David Blackburn

The renewal of the class system

Fun can be had by playing with the BBC’s new class calculator. The calculator, which was designed with the help of several eminent sociologists, replaces the 3 classes with seven stratifications, drawing on social criteria (such as taste, accent and hobbies) as well as more tradition measurements (such income group and upbringing) to determine membership.

Toby Young writes about the demise of the three classes in tomorrow’s magazine. Here is a preview of what he has to say:

‘One advantage of moving beyond the socio-economic definition of class is that you end up with a less inflammatory portrait of modern Britain. Yes, the social elite are quite numerous, but it’s better to belong to a four million-strong group than be bracketed with the dreaded ‘1 per cent’. It feels right, too. I am probably among the nation’s top 1 per cent of income earners, but I don’t think there’s a great gulf between me and the remaining 99 per cent. The cliff edge is somewhere else, lower down the socio-economic spectrum. In simple terms, I feel a stronger sense of belonging when I’m standing in the lobby of the National Theatre than I do when having dinner at the River Café.

Seven different classes also feels more accurate than the usual three, even allowing for such sub-categories as lower-upper-middle (the class George Orwell said he belonged to). The more there are, the easier it is to move between them and the harder it is to keep track of who is a member of which one. That chimes with the general sense that class has become less important in the past 25 years.’

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