Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Social Mobility

John Major and David Cameron have been making utterances about 'social mobility'. Mr Major says he is shocked that the upper echelons of society are dominated by the privately educated (codewords for Eton/Oxford toffs, presumably). Major of course is the only known example of someone who ran away from the circus to become an accountant and subsequently a very boring and somewhat inept Prime Minister. Cameron meanwhile says that it is for the working class to show aspiration, ambition and enterprise and thus to climb the social hierarchy. He too is somewhat inept but merely vacuous rather than boring. Whereas Major had to use cunning and duplicity to rise through the political ranks, Cameron merely had to rely on the old boy network as he was already in the upper echelons.
A big problem with all this talk of social mobility is that, by definition, in a globalised neo-liberalist economy we can't all be at the top even if we all have the ability or inclination to get to the top. The political system reflects this model of competitive market forces, as does the social hierarchy.
Meanwhile, you have to ask yourself who has the most to lose from a structural change to bring about a 'classless' society? One where nepotism, money, low cunning and duplicity do not determine outcomes and where we have ditched the concept of the 'upper echelons'? Obviously, it is those in the 'upper echelons', sometimes known as the 'ruling class'. And how would those in the ruling class fend off resentment and potential revolution from those in the working class? Apart from oppression and violence, that is. Easy peasy, by persuading those in the lower orders that they too could join the 'upper echelons' through aspiration, ambition and enterprise (cunning and duplicity coming in handy too, although this is left unsaid).So what you do is come up with this idea of 'social mobility' and you allow sufficient numbers to rise up the greasy pole to make it credible. What you don't do is restructure the political, social and economic system so that class is not an issue and there are no 'upper echelons'.  

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