I’m reading two news items from the UK this morning, each illustrating the degree to which the British are considerably more conscious of class dynamics than many of us in the United States.
First is this study of British academics facing budget cuts and job insecurities adapting “posh” accents in the workplace to show that they “fit in”. In the author’s words,
“In the current environment, universities are in competition with each other and their unique selling point is often to be ‘elite.’ In turn, academics wanted to portray an image that is also elite”
Even more compelling is the recent BBC survey of class in in the UK, in which the researchers concluded that conventional categories of wealthy, middle, and working class no longer describe the actual dimensions of social stratification. The survey considers not only wealth and occupation, but also consumption patterns. On the site, you can take a (decidedly British) class survey to identify your placement as “technical middle”, “emergent service workers” or one of the other five new “classes”.
Two questions come to me as I’m reading:
I’m sure that upwardly mobile academics (and others) in the U.S. learn to “act” more elite than their backgrounds were in reality. Accent would be less relevant in the US, but what would be some other markers of “elite” membership?
And in this age in which every U.S. politician appeals to a single, broad, amorphous middle class, how would politics change if we could have a more nuanced discussion of class in the US, as this BBC study is sparking in the UK?