Coffee House

The renewal of the class system

3 April 2013

Fun can be had by playing with the BBC’s new class calculator. The calculator, which was designed with the help of several eminent sociologists, replaces the 3 classes with seven stratifications, drawing on social criteria (such as taste, accent and hobbies) as well as more tradition measurements (such income group and upbringing) to determine membership.

Toby Young writes about the demise of the three classes in tomorrow’s magazine. Here is a preview of what he has to say:

‘One advantage of moving beyond the socio-economic definition of class is that you end up with a less inflammatory portrait of modern Britain. Yes, the social elite are quite numerous, but it’s better to belong to a four million-strong group than be bracketed with the dreaded ‘1 per cent’. It feels right, too. I am probably among the nation’s top 1 per cent of income earners, but I don’t think there’s a great gulf between me and the remaining 99 per cent. The cliff edge is somewhere else, lower down the socio-economic spectrum. In simple terms, I feel a stronger sense of belonging when I’m standing in the lobby of the National Theatre than I do when having dinner at the River Café.

Seven different classes also feels more accurate than the usual three, even allowing for such sub-categories as lower-upper-middle (the class George Orwell said he belonged to). The more there are, the easier it is to move between them and the harder it is to keep track of who is a member of which one. That chimes with the general sense that class has become less important in the past 25 years.’

Claim your gift

Subscribers, you can read this at your leisure. Non-subscribers, you can read it tomorrow by purchasing a digital subscription. All of our subscription deals can be viewed here.

Incidentally, Toby Young has just recorded a piece for our View from 22 Podcast. He was discussing benefits with Owen Jones. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes here.

Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • Donafugata

    The calculator is predictably, so crude a measure, the results are meaningless.

  • john

    There is only one factor unique to the British class system – titles. There are only 2 classes – those with a title and those without. End the system of monarchy, aristos, enobled riff-raff and Britain’s class system will disappear.

  • boisgolf

    Did you know that Philpott the child murderer comes out as Middle Class on this rating? That shows how daft it is.

    • Donafugata

      That’s because he’s rich, albeit on child-benefits.

  • pearlsandoysters

    I suspect that they just substitute category of class for something akin to “consumer tribes”, which would be a logical thing to do, once the class was also about values held, meanwhile contemporary society does not lend itself easily to values, basically ‘we are all consumers now”, so fragmentation in accord with consumers’ habits seems more realistic.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    From the underclass to the ‘elite’

    Who said upward mobility is dead?

  • forthurst

    I’ve just taken the test on the BBC’s website and it reveals that I am a member of the ‘Traditional Working Class’, and by inference, and as I’ve long suspected, that the output of the BBC is aimed exclusively at the ‘Precariant’ Class.

    • John McClane

      I’m apparently Established Middle Class because of the people I know and the fact I have no mortgage. But I’m actually New Kulak because I work the land I own.

      • hexton

        Whilst I appear to have attended a private school. News to me.

        • rollahardsix

          Well I am ‘Emergent Service Workers’ for which the description seems to equate to ‘not much money but plenty of knowledge and culture’. Haha, I think I shall take that as a compliment :-)

  • Span Ows

    their ‘test’ has nothing to do with class and everything o do with money.

  • Tom Tom

    The proles take the Haute Route apparently when Dunlop is not batting for Sumitomo

  • Smithersjones2013

    Fun? Are you freakin kidding. A bunch of jumped up quasi academics and a nasty left wing propaganda machine collude to create a new means of divisively discriminating and pigeon holing us all. How very 1984.

    In the words of the great Pete Townsend

    Why don’t y’all just f-f-f-f-f-ade away

    The Freakshow really does need tearing down!

    • monty61

      Feeling a bit chippy today?

  • Barakzai

    A ‘tool’ designed by two ’eminent sociologists’ and sponsored by the reliably impartial BBC?

    Er, I’ll pass on this opportunity to have ‘fun’, thanks David.

  • Nick Reid

    Penning the Spectator’s “Status Anxiety” column and some light blogging over at the Telegraph evidently pays better than I thought.

    • boisgolf

      It also allows you to puff low life TV progs to show how on trend you are i.e. druggies are fun people.

  • telemachus

    It is actually nonsense since most I know come out in the elite group which most of us are not
    However we should judge the worth of individuals on their degree of caring for the precariat

    • Chris lancashire

      I agree. Pleb.

