class in the UK - how the fuck does it work?

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Spinning off from the UK politics thread as requested.

Convo so far:

Things I, as an outsider, feel are confusing about the British class system:

a) The insistence on calling upper class people "middle class", thus conflating very well off people with people who are just above the working class in terms of financial security

b) The discourse around the cultural component of class - I understand your lived experience doesn't vanish into thin air once you graduate into making a bit more money but there's so many fucking millionaires in this country who say they're working class. Don't think people would put it like that elsewhere - you'd still have salt of the earth posturing, but millionaires in Portugal trying to do this would talk about having come from the working class and made a name for themselves, not claiming to actually be working class currently.

Sorry if these points seem disingenous. It often feels to me like much as the UK is accused of being obsessed about class so much of the chat around it feels straight up designed to obfuscate the material conditions of class.

― Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 09:57 (two hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

nah there's a lot of complicated stuff that doesn't get thought thru in general conversation, or maybe even theorised that much

you get a lot of edge cases at the upper limit of working class/lower limit of middle class - shopkeepers, "skilled" manual workers, trades, nurses, coppers, all sorts

imo a classical marxist conception of proletarian probably incorporates a majority of people who consider themselves middle class in 21st century UK which doesn't help either

there's convos to be had and self-analysis to be done and i only think it's an issue when people make sweeping statements, or try to exclude somebody's class experience based on arbitrary markers, or just plain cosplays being working class cos they think we're fucking stupid

― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 10:05 (two hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

example of arbitrary markers - i generally had no concept of my class background until i attended university and met a bunch of people with vastly different backgrounds and experiences to my own. and i still remember the time somebody told me i couldn't be working class simply by dint of being at university. so sometimes the chips get carved deep into your shoulders

― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 10:06 (two hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

but it might be better to use another thread if we're gonna have an involved conversation about this. i don't think i have lots to add except that shit is complex and fraught with a lack of honesty

― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 10:08 (two hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

one interesting thing abt this (inc.a minor correction downthread) is actually how consistent it is across c.80 years (also lol eden premiership vmic)

― mark s, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 10:37 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

i've come to the conclusion over time that banning private education would be one of the most cost effective radical acts any elected government could carry out

― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 10:44 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

(i wd quickly add that while c.7% may indeed attend a private school countrywide, the sliver of this that attends a private school delivering anything like the full access effect we're discussing is distinctly smaller. the gradient of private schools "good" down to "genuinely bad" is also sharp (tho probably not as sharp as it was back in st trinians times, when that 7% would i think be on the small side). it's not much use merely to have attended A.N.Other private schools: to feel the benefit in question it will need to be one from a quite select subset of same)

― mark s, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 10:46 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

xps the main reason we call some rich people middle class is that we still have an actual aristocracy but it gets a little muddled with aristos doing capitalist shit and new money types who might be richer than them but are excluded from certain old boys networks or whatever. I don't know how it all works

the suspicion about obfuscation of material conditions is absolutely correct though. the same fucking people who spent the 90s/00s mocking and attacking anyone who mentioned class for being out of touch extremists who were envious of success are now the ones leaning hardest into this class authenticity policing stuff which is entirely based on cultural signifiers detached from any materiality. such that st george's flag waving business owners somehow become more authentically working class than the migrant workers they exploit. and actual class politics is still met with utter hostility

― your original display name is still visible (Left), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 10:46 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

i appreciate the picture's more complicated than that mark and i think our entire education system needs blowing up and starting again, but the simplest line to draw to take that element of privilege out of the system would be a ban on private education i think. i know that would leave a lot of knots to be worked out

― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 10:49 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

yes i shd have said xp: it wasn't posted to push back against yr point at all NV, just to open up the internals of that 7% (since i think the relevant percentage in terms of this very specific issue is in fact even smaller)

as to yr proposed ban of private education, i entirely agree

― mark s, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 10:54 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

it's a fair point, like looking at the rise of university students without accounting for Oxbridge as the dominant factor in high office

― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 10:58 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

i do sometimes wonder if a drive against private education could partly be built from the fact that much of its down-tier operation is actually incredibly terrible and most ppl paying for it are being ripped off

but if they hired me to fashion messages and wedge issues for my kind of politics it wd simply mean even more ppl saying "watdafuk he on abt now"

― mark s, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 10:58 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

i feel like - no memory just vibes as per usual - when Labour in opposition has floated anti private education policy the backlash from the electorate as a whole has not been significant? removing private education kinda feels achievable to me, probly right up to the point where it actually isn't lol

of course the muddy waters of class and the broader snobbery that engenders are percolated right thru the whole education system, hence league tables and local biases towards "good" and "bad" schools. the notion of education to "better yourself" feels just as soaked into the working class left as anywhere else to me and probably has been since at least when Dickie Attenborough did that film about being an oik in a brave new meritocracy

― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 11:02 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

the chapter on class in Kate Fox's "Watching The English" is a good primer on the way it works here, which is not the same as in other countries or in Marxist theory

― link.exposing.politically (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 11:03 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Guinea_Pig_(film)

think stuff like this was directly responsible for Powell and Pressburger losing their fucking minds

― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 11:07 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

what does "35% went through a pipeline from private school to Oxford or Cambridge University" mean in that tweet up there? (the pipeline bit)

― fetter, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 11:12 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

in general it means there's that a well established well-trod route: viz in this case possibly from a specific set of such schools who select and steer some pupils towards this route, to a specific set of university subjects studied (mainly PPE, to a specific set of SPAD-hiring outcomes?

