Life chances and social class


  • from 1979 the labour party lost four elections in a row
  • began to avoid talking about class, focused instead on social exclusion
  • idea that the long term unemployed, single mothers and the deprived are somehow excluded from the living standards shared by the rest


  • New Labour- social class divisions are no longer important
  • most social groups share values and interests
  • Tony Blair- "we are all middle class now"
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Giddens: A New Egalitarian

  • argues britain is fair and open
  • individuals therefore fail
  • social class is no longer important- no manufacturing, weaker unions, service sector better paid, higher education massively expanded
  • the disparities between different groups need to be addressed by social policy


  • bottero, young and organisations such as the 'sutton trust' (new traditionalists)- structural inequalities in income, wealth, power, education and health mean its not fair
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The traditionalist view

  • class is still key
  • cause of deprivation lies in economic organisation
  • new labour have abondoned their commitment to inequality and have merely tinkered with policies under the banner of social exclusion


  • levels of absoluted poverty have fallen
  • relative poverty has risen sharply
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Bottero: A New Traditionalist

  • 'social inequlities are written on the body'
  • the working class experience a disproportionate amount of illness, improvement has been much slower
  • 3500 more working class babies would survive per year if infant mortality was reduced to the same level as middle class babies
  • maual jobs often have an element of risk, poor people live in areas with more hazards, poor children are more likely to have asthma
  • marmot- those low in the hierarchy have less control over the working conditions, greater stress and low self esteem. this triggers smoking, drinking, poor diet and inactivity, leading to depression and illness
  • wilkinsoninequality affects health because it undermines social cohesion, people do not feel valued or that they belong, not about the enviroment but stress


  • postmodernists
  • new egalitarians are right to say a diverse range of social groups are socially excluded.
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  • meritocracy in the UK is undermined by private school, 7% of population but 45% of oxbridge places.
  • only the talents of the wealthy are being unlocked


  • life choices and consumption depend on educational qualifications, occupation and income
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