What’s wrong with being working class?

First things first. I think the notion of class is stupid. Secondly, even thought that is the case, whilst it remains a classification or terminology to measure socio economic status in the UK, I realise that for the purpose of conversation I still need to respect it even if I disagree with it. Thirdly, what is wrong with people and their views of those who would define themselves as working class.

This social mobility
My colleagues in education know that I am very outspoken about how I consider the somewhat politically charged phrase social mobility.  For example those colleagues of mine in the space who believe their programmes are a measure of getting “disadvantaged” youth to move up the social ladder through education and career guidance. Who told you that they want to move class? Who says that many young people are not happy with being labeled or considered as working class? Have you asked? I also (and this is where it gets a bit tenous) despair of many colleagues who have run or run mentoring programmes for young males (and females) of African and Caribbean descent with the sole aim of sending them to top schools, changing their accents so they can speak proper and constantly suggest that success is going to a Russell Group university, joining a golf club and having lots of things. Somehow wanting to espouse limited membership to a black bourgeoise who are better than…let me stop there before I get into more trouble! What is wrong with being working class? That doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.

Working Class is not Cool. Really?
Growing up I loved the comedy of the likes of Steptoe and Son, Only Fools and Horses and The Royles. Last of the Summer Wine maybe. Interestingly enough these comedies were cited in an ongoing debate last year about the middle class dominance of BBC comedies. Now I think there should be balance but I can’t help to thinking that there is a constant damning of those who consider themselves working class. As the writer Owen Jones referenced in his book Chavs: The Demonization of The Working Class, lots of media attention has been spent making white working class individuals seem less than normal. I think that from a racial, ethnic point of view it is even more than that as the coverage of those involved in last London riot’s attested to. The stigma of being working class is something that is portrayed as something to be ashamed of. Feral. Feckless. Constantly being attacked in reality shows, print media and as an educator seeping its way into the minds of many children in schools both in the state and private sector as something beneath us. The thing is many of our institutions were and still are built on the back of those who would consider themselves working class. Many of those considered modern day icons came from that space but when the media is in the hands of the middle class then we know what direction that conversation goes in.

Change the Story
As a parent it is important for my kids to not determine people based on religion, class, race or any other spurious classification. I am the product of a council estate. Of course I don’t live in one anymore but my roots and ethics were grounded in working class community and drive. I think we need to stop all this talk about social mobility as if being working class is something that is undesirable. Not everyone wants to go uni, play golf or have trappings to suggest that they have moved on. Not everyone wants to adopt a plummy accent or see the need to demonstrate they have arrived, especially when they know they have already arrived. Which leads me to my last point.

Whilst I respect the institution of the monarchy and the history it brings, why do so many clamour to go to the royal palaces or be in receipt of one of the orders MBE, OBE or whatever? Is it because they feel that it brings them nearer to moving from one class to another? What’s with the bowing stuff anyway? To whom are we supposed to be subservient?

Ok now I have said my piece. Let’s go…….(be nice now)


3 thoughts on “What’s wrong with being working class?

  1. There are only two classes. The ruling class and the working class. Everything else is engineered to keep the working class preoccupied so the ruling class can get away with shafting us!

  2. Dave. How can you dismiss social mobility as a reality when moving socially is something you yourself have done? You’re not in the same social location you were when you were growing up. You move in wider circles. You live in different neighborhoods. You have access to a wider range of employment. You have access to a broader network. Your perspective is larger and so are your experiences. There’s nothing wrong with being working class (which I note you didn’t really define in your post except with reference to pop culture & in contrast to obnoxious folk :)). There’s nothing wrong with changing one’s circumstances either. You are where you are until you’re not there anymore.

    Class is not an innate characteristic. Which is why our societies are so anxious about it.
    Class is also associated with various subcultures and culture markers, and those cultures are variously and arbitrarily ranked. Another reason for peer anxiety.

    It sounds more like you identify with “working class” as a cultural/political identity. But it doesn’t sound like you’d fit any objective SES (socio-economic status) criteria for the label. You’re not an industrial day laborer or in the hourly wage community. Your spending is not confined to food and shelter. We’ve never discussed your family’s annual income (and don’t have to) but my presumption is that yours is at least an average-income household. You own your means of production in a Marxist sense. You bypassed the higher ed system by becoming a successful businessman, and you don’t need a red-brick certificate to do what you do.

    So if you were to say “I choose ‘working class’ as my political identity/social culture because of my family’s history and these are the criteria I use to define that identity,” I’d hear that. But as an objective SES label, I don’t think it fits you today.

  3. Apologies David, forgot my etiquette – great post, I think you are spot on re media demonisation. And though I have no direct personal experience (as a white male classified by others as middle class, though I see myself differently) the common ‘solution’ of trying help people from black and minority ethic backgrounds to aspire to join the ‘petty bourgeois’ has never sat easy with me.

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