Class

Sep. 29th, 2008 03:35 pm
mirrorshard: (Portrait)
[personal profile] mirrorshard
Time for an experiment, I think. I shall comment on the results and the reason for said experiment at some stage soon.
[Poll #1269049]

Date: 2008-09-29 02:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
Damn you, I need "somewhere between working class and middle class", or possibly "somewhere between working class and professional class".

Or possibly ticky boxes rather than radio buttons. :-)

Date: 2008-09-29 02:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
*grins* Let's just say those are design choices.

Date: 2008-09-29 02:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
Oh, I knew it wasn't accidental. :-)

Whatever class you are, I suspect that it's not dissimilar from mine. So do let me know when you find out. *grins*

Date: 2008-09-29 03:51 pm (UTC)
ext_15802: (Default)
From: [identity profile] megamole.livejournal.com
Somewhere between Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker.

Definitely not John Cleese.

Date: 2008-09-29 03:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
Me or Sam? Or both?

Either way, I think I agree. *grins*

Date: 2008-09-29 05:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
Gosh - what about you do you think is working class? You seem very solidly middle class to me. So did your parents (though obviously on much less acquaintance).

Date: 2008-09-30 02:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
I think people would generally take my boyfriend for middle class, and he's the son of a miner and the grandson of a brickie.

Date: 2008-09-30 03:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
What makes him other than middle class? It's generally recognised that quite a few people who are brought up in a working class household become middle class (it's much harder for middle class people to become working class, or for much movement to occur in and out of the upper classes).

I certainly regard myself as middle class even though my grandparents were solidly working class (among other things my grandad was a carpenter and a caretaker), and my mother arguably so (she's a secretary married to a small town antiques dealer, a profession that doesn't easily fit into the class system).

(I'd be tempted to say a litmus test for ambiguous cases could be which way you *want* to go: if you say "but look! my grandfather worked in a factory", you're probably more middle class, and if you say "never mind what my parents did, I wear a suit to work every day", you're more likely to still be working class, though I'm sure this is a gross exaggeration.)

Date: 2008-09-30 05:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
A generation can certainly make a big difference. What your grandparents did for a living can be completely different from what your parents do/did and how you were brought up, unless of course you were mostly or entirely raised by your grandparents. This holds particularly true with immigrant populations who may take a couple of generations to get onto their feet. The first generation = running a shop; second generation = doctor pattern is common in the Indian community, for instance. The Jewish community were doing something similar a few generations back, though I can't remember what typical professions were at that time. My own family immigrated 3-4 generations ago, mostly from Poland, and I haven't a clue what they did for a living or whether there was a spell of living in the East End before moving to the more affluent suburbs in north London, which was a common pattern in the Jewish community.

I think he feels that he falls somewhere in the middle, and is moving more towards middle class. His mother's an accountant, which is more of a middle class profession, but I think his father and grandparents on both sides define themselves very strongly as working class. A lot of it seems to be cultural stuff. Hell, most people use things like accent and clothing to decide what class someone belongs to on first meeting them. There's also the issue of class loyalty. My former-best-friend is very passionate about defining himself as working-class, though he's got a degree (first in the family to get one) and is working as an accountant. He's broken away from his upbringing in some ways, and clings to it in others.

I define myself as middle class based on my upbringing. You can't work anything out based on my profession as I developed ME in my first year of university and have never been able to work as an adult. Incidentally, [livejournal.com profile] friend_of_tofu's definition is problematic here. I've been living off disability benefits for years, but as soon as [livejournal.com profile] ghost_of_a_flea moved into my flat, the powers that be decided that he had to support me financially and cut off my Income Support (so I'm now living on an income below Income Support levels - he pays me rent, but it's not as much as I got in IS before).

Come to that, judging someone by their job doesn't work too well with twenty-somethings, many of whom aren't yet settled in what they hope will be a long-term career path, or are still studying. Working in retail for a few years after graduation before moving onto a more "serious" job, that sort of thing.

Date: 2008-09-30 07:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
A lot of it seems to be cultural stuff.

That's definitely the defining factor for me. Though I see career as part of 'culture', it's only a part. When people with middle class hobbies and interests, middle class ways of looking at the world, middle class friends etc. tell people they're working class - or even partially working class - based on what their parents or grandparents did for a living, it never rings true.

Like so many other things to do with class, what you say about jobs only works one way. Plenty of middle class - and upper class, for that matter - people spend some time in menial jobs (or not working at all), but working class people don't spend the odd year doing middle class jobs. So while it's true to say your waitress might well be middle class, it's not true to say your accountant might well be working class!

Date: 2008-09-30 08:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
Well, former-best-friend is an example of a working-class accountant, at least by his own definition. I think he's defining himself socially based on his background rather than his occupation. He's been working class all his life, his family's working class, it's something that has shaped him as a person, but he's only been an accountant for a few years. Good point about the job thing, and I do generally agree about the direction of movement there. How much of that do you think is to do with the connections between class, wealth and education?

