Friday 5 April 2013

Despite the survey, I'm middle class - really

BrokeThere is suddenly a great deal of interest in class, following publicity about the new online class survey, which suggests that the traditional class demarcations (upper, middle, working) should give way to seven - from the elite to the precariat.

I'm not sure about this.  I did the survey myself and discovered that I am 'traditional working class'.  This really isn't the case: I could imagine being in the precariat - I am self-employed - but traditional working class, no.  I might like to be, but I'm not.

The odd thing was that my father did the same survey and it came to the same conclusion about him.  I suspect that the survey has two big problems:

1.  It puts far too much emphasis on income.
2.  It takes no account of upbringing.

I was definitely brought up as middle class, including dancing classes and piano classes, not to mention private school and Oxford.  I may not earn  much, but one of the traditional characteristics of the middle classes is supposed to be their ability to defer gratification.  I admit, I have deferred it indefinitely to be a writer, but I am still middle class...

Professor Mike Savage, the acknowledged national authority on class, was involved in the survey, but I think his previous nomenclature - professional, intermediate, working - and based largely on culture, is a more accurate portrayal.  His original BBC survey was based on classifications which divided  people according to what aspects of culture they enjoyed, into professional classes (hardly ever watch TV), the intermediate class (which would be the professional class except that it shares a much lower life expectancy with the working classes), and the working class (watches four times as much TV as the professional class, but never goes to musicals).

This nomenclature slightly muddies the water, because 29 per cent of all three classes still go to the pub once a week. But yes it does omit the emergence of the new class, the international One Per Cent that is hoovering up the money from the middle classes, and here is the main point.

For one thing, the new classification 'elite' doesn't capture this.  For one thing, those earning over £100,000 are actually far less than one per cent.  These are not a class, they are a throwback to the old aristocratic privileges for a tiny minority who push up the prices for the rest of us.

For another thing, the impact this has on the middle classes seems to have passed the survey by.  It means that, perhaps more than any other time in their history, the middle classes are struggling to get by - from those on higher than average earnings right down to the public sector middle classes, running big nursery schools on £17,000 a year.

Does that make them 'traditional working class'?  I don't think so.  It just makes them struggling middle class.
It so happens that my new book about the middle classes, and whether they can survive another generation - the chances are against, I fear - is coming out in three weeks time (picture above).  The full truth will then be revealed...

No comments: