Introduction to Social Stratification and Social Inequality in The UK
Social stratification and social inequality are two important concepts in the area of sociology. Even though the occurrence of these two concepts dates back to several centuries, sociologists have started to take these concepts into consideration quite recently. This issue is supported by (Bryant & Peck, 2006) by making a statement about American sociology which says “Although today most American sociologists consider social stratification as one of the most important areas of study, this has not always been the case. In fact, the importance of this subject in understanding societies and human behavior has been widely recognized by American sociologists only in the past 50 years” (Bryant & Peck, 2006). Thus, it is a fact that the tendency of sociologists to do research on social stratification has increased and this may mean an increase in social stratification in the societies over the past 50 years.
Social Inequality in The UK
There are several clues that takes us to the increase of social stratification and social inequality in the UK and in all over the world. By narrowing down the scope of social stratification and social inequality, this paper analyzes the occurrence of social inequality in the UK in particular. Before starting the analysis, it is crucial to take one of the most recent and most important actions taken against discrimination, inequality and stratification issues which is called Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in all aspects of society. The chapter 1 of Equality Act 2010 is about protected characteristics which are listed as age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. This action taken in governmental level is a sign of increasing discrimination and inequality in the society by itself. As a result, these increasing tendencies of discrimination, inequality and social stratification within the society in the U.K. make these concepts worthy of researching about.
Before moving on with how social stratification occurs in the United Kingdom, the three main arguments about social stratification should be touched upon as well. These three arguments are stated as the homology argument, the individualization argument and the omnivore-univore argument. These arguments are discussed and explained by (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2005) in deep. Accordingly, it is stated that the two types of stratification, social stratification and cultural stratification are connected with each other and it is also underlined that “Individuals in higher social strata are those who prefer and predominantly consume ‘high’ or ‘elite’ culture, and individuals in lower social strata are those who prefer and predominantly consume ‘popular’ or ‘mass’ culture—with, usually, various intermediate situations being also recognized” (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2005).
Additively, it is stated that the dominant cultural class in the society uses ‘distinction’ in cultural taste and ‘aesthetic distancing’ in order to symbolically show that they are superior to the other classes in the society. The second argument is named as the individualization argument. This argument is actually contrary to the homology argument at some points. The researchers make statements about The individuality argument saying that “In modern, relatively affluent and highly commercialized societies, it is held that differences in cultural taste and consumption are rapidly losing any clear grounding in social stratification: age, gender, ethnicity or sexuality, for example, all can, and do, serve as alternative social bases of cultural differentiation” (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2005).
In that sense, it is further stating that the individuals in the society starts to free themselves from the social roles and the status given to them by the society and they can choose and create distinctive identities for themselves on their own. The last argument about social stratification is The omnivore-univore argument. This argument is a counter argument both for individualization argument and for homology argument.
The omnivore-univore argument also agrees that the cultural differentiation is closely connected to social stratification but the scope of cultural consumption of the members of the higher social strata differs from the lower social strata by being way too wider when compared. These concepts and arguments about social stratification will be touched upon again and used in order to explain other issues about social stratification in the United Kingdom.
(Chan & Goldthorpe, 2005) analyzes social stratification in the United Kingdom by taking the cultural activities done by different classes in society. The research is conducted in the United Kingdom. In the research, the interviewees are divided into two classes where one of them shows higher social strata and the other one shows lower social strata. The analysis is made based on the cultural activities done by these two groups of people.
In that sense, it is seen that there is a way higher probability that the members of higher social class have attended to cultural activities such as ballet, pantomime, musical, play, drama and cinema during the past 1 year when the research was conducted compared to the members of lower social class. In that sense, this finding shows that social stratification still exists in England and people choose their social activities depending on the social strata that they belong to. Additively, these findings can be connected with the social stratification arguments discussed above. Especially, the omnivore-univore argument is consistent with the findings of this research. The higher class that attend to more cultural events can be considered as theatre and cinema omnivores and the members of the lower social class can be seen as univores and the writer states about the lower social strata that “whose consumption is in fact more or less restricted to the cinema” (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2005).