I don't really think of it as being about what your parents or grandparents do/did for a living, I think of it as more about upbringing. Of course occupation factors into that, but if it's the occupation of someone who didn't raise you personally, then it's indirect. If you define D's social position by saying, "But his grandfather was a brickie!" then it's probably about snobbery - which can go both ways, including for that statement. Social status can change enormously from one generation to the next, to the point where your grandparents' lives may seem utterly alien to your own.

Date: 2008-09-30 08:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
I make a distinction between 'working class' and 'from a working class background'.

I think education - broadly defined - is key. The cultural stuff I wrote about in my last comment is largely a factor of education, though of course it needn't be in schools or universities.

My view on the relationship between wealth and class is skewed, as I was one of very few middle class children in a working class school, and yet my family had much less money than those of most of the working class children there: we couldn't afford a car, or holidays or a video recorder or lots of other things the other children took for granted.

But when I try to compensate for that bias, I guess I think that middle class jobs tend to pay more than working class jobs, and middle class people are more likely to have middle class jobs. There are plenty of exceptions like me, but we are exceptions.

Date: 2008-09-30 08:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
I was just thinking about the money thing. I once heard someone use television ownership as a way of defining poverty. But I don't have a TV by choice!

Date: 2008-09-30 08:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
And I have a TV against my will!

Date: 2008-10-03 09:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
Hmmm interesting question.

And one I am very happy to answer, but not in an LJ discussion I think. And possibly not until I've had time to get my thoughts in order about it. :-)

My main comment I want to make after reading all of the discussions on here is that I am more convinced than ever that all currently-used definitions of present day class(es) are inadequate, problematic, prescriptive, damaging and ultimately just plain Unhelpful. Including the rathervague definitions that I've been using myself.

I do like [livejournal.com profile] psyc0naut's though (though it's obviously not the one I've been using!). :-)

Date: 2008-10-03 04:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
Surely the whole point of the concept of class* is that it's a stereotype, and therefore has all the problems that all stereotypes have (like being inadequate, prescriptive and sometimes damaging).

Stereotypes have their place though. We couldn't really communicate or think without them - they're just how the human brain works. I think it would be way more damaging (not to mention impossible) to abolish them.

And I think it's OK to have a word to describe the big, complicated set of differences between me and... well, I can't think of any working class people we both know. (Which is telling.) I think it's helpful, because it helps us make generalisations about the things that cause inequality, and that's necessary if we want to give people a more equal chance of getting on in life.

I also think it's a little bit damaging when middle class people start claiming to be working class, because it weakens those useful generalisations. I did it myself a little bit when I was 13 or so, probably because I thought middle class people had ugly, pink painted lounges and, you know, doilies and stuff. Whereas working class people went out on the streets and campaigned for freedom.

Obviously I don't have a problem with middle class people describing themselves as being from a working class background, if they were brought up in a genuinely working class household, as a few middle class people I know were.


* At least, if you get away from historical definitions about relationship to the means of production and so on, which are pretty useless for describing today's society.

Date: 2008-10-03 09:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
Hm. Yes, as I said earlier, I do not want to talk in this way about my own situation/self-definition on here. In person only, please.

Date: 2008-10-05 01:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
I'm not sure I understand the 'please'. Do you mean that you'd also prefer *me* not to talk about it in writing?

I'm much better at expressing myself in writing than in speech (though I want to get better at the latter so am more than happy to do both) so like setting out my position that way when I can, even when I know I know I won't get a written response.

Date: 2008-09-29 03:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
Oh, and of course we're both about the right height for that, too. :-)

Date: 2008-09-29 03:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arkady.livejournal.com
Professional class was a new one on me; I'd consider someone who counts as Professional as being in a subset of Middle class.

I'd personally place [livejournal.com profile] mirrorshard as upper middle class, with a hefty dose of Individual, but currently living a lower middle class lifestyle.

Date: 2008-09-29 03:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yaqub.livejournal.com
Professional class?

Anyways, after reading 'Watching the English' I understand a lot more about class and how it works, and frankly it mostly seems to be attitude and habits rather than anything else.

Date: 2008-09-29 03:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] caramel-betty.livejournal.com
I have no idea what [livejournal.com profile] mirrorshard means by it, but there's often been a slight disjunction between the middle classes and some of the professions - doctors, lawyers etc. If you were forced to categorize them as upper/middle/working, they'd almost always go in middle.

Some members of the professions have, historically, been the upper class members of society who've not had a large estate to run - perhaps being the younger brother, or some other reason - and so have become barristers or something. Also, some of the professions could sort of... acquire pseudo-upper class status, by virtue of being the doctor to the upper classes. They wouldn't necessarily actually be upper class, but they'd need to have some sort of pull with them to become/stay the favoured doctor (or other profession).

The British class system is a bit screwed up.

Date: 2008-09-29 05:20 pm (UTC)
ext_15802: (Default)
From: [identity profile] megamole.livejournal.com
It's certainly very interesting mapping the concept of "class system" as British people think of it to the ABC1C2DE classifications used in marketing. See http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/1151 .