(truer answer: i don't actually know and ^^^is a guess)

― mark s, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 11:26 (one hour ago) bookmarkflaglink

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:30 (three months ago) link

a) The insistence on calling upper class people "middle class", thus conflating very well off people with people who are just above the working class in terms of financial security
It would totally make sense to split the population into thirds by wealth, or at least have the top 10% be upper class or something. But yeah, Britain is still wary of using the term "upper class" for anyone but those with aristocratic connections. There is a grey area with very posh people who don't seem to be connected to a hereditary title. And of course British people don't agree among themselves about class labels.

― Alba, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:02 (twenty-four minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

I think the distinctions, though they may once have mattered, are increasingly obfuscatory to how wealth and power now operate

There’s the 1% and there’s the rest of us imo

― Tracer Hand, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:05 (twenty-one minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

the top tier upper/middle division tends to come down to ownership of land, mostly pre Industrial Revolution/late 18th century

like everything else in this soup it's nonsenical up to the point where it does actually tell you something about manners/attitudes/politics/self ID

the 18th century bourgeoisie marrying itself to the landed aristos is a big part of the industrial revolution because both sides had stuff to gain

that division is less important 200-odd years later of course EXCEPT TO THE KIND OF PEOPLE TO WHOM ITS ACTUALLY STILL REALLY IMPORTANT

― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:06 (twenty-one minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

but yes that wasn't an argument with you Trace, most difference it might make to me is order of the guillotine/gulag/re-education queue, which ultimately will be down to the queuers themselves

― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:07 (nineteen minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

it does still give you little clues about why different groups of Tories are weird/snobbish about each other tho

― saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:08 (eighteen minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:30 (three months ago) link

Picking up a specific strand here:

xps the main reason we call some rich people middle class is that we still have an actual aristocracy but it gets a little muddled with aristos doing capitalist shit and new money types who might be richer than them but are excluded from certain old boys networks or whatever. I don't know how it all works

This sort of snobbery also exists elsewhere, but it breaks down as Old Money vs New Money. Old Money may include members of a country's aristocracy but even when it doesn't literally do so the dynamic is imo still very close.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:34 (three months ago) link

I was thinking last night about Tom D's statement that class is actually quite simple, not very intricate. I liked it, and I like Tracer Hand's statement about the 1% also.

It's good not to over-complicate these things or make a fetish of saying how marvellously intricate they are.

My thoughts, though, also led me to think, idly enough, about the 'cultural experience of class', and how relatively subtle this can be. I was thinking about how I am middle-class, yet among certain kinds of middle-class people I still feel like an outsider and ... interloper? from a lower level. Well, maybe just a bit like the way working-class people have always said they feel among middle-class people.

I think private school has something to do with it; as does Oxbridge though they didn't all go to Oxbridge; and there are factors of how people talk, think, even dress, which I notice. It partly emerges in that thing that people have always cited re private schools: 'confidence'; and partly maybe a kind of complacency.

If I were to attend an LRB board meeting or staff party I would probably get this feeling.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:35 (three months ago) link

yeah the old/new money thing largely tracks

there's an a specific history in the UK of land ownership informing political party structures - Tory/Whig is a lot about the old aristocracy and the rising bourgeoisie, but then to the extent i know about that in other countries that probably tracks too

US exception because of the vast swathes of land to colonise maybe?

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:37 (three months ago) link

Land ownership as a factor in the UK seems important. It’s crazy how so much of the land is owned by so few people. And ofc it’s the only asset you can’t make more of.

barry sito (gyac), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:39 (three months ago) link

"he's like an unemployed teacher - nae class!"

boxedjoy, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:40 (three months ago) link

pinefox i generally agree about the simplicity of class structure and wish it were entirely true but i can't help but reflect on my own experiences of feeling othered or ignored based on cultural markers? partly this is my own internal self-doubt but i must say that broadly, it isn't. intelligence, manners, position can still be subsumed by accent and other markers in the UK, in terms of other people's attitudes to us in a work environment for example.

