When we look at class we look at: 

  • Class politics
  • Ways of defining class
  • Bourdieu – types of capital
  • Class and Taste
  • Semiotic Analysis

In Britain, we think a lot of class and it is often at the fore of our minds when we come to describe people. It is important in our culture.

‘It remains a generally held belief, not just in Britain but around the world, that class, like the weather and the monarchy, is a peculiarly and particularly British preoccupation’ -(Cannadine 1998; cited in Tyler 2013: 154)

Class Politics

British politics is split by Left Wing and Right Wing views. Left and Right refer to different ideologies. Left Wing believe in social and economic equality. Right Wing believe in privatisation and capitalism. Traditionally, the Left support the working class and the Right support the elite. Due to the rise in neoliberalism, the boundaries of the two sides have become blurred.

Individual Politics

This involves protests and social movements which have been seen throughout history. People protest against certain ideologies. A social movement is a group of individuals that come together in order to invoke social or political change. Think of the Unions, Miner’s Strikes, the Occupy Movement. Class is often linked to other identity categories in this way.

Class Inequalities In the UK

  • 1 in 5 of the population now lives below the official poverty line.
  • In 2014/15, 20 million meals were given out by three main food aid charities, a 54% increase from 2012/13.
  • Food banks increased from 56 to 445 under the Coalition.
  • Visits to food banks have now topped 1 million.
  • In 2012/13 only 58% of 18-24 year olds were employed.
  • Since 2007, 1.75 million of the poorest families had their income cut as a result of changes to benefit support.
  • The UK’s five richest families have more wealth than the poorest 20% of the population combined.
  • 3569 people sleep rough every night.
  • There has been an increased in rough sleeping by 30% from 2014-15 with a 102% increase since 2010.
  • Poverty and homelessness have been linked to mental illness.
  • £29bn is spent on illness related to poverty.

Traditional Notions of Class

We come to see people in three main classes: Upper, Middle and Lower class based upon economic situation and occupation.

The NRS Social Grading System (ABC1C2DE) is a model that assignes individuals a social class based on their occupation (see below).


Traditional definitions of class have an economic underpinning. Social class groups people together who have similar ways of making their living – they are in similar occupations. However, other factors can play important roles in class formation.


Marxist Critiques

Marxism is a mode of political thought and activism. Cultural texts cannot be separated from cultures of production and consumption. Political, social and economic structures are all about power relations and maintaining dominant ideologies. Marxist ideas shapes many contemporary movements today particularly those related to identity politics.

Hegemony is a term first thought of by Antonio Gramsci. It explains how power is maintained through small concessions that don’t really challenge the status quo.

The Frankfurt School: critical of popular culture and the ‘culture industry’ for being a diversion that keeps people subjugated whilst maintaining the power and economic status of a few. They wanted the working class to be empowered not subdued.

Class and Taste

Taste is do to with status, class and upbringing more than other factors. We may like things because of our upbringing but also because of our aspirations. Class is usually implied via euphemisms when it comes to issues of taste and representation.

Pierre Bourdieu – The Forms of Capital (1986)

Capital is most commonly understood in economic terms but as Bourdieu proposes, it is ‘in fact impossible to account for the structure and functioning of the social world unless one reintroduces capital in all its forms and not solely in one form recognised by economic theory’ -(Bourdieu 1986: 83).

There are three types of capital: 

Economic Capital  – Wealth and Income

Social Capital – Contacts and Connections

Cultural Capital – Cultural Goods

Anita Biressi and Heather Nunn: Class is also shaped ‘by early disadvantage or natal privilege and the uneven distribution of life chances and opportunities which these conditions create‘. Perceive ‘class as an ongoing social process experienced across our lifetime trajectories’ (2013: 1).

The Great British Class Survey by Savage et al. (2013) identifies three phases in the ‘analysis of class and stratification’ – Marx and Weber, Sociological Critique (John Goldthorpe) and Elaboration of National Statistics Socio Economic Classification.

Savage et al. attempted to come up with a new classification system influenced by Bourdieu’s concept of Capital.



These notes are from my year 2 semester 1 lecture and seminar notes. The images are from the Week 3 Media, Identities and Representations lecture.



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