Additively, these findings can be related with the homology argument and the existence of a ‘social distancing’ can be stated as well. In the research it is found that the 6.7% of the members of the lower social strata have attended to a pantomime show and 6.9% of them have attended to a musical during past 1 year whereas 27.9% of higher social strata have attended to pantomime and 56.2% of the higher social class have attended to a musical during past 1 year. The difference between the ratios of the people who have attended to pantomime and musical is quite obvious and this difference may be a sign that the elite is creating ‘social distancing’ with the lower social strata by attending to social and cultural activities where the individuals who are the members of lower social strata cannot attend. In this sense, it can also be stated that the homology argument is also supported by the findings of the research done by (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2005) in the United Kingdom.
The conclusion of the article sums up the existence of social stratification by stating that “when stratification variables are introduced into the analyses the results obtained are generally those that would be expected under the omnivore –univore argument. Higher status, higher educational qualifications and a higher income all increase individuals’ chances of being an omnivore rather than a univore. In sum, theatre and cinema attendance, like musical consumption, is quite evidently socially stratified, but on omnivore–univore rather than elite –mass lines” (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2005).
Even though this paper has previously used the concept of individualization argument, there are some ideas in other researches that are contrary to the existence of individualization argument. It is stated in a later research of Tak Wing Chan that “contrary to the individualization argument, cultural consumption remains, in England at least, quite strongly patterned and in significant respects socially stratified, most notably by status; and that, further, as regards the form of this stratification, the homology argument has clearly less to commend it than does the omnivore-univore argument” (Chan, 2010). As a result of this statement and the statements made earlier in this paper, the two arguments, the homology argument and omnivore-univore argument, explained above are applicable for the case of the United Kingdom while the argument of individualization does not seem to be valid in this case because of the statements made by (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2005) and (Chan, 2010).
Social Inequality in England
Addition to the researches referenced so far, there are several other researches done and articles written about the social inequality in England. The article of Helena Horton in The Telegraph also agrees that social classes still exist in the United Kingdom and thus we can deduct from this article that the existence of social classes in the United Kingdom shows the existence of social stratification in the United Kingdom. According to (Horton, 2015), there are seven social classes in the United Kingdom currently and these social classes are named as “elite, established middle class, technical middle class, new affluent workers, traditional working class, emergent service workers and precariat” (Horton, 2015).
In this division of social classes in the United Kingdom, the amount of wealth and privilege is the highest for the Elite while it is the lowest for the Precariat. The elite is seen as the wealthiest group that has the most privileges among all the seven groups while the precariat is seen as the poorest group of people that is seen as the most deprived social group among the all seven social groups. In addition, wealth and privilege decreases going from the Elite to precariat respectively according to the order of social groups given previously. There are also some statements made in the same article which are important for understanding the level of social stratification in the United Kingdom. First of all, it is stated that “the elite are more obsessed with class than anyone else”, secondly “the elites are concentrated around London and the South of England”, “the elite are more likely to have gone to university than most” and lastly “It appears that people in high-salary jobs, whose parents were also in high-salary jobs get paid more” (Horton, 2015).
These quotations from the article are important because they show that the elites are creating neighborhoods for themselves and they don’t want interruption of other social classes to theirs as they are obsessed with social classes. In that sense, the homology argument can be suitable for the findings stated in this article. Because the elite social group wants distinction from the other classes and also they aim a ‘distancing’ from the other social groups as explained in the earlier parts of this paper.