in the interests of honesty i don't really identify within a class. i would totally identify my mom and dad and their parents and so forth as working class but for better or worse my life has taken me into work and situations where i "pass" as middle class, and i'll accept that might make me middle class, i don't much care, but i feel that lostness of being between two tribes quite a bit

also i know whose company i tend to seek out or feel more comfortable in, even tho on an individual basis i don't care at all about somebody's self-perceived class environment

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:43 (three months ago) link

Also a thing you see in the media, which may or may not be related to pinefox’s point above, is this insistence on what counts as culturally working class vs middle class. Like the anti intellectual bent of it, like the near silence in library closures from much of the press, like the infamous HLew tweet which is so telling of that mentality. What could these people have to offer? Offer them shit, that’s all they’re interested in, after all.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EtfhjcwWgAEX2K0?format=jpg&name=900x900

barry sito (gyac), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:43 (three months ago) link

oh my god between that one and the "coffee is middle class" bit she's a pure example of blinkered belonging to a specific social construct

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:45 (three months ago) link

It’s like, real working class people aren’t interested in books that aren’t Harry Potter/films with subtitles, they’re too busy working and worrying about bills. As though art hasn’t ever been an escape for all people, especially people who value their precious free time!

barry sito (gyac), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:45 (three months ago) link

i go back to that comment somebody made to me at uni - it was a huge FUCK YOU that i probably should have grown out of by now but hey, lol

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:47 (three months ago) link

and yet when you think about the huge range of interests of working class people you know, when you look at the history of the working class education movement that people had to build out of nothing, the lie is right there

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:48 (three months ago) link

also there's quite a diff btw London/southern middleclass and midlands/northern middleclass

fetter, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:50 (three months ago) link

Oh here we go

barry sito (gyac), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:50 (three months ago) link

srsly think accent is the least of it and the least reliable

i believe most people are contextually parrotish with accents

obv certain accents have come to connote class but generally in the lamest way?

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:52 (three months ago) link

It's reliable enough for most London based media twats

Fronted by a bearded Phil Collins (Tom D.), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:57 (three months ago) link

pinefox i generally agree about the simplicity of class structure and wish it were entirely true but i can't help but reflect on my own experiences of feeling othered or ignored based on cultural markers?

Yes, I think this is exactly what my own post above was saying.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:58 (three months ago) link

seriously disagree Tom. i think people are v poor at picking up the nuances of accents from places they're not familiar with.

obv you're familiar with that milieu but like i said before, people learn to *pass*

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 12:59 (three months ago) link

pinefox i read your earlier post back, yes, sorry, i agree

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 13:00 (three months ago) link

And I agree that accent is extremely unreliable bit it isn't considered unreliable by the media - hence the whole gammon fiasco.

Fronted by a bearded Phil Collins (Tom D.), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 13:03 (three months ago) link

oh yeah agree

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 13:04 (three months ago) link

regional (non-RP) accents seem to connote authenticity and legitimacy of concerns only if they're expressing conservative views, otherwise they're just mocked or ignored - some kind of RP still seems to be a requirement for most kinds of "serious" political and intellectual leadership. this is definitely about class but doesn't map neatly onto it in material terms and it's hard for me to locate cause and effect more precisely here

your original display name is still visible (Left), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 13:21 (three months ago) link

If they express conservative views they're mocked as ignorant racist Northern proles.

Fronted by a bearded Phil Collins (Tom D.), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 13:27 (three months ago) link

both of you otm

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 13:30 (three months ago) link

When I first started infant school I was practically speaking in an estuary English accent that I picked up through imitation from two middle class kids my registered childminder mum was looking after for a year. But that didn't last very long. But then I got moved to a catholic school in a posher area on account of the headmaster beating my brother with a pool cue at the previous not so posh school. I was about 8 when I first fully realised the class dynamics of getting othered/judged/disparaged by children and also adults, purely on account of the the area you are from and would try not to admit that I lived in a very rough part of Deighton. But then I'd make up for it over the next 40 odd years by never shutting the fuck up about where I grew up, lol it turns you into a wittering basketcase 4 life!

calzino, Wednesday, 26 October 2022 13:40 (three months ago) link

when i started infant school my mom and dad didn't want me to be mates with a lad who had a strong Brummagem accent. i think that's partly cos they couldn't hear their own strong Walsall accents ffs

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 13:54 (three months ago) link

I had to learn to talk proper as a kid to be taken seriously after moving from e london to surrey and then I tried to unlearn it as a teen to sound more street as I lost interest in doing well and now I have the kind of generic estuary that can be more or less posh situationally but I find generally embarrassing in both directions esp when I unconsciously imitate who I'm speaking to. relatives who stayed in london sound more authentically working class than me but they're also mostly better off. this is a minefield and it can be v hard to disentangle the parts that are class from the parts that are other shit

your original display name is still visible (Left), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 13:59 (three months ago) link

i think the point is that we think about it yeah? like we have to think about it? say this with love

saigo no ice cream (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 26 October 2022 14:07 (three months ago) link


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