The introduction• 1. Catch phrase (e.g. quote, data, historical fact, etc.): To catch the reader’s attention.• 2. Interest of the essay: To show why it is relevant to study this particular topic.• 3. Question: To structure your essay, which is the answer to the question you formulated (only you).
1. Catch phrase• In 1996, John Prescott MP (and then deputy leader of the Labour Party) claimed « we are all middle-class now », at a time where the working- class suffered and still suffers today from a great identity crisis.
2. Interest of the essay• If there are indeed less class conﬂicts as those we could have seen in the 19th century, social cleavages are still present within British society. Thus, studying social classes in contemporary capitalist societies is still relevant today.• According to Mike Savage, « the idea of class continues to have a role in showing the interconnectedness of various social processes » within modern British society.• (...) However, we have to reconsider the nature of social classes today, in order to be able to conclude if there is effectively a decline in the signiﬁcance of class today.
3. Question• Is Great Britain heading towards a ‘classless society’ nowadays?
The body• 1. The changing deﬁnition of class.• 2. The impact of social mobility on the weakening signiﬁcance of class.• 3. The declining class awareness and class consciousness.• 4. A British class system more and more based on race and ethnicity.
1. The changing deﬁnition of class• A social class is, along with age, ethnicity and gender, a major form of social stratiﬁcation2. It can be deﬁned as a a group of people sharing the same social capital (e.g. networks), economic capital (e.g. wealth, ownership of property and income), educational status (e.g. level of education and knowledge), but it also includes notions of power and prestige (also called ‘symbolic capital’), or even patterns of behaviour and attitudes, according to Ivan Reid.
1. The changing deﬁnition of class• There has been a historical mutability of classes and of the interactions between classes within British society. Consequently, it is less easy to identify ourselves to a speciﬁc social class nowadays.• (...) The notion of ‘class’ has indeed become almost ambiguous and the deﬁnition of social class is continually evolving (...) especially since Margaret Thatcher’s era, who notably claimed in September 1987: « there is no such thing as society.There are individual men and women, and there are families ».
2. The impact of social mobility on the weakening signiﬁcance of class• In 1990, John Major (Conservative Party) declared in The Guardian that Britain « needed a ‘classless society’ », by abolishing the class distinctions raging in the country, through more social mobility. Social mobility can be mainly considered as a change in status between one individual and his previous family generation.• Indeed, it is essential to focus on social mobility to understand the declining signiﬁcance of the working-class for instance. Social mobility can be upward or downward.
2. The impact of social mobility on the weakening signiﬁcance of class• (...) Thus, if there has been more social mobility between classes since the 1950s, there is still a clear hierarchy in Great Britain, separating the people and with a superior elite at the top, ruling the country and the economy, like in France or in Italy for instance. Maybe British society can’t be considered anymore as a ‘class society’, but more as a three-layered hierarchical society, due to the divides between the underclass, the over class and in the middle, seen as « a new and growing anxious class » (also called ‘middle England’), as described by Tony Blair (New Labour) in the 1990s.
3. The declining class awareness and class consciousness• As Gordon Marshall argued in 1988, there has been a dramatic decline in the class awareness and in the class consciousness (i.e. class identity, class opposition, class totality and class alternatives), however, social and economic disparities have been rising in Great Britain since the 1970s.• (...) There is no real ‘class struggle’ nowadays, as we saw in the 19th century when they was a clear opposition between the working- class and the upper class of British society. Indeed, since WWII, phenomenons of globalisation, post Fordism, new technologies, disorganised capitalism, etc., have progressively enhanced social changes and redeﬁned the position and reduced the consciousness of the British working-class, such as the growing individualism of modern cultures. These phenomenons have also led to the shrinkage of the unskilled workers. All these factors have undoubtedly contributed to the decomposition of the working- class.
3. The declining class awareness and class consciousness• Even politically, the inﬂuence and the implication of the working-class at various levels of party politics has been progressively limited, in a political sphere more and more oriented towards the issues and the concerns of the middle-class.• (...) Nonetheless, the working-class has not disappeared. It seems that Great Britain moved from a conception of social class close to Karl Marx’s theories (about the two classes at war), towards a society mainly based upon a liberal conception of prestige or status.
4. A British class system more and more based on race and ethnicity• The class system in Britain is more based on racial and ethnic minorities today. Indeed, Indian, Pakistani and Afro- Caribbean communities seem to be more marginalised than the white workers. Instead of a traditional white working- class that was previously present in British industrial regions (e.g.Yorkshire, Lancashire), there has been the emergence of a new underclass of poor and unemployed black or South- Asian individuals in the United Kingdom• Consequently, there are still sharp divisions and inequalities in Great Britain, but from a very different vision on contemporary social structure.
The conclusion• 1. Answer to your question:Yes, no, or even both.• 2. Brieﬂy sum up your main arguments but avoid details.• 3. If you can (not compulsory), try to ‘enlarge’ the topic to a wider problem or to a similar issue (e.g. the question of Britishness today, or the representation of classes in popular culture, or the current politics of austerity that target the working and middle classes, etc.)
1. Answer• We can conclude that nowadays, most people still see Britain as a ‘class-bound society’, like most contemporary societies, where inequalities of power and wealth are still present, according to David Cannadine. To achieve a ‘classless society’ would mean no more distinct barriers between individuals and their social status, but also no conﬂicts of interest, a vision which seems a bit utopian.
2. Sum up• Nevertheless, it seems that there is actually a decline in the signiﬁcance of the notion of class in modern Britain (1), replaced by the enlargement of a wide middle class (or middle classes) (2), and also due to the end of the traditional white proletariat, now surpassed by a diversity of ethnic and poorer minorities (3) within the multiculturalist British society.
Some tips• Never forget the question of your essay, to always respect the subject and write relevant arguments.• Imagine that you are talking to someone who knows absolutely nothing about the topic. Thus, you must explain with accurate arguments and examples, show that you know what you are talking about and try to be really convincing.
Some tips• Never write an example without an argument. An example is an illustration, not an idea.• Avoid to write ‘I’ (e.g. I think, I believe, etc).• Be precise and concise, think about the reader’s comfort, and avoid complicated and long sentences.