description and analysis in the early 19th Century lasted so long in the mind of government and academia.  It was flawed in many ways, some serious and so came to distort policy, philosophy and history.

This could be a very long post in terms of explaining the full weight of matters and issues but this doubt has lasted a long while.  While this is what I was told, it is not what I experienced and saw in real life.  Also, living through times of war, economic change and population movement meant forced changes for large numbers of people

During my working life which took me to many places and dealing with large numbers of people both personally and on paper, it was learned quickly not to take anything for granted or to make assumptions too readily.

Later, when flogging through umpteen census returns from the past to see just what was there and who apart from any personal interest it became clear that what was going on in society generally was much more complicated than we thought. 

With the internet facilities recently it becomes possible to explore the wider shores of both communities and families.  At this level of detail and being able to make comparisons and see the ups and downs within over time never mind the complexity of many of the relationships the “class structure” becomes quite different.

Whilst both the old and new classifications may agree and be more reliable at both the extreme ends of the scale, if the “Bell shaped” statistical curve is applicable even if in a more flattened form then the numbers at the margins became much greater.

Given any amount of “fluidity” or “mobility” never mind the chances of life, age structures, changing economic structures and the rest it can be a case of “now you see it, now you don’t” over many areas.

The major problem we have, notably in the Western developed countries is whether the motors of economic change may be working against the kind of flux that we had in the past.

Also whether the nature of our populations in terms of their cultures and the lifestyles forced on them by modern media and government will allow the kind of flexibility or opportunity that existed in the period 1780 to 1980.

On the other hand if I win a big enough pot on the Euromillions it might be possible to buy the country estate being vacated by the Blairs, purchase a manorial Lordship on the internet and begin trading via my private company in the Cayman Islands.

What was the old saying “rags to rags in three generations”?

1 comment:

  1. I sometimes wonder if many people are basically satisfied and have little motivation to better themselves in the sense many older ones understand.

    If so, then stagnation will be with us until something shakes us up. Something bad is my guess.