Another study that discusses social stratification is written by David Robson for BBC. It is stated in the article that “class distinctions do not die; they merely learn new ways of expressing themselves. Each decade we shiftily declare we have buried class; each decade the coffin stays empty” (Robson, 2016). Heading away from this article, there is another proof found for the homology argument. Because there are distinctions that still appear and each social stratum has a certain way of expressing their properties. Thus, in that sense it is still argued that social stratification exists in the United Kingdom currently. Additively, the article mentions and approves the existence of the seven social classes that were previously discussed by (Horton, 2015) as well, increasing the validity of the seven social classes in the United Kingdom, where each of the classes has certain socio-economic differences between themselves as explained in the earlier parts of this paper.
Conclusion to Social Inequality in The UK
As a result, it is now seen that there is a high level of distinction between different social classes but it is a topic to be analyzed whether intergenerational mobility is high or low in the United Kingdom. In that respect, the ideas mentioned by the writers of the researches and articles that were previously used and mentioned in this study may be efficient in order to decide on the rate of intergenerational mobility. It is directly stated by David Robson that “According to a 2010 report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Britain is indeed among the worst countries for certain measures of social mobility, with the parents’ wealth strongly influencing the child’s prospects of higher education and a good salary” (Robson, 2016) .
Thus, it is seen that parents’ wealth directly affects child’s wealth and education level when they grow up. In addition to this, there is a statement in the article written by Elena Hortan which says that “People whose parents were in high-salary jobs seem to get paid more in the top industries than those whose parents were not in high-salary jobs” (Horton, 2015). Additively, it is stated by Elena Horton that “There are various possibilities as to why those from senior management family backgrounds have higher pay, it could be either because of the support they were given to get better qualifications, or because strings were pulled, or because they have more confidence” (Horton, 2015). It would not be so wrong to deduct the fact from the previous two quotes that the intergenerational mobility is not so easy in the United Kingdom according to both of the writers as they are on the same frequency about intergenerational mobility in the United Kingdom.
Additively, the statements made by an article of Institute for Fiscal Studies support the same idea as well. It is stated in a research of Institute for Fiscal Studies that “The nature and extent of intergenerational mobility in Britain to what extent there is a correlation between a parent’s position in the income distribution and that of his or her children at similar points in the life-cycle is a topic of considerable interest for social scientists and policymakers” (Dearden, et al., 1995).
To conclude, it can be stated that there is a high level of social stratification according the researches and articles cited previously in this paper. Accordingly, it is seen that there are seven different classes in the United Kingdom where all of them is dominated by the ‘elite’ class. According to (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2005), the social stratification in the United Kingdom is a topic of analysis for the homology argument and omnivore-univore argument.
From the statements of (Horton, 2015), it is seen that the social stratification in the United Kingdom falls into homology argument as the members of the elite class want a distinction and they want distancing from the other groups of society. Lastly, it is seen by the aid of (Horton, 2015), (Robson, 2016) and (Dearden, et al., 1995) that interngenerational mobility in the United Kingdom is not so common and the future wealth and education of a child is highly correlated with the wealth and education of the parents, which are the two main factors that create social stratification in the society of United Kingdom.
If you are looking for more sociology essays, you can check out the effect of smartphones in our daily life essay.
Bryant, C. D. & Peck, D. L., 2006. 21st Century Sociology: A Reference Handbook. 2 dü. basım yeri bilinmiyor:SAGE.
Chan, T. W., 2010. Social Status and Cultural Consumption. basım yeri bilinmiyor:Cambridge University Press.
Chan, T. W. & Goldthorpe, J. H., 2005. The social stratification of theatre, dance and cinema attendance. Cultural Trends, 3(14), pp. 193-212.
Dearden, L., Machin, S. & Reed, H., 1995. Intergenerational mobility in Britain. IFS Working Paper, Issue 20.
Horton, H., 2015. The seven social classes of 21st century Britain – where do you fit in?. [Çevrimiçi]
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/12037247/the-seven-social-classes-of-21st-century-britain-where-do-you-fit-in.html
[Erişildi: 11 23 2017].
Robson, D., 2016. How important is social class in Britain today?. [Çevrimiçi]
Available at: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160406-how-much-does-social-class-matter-in-britain-today
[Erişildi: 24 11 2017].