Sociologists in the UK have shifted from a three-tier description of society to one with seven levels. In the garbage can of history now is the basic schema of a working class, middle class and upper class. Now we have the precariat, emergent service workers, traditional working class persons, new affluent workers, a technical middle class, an established middle class, and the elite.
As expected, the UK media picked this up widely – the same week that cuts were announced to social welfare spending and taxes reduced on the financial sector, of all things! These new tags are designed to reflect greater diversity of occupation, the decline of manufacturing, the self image, leisure activity and social connections of groups, and the growth in inequality. The new descriptors were created from data generated by what is said to be the largest social survey in UK history and their like can be discerned in other western countries. The British Sociological Association presented the data, marshalled via the BBC’s Lab UK effort, Manchester University and the London School of Economics.
The slice to keep your eye on is the precariat. A label constructed from the words proletariat and precarious which describes those stuck with the low end, low wage, insecure employment available these days. No longer is the base of the pyramid supported by people engaged in the serious, often oppressive business of making and growing things. No longer does education guarantee upward mobility and one’s taste in music and recreation don’t indicate wealth accurately.
Precariat is part of the vocabulary of suburban poverty.
The data was published in the journal Sociology:
A New Model of Social Class? Findings from the BBC’s Great British Class Survey Experiment
British sociologist Guy Standing has analysed and written extensively about the precariat, sounding a warning with his 2011 book Precariat: the New Dangerous Class.
Who will be a voice for the emerging precariat? Progressives need to find ways to speak to the new global, insecure classes before the far right does
This article from Mr. Standing, on the Policy Network site, sounds a similar alarm as the Guardian item above and calls for a basic income in response to the situation of this group.
The precariat – the new dangerous class
image: by Sardaka via Wikimedia Commons