New Analysis and Publications from the Great British Class Survey

Exactly two years ago, the release of our initial research from the GBCS, linked to the publication of the paper in Sociology and a keynote address at the British Sociological Association conference generated unprecedented public interest in the potential of digital resources to explore contemporary social class relations. More than 9 million people have now clicked on the BBC’s class calculator to find out which of the ‘new’ classes they are in, making this the most popular piece of digital sociology ever conducted.

The interest provoked by the GBCS generated extensive reflection, criticism and debate. Along with all our many collaborators the past two years has been an amazing roller coaster. We have addressed this huge interest by embarking on an extensive programme of additional research which will be published in the coming months and which we hope will continue to generate interest and excitement. This blog reports on this work so that anyone interested in reading more will know where to look in the coming months.

  1. Sociological Review: special issue on the GBCS

In May 2015, the Sociological Review will be publishing a special issue devoted to the GBCS. This will contain seven original articles reporting fresh research on the GBCS and a series of critical responses. The six papers written by the GBCS team are

Mike Savage, ‘From the “problematic of the proletariat” to a class analysis of “wealth elites”’

Fiona Devine and Helene Snee, ‘Doing the Great British Class Survey’

Sam Friedman, Daniel Laurison and Andrew Miles, ‘Breaking the ‘Class’ Ceiling? Social Mobility into Britain’s Elite Occupations’

Daniel Laurison, ‘The Right to Speak: Differences in Political Engagement among the British Elite’

Niall Cunningham (Manchester) with Mike Savage (LSE), ‘The Secret Garden?  Elite Metropolitan Geographies in the Contemporary UK’

Paul Wakeling and Mike Savage, ‘Entry to elite positions and the stratification of higher education in Britain

2: Social Class in the 21st Century

Authors: Mike Savage, Niall Cunningham, Fiona Devine, Sam Friedman, Daniel Laurison, Lisa Mckenzie, Andrew Miles, Helene Snee and Paul Wakeling.

We have now submitted the manuscript for this Pelican book which is expected to be published in November. This broadens out from GBCS findings, includes material from additional qualitative I interviews and ethnography in order to offer an introductory overview of class today.


Introduction: The Great British Class Survey and the return of class today

Section 1: The history of social class

Chapter 1            Contesting class boundaries: Differentiating middle and working class.

Section 2: Capitals, Accumulation and social class

Chapter 2            Accumulating economic capital

Chapter 3            Highbrow and Emerging Cultural Capital

Chapter 4            Social Capital: networks and personal ties

Chapter 5            The new landscape of class: the interplay of economic, cultural and social capital

Section 3:  Social mobility, education and location

Chapter 6            Climbing mountains: the social mobility expedition

Chapter 7            A tale of two campuses? Universities and meritocracy

Chapter 8            Class & Spatial Inequality in the UK

Section 4: The class divide in 21st Century Britain

Chapter 9            The View at The Top: Britain’s New ‘Ordinary’ Elite

Chapter 10          The Precarious Precariat: The visible, invisible people

Chapter 11          Class Consciousness and the New Snobbery.

Conclusion: The old new politics of class in the 21st century

3: Archiving of GBCS at the UK Data Archive

Led by Daniel Laurison, we have been working extensively on cleaning and organising the data for public release. Legal agreements with the BBC have now been reached and we are expecting an imminent release of the data in the next few weeks.

This intensive programme of research has now finished and we will no longer be focusing directly on the GBCS data in our future research. We are engaged on developing future strands of research linked to this work which include on social mobility (Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison), on economic capital (Mike Savage and Daniel Laurison), on ‘new forms of snobbery’ (Sam Friedman and Mike Savage) and on elites. The LSE’s new International Inequalities Institute (III) which opens in May 2015 will be an important vehicle for future work on these (and other) issues. Those interested in the III may wish to attend the event on May 11th with Thomas Piketty.

Mike Savage, on behalf of the GBCS team.


2 responses to “New Analysis and Publications from the Great British Class Survey”

  1. David Rose says :

    In their LSE working paper, ‘Introducing the Class Ceiling: Social Mobility into
    Britain’s Elite Occupations’, Laurison and Friedman say ‘While higher managers earn more and are considered by many to be more “elite” in terms of the NS-SEC class structure (Rose, 2013), our results indicate that in general the higher professions are significantly more elitist in terms of restricting access for those from working class backgrounds.’

    However, I did NOT say that managers are ‘more elite in terms of the NS-SEC class structure’. It was the GBCS that identified the elite as being a corporate one, not me. I simply responded to Mike Savage by pointing out that if the elite were to be defined in those terms by the GBCS, then NS-SEC Class 1.1 had (contra Savage) already identified a similar elite. I didn’t say it was ‘more elite’ than Class 1.2 (higher professionals) but that Class 1.1 had a distinctive character and importance. As the closest approximation that we can get to a ‘capitalist’ class, I also noted that we did consider that Class 1.1. might be separately classified from higher professionals, but that had nothing to do with an issue relating to the sociology of elites. In addition, I pointed out that Class 1.1. identified a rather smaller corporate elite than that identified by the GBCS; but that both the NS-SEC and the GBCS identified a much larger one than what might be called the ‘real’ corporate elite. That was another reason not to regard Class 1.1 as a class separate from 1.2.

    The identification of corporate managers with an ‘elite’ is the creation of the GBCS and not one made by me nor by the the NS-SEC. Laurison and Friedman are now extending the definition of an ‘elite’ to the whole of NS-SEC Class 1. However, in my comment I made no judgement on whether in some respects Class 1.2 might be more ‘elitist’ than Class 1.1, although I am not at all surprised that mobility from the working class into 1.2 is more difficult than from the working class into 1.1. It was partly because we knew there are important differences as well as similarities in class terms between higher professionals and higher managers that we divided NS-SEC Class 1 as we did.

    It was bad enough that Savage claimed that the GBCS had identified something new in terms of a ‘corporate elite’ when it had done no such thing. As I said in 2013: ‘To claim that GBCS has identified “the telling differentiation of a small wealthy elite from a much larger group of the middle classes” that was not previously apparent is really not the case’. Laurison and Friedman now compound the issue by attributing to me remarks I did not make in response to Savage.

    Of course, I am delighted that some of those associated with the GBCS should decide to employ the NS-SEC to explore mobility issues related to elites, but then what else could they do? Despite all the work that went into the ‘creation’ of the GBCS, they really have no other choice. So far as I can see, one could hardly use the GBCS class map for this or any other mobility related study.

    • Daniel Laurison says :

      Thank you for this comment and the clarification of your position on using NS-SEC to identify an ‘elite’. We’ll correct our reference to your thoughts in the next version of our paper.

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