    • Fergus Pickering

      The effing what, Tele. Is that one of the beeb’s new words? I’ll bet it refers to that chap who burned his children to death. It does, doesn’t it.

      • Gaverne

        Underclass is a much better word, and well defined by Charles Murray.

        • Donafugata

          Hilariously, I am part of this underclass.
          Self-imposed purdah since my husband died combined with not much money makes me an unterMensch. No amount of jazz and classical music listening can raise my social status.

          I do object to being in the same boat as the Phillpots, only at the BBC.

  • UlyssesReturns

    There is one class missing in all this – the ‘never had a real job, leaching politician/public servant/Quangoist/Guardianista leftard’ class so many seem to belong to nowadays.

    • telemachus

      And of course the Home Counties set with their retreivers and shotguns.

      • Tom Tom

        Haven’t they caught you yet ? Tally ho, Tel-Boy is on the loose

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        What is your implication here? That owning a retriever and a shotgun is some kind of offence and should be punished in some way?

        • telemachus

          In terms of the actual implication, and at least one other poster in this parish will understand, yes I think so

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            A predictably silly response.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        What about a pitbull and a sawn-off?

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Yes, no need for a retriever in this case. A pitbull would do nicely, or perhaps a Rhodesian ridgeback, something with a nice firm bite pressure and no compunction to let go ’til the job’s done.

          • Hexhamgeezer

            Or a Jack Russell – ideal for rats

    • dalai guevara

      What about the rent seekers, the true never-worked-a-day-in-their-lives socialists?

      • the viceroy’s gin

        What about the stupider-than-a-bag-o’-hammers socialists?

        There aren’t many of them, thankfully, but those few do a lot of damage.

        • dalai guevara

          Bourdieu in his watered-down version has finally arrived in Britain.
          Let’s not make it too complicated for the largest section that are the uneducated…

          • the viceroy’s gin

            All socialists socialize losses. It’s to be expected. It’s their raison d’etre, afterall. Windmills or CDS, it doesn’t much matter to them. They’re in favor. And then some.

            No, we’re talking about a uniquely stupid variety of socialist, the stupider-than-a-bag-o’-hammers strain. They distinguish themselves as a class.

            • dalai guevara

              The entire world is made up of socialists then, as the Ulysses Mustard types remain suspiciously quiet as soon as this topic arises.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                No, the entire world isn’t made up of socialists. That’s a deceit that socialists tell themselves. The stupider-than-a-bag-o’-hammers socialists are particularly adept at this.

              • Colonel Mustard

                “Ulysses and Mustard types”, eh? So what “type” are you then?

                • UlyssesReturns

                  Well he’s certainly not my type. Needy little attention seeker with minimal intellect like the other trolls here clinging to the legs of better men. One can’t comment on Coffee House without one or more of them attaching to us, like the unwelcome bore at a party. They are tiresome, pathetic and irritating.

                • Colonel Mustard


                • dalai guevara

                  Colonel, a distinction surely, if occasionally of querulant arrogance. Now, let’s just continue with the socialised do-goodery and print some more for the tired and irritated.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  “Querulant arrogance”, “tired and irritated”, eh?

                  So, again, what are you?

                • dalai guevara

                  Oh dear me – the QE apologists ranting about how much they hate socialism. Waffle waffle waffle.
                  At least I am not a waffle maker.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  It’s only you stupider-than-a-bag-o’-hammers socialists who draw a distinction between the various types of socialism.

                  Clear thinking folk understand it’s all the same, windmills or CDS.

                • dalai guevara

                  Yes, only that in times of locally expanding cold periods and imploding deregulated insurance product sales, the obvious benefits of ‘the real thing’ are clear cut.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …and given that bizarre collection of disjointed phrasings, we certainly’d never accuse you of clear thinking.

    • Fergus Pickering

      leeching I think, though leaching is certainly a possibility. More than three classes is probably too many. Perhaps we might have four though. The Upper Class (anyone who sends their children to a private school). The Middle Class (anybody who can read and write to a good standard). The Lower Class (anybody who buys The Sun or the Daily Mirror) and the Underclass or Criminal Class. Problem sorted. G’day. I appear to be middle-class, but I knew that already. I read the Daily Telegraph to find out what the Upper Class think that they think, thinking generally not being their strongest suit.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here