I'd also be interested to ask what class people think I am. Answers will vary, I believe, depending on what context you met me in.

Date: 2008-09-30 08:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
*reads article* Now I have images of someone being told, "We're having to cut back on staff this year, so I'm afraid you're losing your job and also changing to a different social class," or even sillier, someone waking up from a disabling accident to discover that they should now be talking with a different accent too.

I'd be interested to read articles about the connections (or perceived connections) between class, level of education and intelligence.

Date: 2008-09-29 03:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tiny-eri.livejournal.com
I dithered, and didn't notice the 'other' option. Somewhere between working and middle, imo, though. Maybe you just defy the class system.

Date: 2008-09-29 04:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] weegoddess.livejournal.com
I have no idea about classes for I am a classless Yank. But I wanted to let you know that I was reading...

Date: 2008-09-29 06:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] khalinche.livejournal.com
Having met you and had online and RL conversations touching on the subject, I'm abstaining from commentary, because I suspect the story is more `complex and rather similar to mine. So I'll be interested to see how this turns out *g*.

Date: 2008-09-29 07:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glassstrider.livejournal.com
Professional, but not currently profesionalizing.

Date: 2008-09-29 09:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com
The market research answer;

In social grading terms, a person who doesn't work but is self-supporting without claiming any welfare benefits should be coded as 'A'. There is a lead-in time for this (I am not sure if the current grading requires that person NEVER to have worked for a living, or simply to have been self-supporting for a required period, as I have been out of the game for a bit now).

Date: 2008-09-29 10:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] psych0naut.livejournal.com

There are myriad ways of partitioning people into classes. Different classification schemes are useful for different purposes. Politically, perhaps the simplest and most useful way of looking at people is by considering their relationship to the means of producing wealth. Under such a classification, in the world's current system there are only two classes: one whose members own and control the material things used for producing wealth (land, buildings, factories, railways, machines, etc.), and one whose members do not. If you are able to fully support yourself from the rent, interest, and/or profit derived from the ownership of these things, then you are a member of the capitalist class. If, on the other hand, you are obliged to work for a wage or salary to support yourself, or support yourself from deferred wage earnings (such as savings or a retirement pension), or are a dependent of someone who does, then you are a member of the working class.


Again, I stress that this is only one possible partitioning, and the terms I am assigning to the classes do not necessarily mean the same thing as they do in the context of other systems. When most people speak of "working class" or "middle class" or "professional class", they are usually referring to a distinction in lifestyle (that is, patterns of behaviour, consumption, social relations, entertainment, artistic and fashion tastes, etc.) within that class of people who work for a living. Such a partitioning may be of interest from a sociological standpoint, but not from a political one, where political interests are (or rather, ought to be) aligned with one's relationship to the means of production.


Anyway, I'm going off on a bit of a tangent here, but thought it was necessary to first explain my understanding of the terms before pigeonholing poor mirrorshard. So, without further ado, I pronounce him to be solidly working class. He is not currently employed, and to my knowledge is living primarily off of accumulated wage or salary earnings, rather than rent, interest, and profit. Once this supply of money is exhausted, having no other assets from which to derive a steady income, he will be obliged to sell the only such asset he has, his ability to work, to an employer. He is, in short, in exactly the same situation as myself and probably nearly everyone else who is reading this.

Class and accent

Date: 2008-09-30 06:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
I'm a Londoner living in Edinburgh, and I've always found it interesting how people judge me based on my accent. When I was 15, I went on a music summer camp in Israel. The delightful, batty old Chilean-Israeli composition teacher used to rave on about my "perfect Oxford accent", even though I said that I'd never been to Oxford in my life. I think he was using that as shorthand for an upper class accent. At uni I studied English Language for a couple of years. We studied five British accent in the first year, which were generalised but included RP (received pronunciation) and conservative RP. I speak RP, and find that people often muddle it up with conservative RP and assume that it's a "posh" accent, especially when they're comparing it with northern English or Scottish accents. I've also had people tell me that I can't be from London, I don't sound like a Londoner. My accent is absolutely standard for the area where I grew up, a middle-class suburb in north London, and is a common accent in London.

I still have some trouble with Scottish accents, but can generally spot class differences. My boyfriend, who as discussed above has both working class and middle class affiliations, is from a small town outside Stirling, and actually has two accents. The one I know him by, and the one he uses almost all of the time, seems to be a fairly standard middle class central Scotland accent. When talking to his father or grandparents (who are working class), however, his accent becomes what to me is "stronger", and the difference is such that if I were to hear him talk without knowing that it was him, I'm not sure I'd recognise him. The differences from English accents are more pronounced, and dialectal words and phrases such as "ken" for "know" appear far more. Former-best-friend, who's also from central Scotland, working class background but moving more towards middle class himself, did the same thing. I remember studying this phenomenon in Eng Lang, and it's known as accommodation. Apparently people unconsciously shift their accents slightly to bring them closer to that of the person they're talking to.

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