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Are we a classless society Mr Cameron?

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Are we still a classless society, Mr Cameron?

Since the coalition took power there has been no shortage of comment about the number of public school and Oxbridge alumni in the Cabinet. Are we witnessing the return to power of a traditional privileged elite? Can we expect a revival of traditional class politics as austerity measures begin to bite?  In this debate filmed at the Battle of Ideas Kevin Macguire, Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal, Professor Peter Saunders and Neil Davenport argue about whether there is an  ‘upstairs downstairs’ anymore.

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Related topics: Debates, Social Change

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Stephanie Sutton said:

Class!Does it matter to me?
I am tired of having to defend my home,family and lifestyle from the rest of the world.Yes I’m working class, my parents are and my grandparents were.Does it matter to me and did it change my life?In some ways yes. My brother died due to poor medical care and my parents still grieve, his death impacted on my life and my family,my parents still grieve.My father is bright, caring and honestly the best dad in the world, my mother really would lift a car with her bare hands to save me.Yes my life has had sadness but by middle class definations me and my family are benefit scrounging scum! My parents worked, my grandparents worked and so on. My family has not killed anyone or hurt anyone and whenever I’ve needed help and support my family has rallied around. But because I don’t know which fork to use or speak with peaches in my mouth I’m part of the pondlife! My defence?Nameless and faceless people that wish to judge a book by it’s cover is hardly the type of person whose opinion I crave or respect! I don’t care what you think because I’m still alive and happy and your beliefs do not affect me. Yes it is irratating that goverment like to pretend that they are just like everybody else and that people are stupid enough to belive their lies, not many of the working class or lower middle class attend Eton, can afford private health care or can trace their family tree and discover that they are related to the Queen. But this message can change, life can change! One hundred years ago middle class did not exist,monarchy had not yet been replaced by celebrity culture and the working class were hardly acknolaged because there was still third world countries to dominate,pity and wipe out. The future has not yet been written and with more people aspring to succead and change the world we live in tomorrow will be better. Most of us are in a better position than our parents and grandparents and oppurtunites do exist. I failed school and a year of college but do you see me blame those better of than me? No because I made those choices but I’m still trying to change my life and prospects by returning to school and becoming involved in projects. Will I allow the middle class to impose their values and lifestyle upon me because that is acceptable thing to do?Of course not. Middle class groan and moan about the injustice of the world and then critise the working class but secretely want to be able to walk on the grass and not on the path but continue to judge everyone else. Grow up everyone! Fight for what you want, be whoever you want to be,act however you like but do not pretend to be something else and then judge me. Stop obsessing about class because we are all human. Yes we are not equal, some people are smater, prettier, fitter and there are people in this world that have limited skills but judge on ability and not etiquette.

Lila said:

Interesting debate. The term class is not defined yet it is clear that the speakers use it in different ways (upper/middle/lower; ruling/working; or simply the ‘official’ socio-economic classification NE-SEC which refers to the type of job people have. The latter can show social mobility whilst the first 2 are much more difficult to change).
Saunders is quoted as professor but it is worthwhile to remember that the title of Professor Emeritus at Sussex is a post which comes with no teaching responsibilities and which has resulted in no research affiliated with the university in over a decade (have a look at the University of Sussex website). As one of my friends pointed out: “It would be equally fair to describe him as a ‘Retired Professor, once at Sussex’, but the honorific title helps in establishing him as an expert. From a position of expertise, he can attack [others] with a degree of authority.”
This same professor stated in the BBC documentary “Who gets the best jobs” that children from parents in higher classes are smarter than working class children. The Feinstein graph however, shows that ‘smart’ children from lower classes are overtaken by ‘stupid’ children from higher classes. See for example http://cep.lse.ac.uk/centrepiece/v08i2/feinstein.pdf (note this is LSE research, clearly not the most ‘left-wing’ academic institution in this country). Anyone with access to the vast amount of literature there is on the topic of class and educational performance, and who was learned the distinction between causation and correlation, will be able to see how Saunders’ claims show at best a limited view on societal processes, and at worst have a eugenic undertone. His response can be viewed here: http://www.petersaunders.org.uk/social_mobility_and_intelligence.html