We may not think about class much these days, but the Today programme obviously does - returning to the theme yet again this morning (0855), and enjoying the thought that George Orwell identified himself as "lower upper middle class".
It is conventional to say, as Juliet Gardiner did this morning, that we are confused about class. I'm not sure we are, but the BBC is: it seems to think that class is all to do with income.
That is why the Great Class Calculator identifies me as 'traditional working class' - because it is old-fashioned enough to equate my miniscule earnings as a writer with my class. This is what I wrote about doing the survey last week.
Earnings just confuse the issue. One recent study in 2008 found that 48 per cent of those calling themselves ‘working-class’ earned more than the average salary and a quarter of them earned more than £50,000 a year. In some cities (Leeds for example) people calling themselves working-class are better off than those who see themselves as middle-class. A third of bank managers in one recent survey identified themselves as working-class.
This isn't about income, it is about background and culture - and maybe values. The fact that the BBC is pedalling a calculator that emphasises income is a measure of how much traditional middle class values, of thrift, deferred gratification and independence, are under assault from the new class of Masters of the Universe in financial services.
None of this implies that working class values are any the less important, but they emphasise different things - community, mutual support and dignity. Or they did. These are under an even more powerful assault from above.
These things are important. Middle class values, often caricatured, sometimes a caricature of themselves, were shaped quite deliberately by writers like William Cobbett in the 1820s who saw the new class emerge, and were determined that it should strike out in a new moral direction, away from the dissipated aristocracy who gambled, drank, bullied and horsewhipped their way through life.
The middle classes were designed, in that respect at least, as an antidote to ruling class, ubermensch culture. That is why it is so important that they are defended now, when the possibility of our independence is being corroded.
It is also why I, for one, am determined to argue that there is a fundamental difference beyond income between the old classes and our new overlords - it isn't just that we are the same but poorer.
More about this, and why it is so important, in my forthcoming book Broke: Who Killed the Middle Classes.