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Social class inequality has been a controversial topic of
debate in the UK, as the BBC (2018) interpret it, the variations between groups
in society is the stem for social inequality to occur, most members of society
cooperatively state that society should be equal but it is a known reality that
this is an unrealistic perception that is unlikely to be achieved. Roberts
(2001) mentions that Marx originally argued that the working and middle class
were the two classes that formed the original concept of social class within
society, it was thought that over time other classes would disappear and our
capitalist society will stick to having solely two classes. Cheal (2005) then proceeds
to say that originally, Marx’s debate included the way in which society is
simulated by how the ‘goods’ are produced, the means of production in society determines
the social class structure. Jones, Bradbury and Boutillier (2011) then explain
this further by affirming that the people who don’t own the means of production
work hard labour hours and provide profit for the minority of society who do
own the means of production. The majority of society are therefore being
exploited because they are not earning a sufficient income in order to survive
and then society becomes extremely unequal. Throughout the duration of this
essay, the argument as to whether class inequalities in the UK do still exist today
will be discussed comparatively to view that social class inequalities no
longer exist. This will be discussed in relation to health and education with
examples to dispute whether inequalities do still exist within society.

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Evidence to
support the view that social class inequality does still exist in the UK


Neale (1981) notes that class societies are glued together
by the conflicts between classes over power and status; furthermore, this is
what causes class struggle. According to Savage (2015) social class
inequalities within our society highly depend on our geographical region,
allegedly, society tentatively identifies particular regions with separate
class stereotypes. An example of this is apparent where by Savage (2015)
includes a Yorkshire man in his writing and how one should refrain from seeking
his language as sophisticated but rather inferior to others. Interestingly,
Wilkinson and Pickett (2009) note that the working-class people in society own twenty
percent of all incomes, this is very limited compared to the middle class who
receive eighty percent. This conception portrays the view that social class
inequalities do in fact still exist in the UK because of the notion that depending
on the location of our geographical region loosely determines the social class
that we belong to. This is then supported by the Great British Class Survey in
2013, Savage (2015) notes that the North of the UK predominantly under
subscribed when responding to the Survey, this juxtaposes the increased
participation of the South demonstrating that geographical region does in fact
perform a significant part when proving that social class inequality does still
exist today. Approximately all the problems that surround social class
inequalities are collectively at the bottom of the social hierarchy where it is
more common for inequality to occur (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009). Adding to
this, Savage (2015) also declares that occupation is still a fundamental aspect
in causing social class inequality. This statement is supported further by the
Great British Class Survey since statistics display that four percent of people
that completed the survey were Chief Executive Officers of companies. There was
also an apparent over subscription from business related finance professionals
who are higher up in the social class hierarchy. Contrasting this, those
members of society who chose not to complete the survey were coincidentally
groups of people whose occupation consisted of unskilled work like cleaners and
lorry drivers. This example shows us that social class inequality does still
exist because the middle-class members of society are educated enough to take
an interest in their social class position where as those in unskilled work do
not take into account that social class in vital. This shows that there is a
sense of inequality because there is a marked distinction between the power of
the middle and working class.


Evidence of social
class inequality within the Health Care System


It is an underlying fact people who are in poverty and
experience financial difficulties encounter more illness and disease than those
who are wealthy. As Wilkinson and Pickett (2009) state, in society our health
problems closely correlate to our income. Likewise, the working class are more
probable to die at a younger age and acquire more life-threatening diseases. Statistics
show that members of society that live in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods
die approximately seven years prior to those living in privileged surroundings (Nettleton
2013). Unequivocally, the more superior an individual’s situation is in the
hierarchy of social class, the healthier they will be (Russell 2014). Dorling
(2014) proclaims that health problems in the UK are now at its weakest, this
contributes to our understanding that social class inequalities do in fact
still exist because it is the disadvantaged social groups in society that
appear to have rapidly weaker health and this is argued to be because of their
poor health and lack of income to get better. An example of this is provided by
Dorling (2014) in which it is stated that in Glasgow, local doctors working in
the deprived areas have noticed that when there were cuts to benefits by the
Welfare State, there was a swiftly rising amount of working class patients that
could simply not afford to heat their homes. Consequently, the state of their
health will then deteriorate immensely and they will commonly become ill. There
have been government policies to try and close the gap between class
inequalities within the Health Care System, Wilkinson and Pickett (2009)
provide the example of public health as to how social class inequalities have
declined within the Health Care system, it is stated that the Sanitary Movement
made substantial changes to society in order to improve its public health, this
included drainage, sewage, public baths and appropriate housing. This decreased
the amount of inequality within society because the working-class members falling
ill due to barely surviving in poor living conditions now had an improved
standard of living and therefore the state of their health increased. This is
significant because there was a major decrease in working class people becoming
diseased who merely could not even afford to stay alive, therefore it insinuates
that they have more of an equal chance in comparison to the middle class.



Evidence of social
class inequality within the Education System


“One of the biggest problems facing British schools is the
gap between rich and poor, and the enormous disparity in children’s home
backgrounds and the social and cultural capital they bring to the education
table. Children do better if their parents have higher incomes and more
education themselves” (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009, p.104). This quotation offers
an ideal reason as to why social class inequalities exist within the education
system, working class children do not gain education capital and are culturally
deprived, therefore they have an unequal chance within education because they
will potentially not have the right upbringing in order to have the opportunity
to achieve. Evidence of social class inequality is highlighted when the
education system experienced some critical changes in policy that has severely
transformed the way in which it operates, Margaret Thatcher and the
Conservative Administrations of the 1980’s introduced the privatisation of the
education system (Coffey 2001). This shift in policy triggered an intense
expansion of inequality between social classes. As a result of this, the parents
have been upgraded to the consumers of their children’s place of education,
furthermore the children’s education is dependent on the social class and
wealth of the parents. Accordingly, those who are from privileged backgrounds
will be given the finest education around and the working-class children will
be disadvantaged because their parents may not value the importance of
education and therefore place them in an underperforming school. Nevertheless,
Wilkinson and Pickett (2009) mention that the government provides tax benefits,
allowances, health care, social housing, child support expenses and the
provision of high- quality early childhood education. This insinuates that
there is a decrease in inequality within society because the government are offering
working class mothers (who don’t value education like middle class parents) a
chance to support and educate their children physically and cognitively. Thus,
working class children are then more likely to gain educational capital and
less likely to be culturally deprived, subsequently they are then likely to
achieve highly in education and the unequal gap between classes will supposedly



So, does social
inequality still exist in the UK?


In more recent years, a debate has occurred in society as to
whether class actually does still exist or if it has declined. Roberts (2001)
declares that a collective error made by society is to confuse the notion that
class is declining, but instead it is just developing. Roberts (2001) then
expands this by noting that class is not necessarily declining as a whole, but
instead previous class foundations are transforming into newer forms of class
inequality. This point could be used to argue that class inequality in the UK
no longer exist because inequalities between classes are not what they
previously were. An example here is mentioned by McKibbin (1994) in which it
showed the occupations of the working class that required little to no skill
(trades or mining), these occupations no longer exist for the working class to
occupy and therefore they have found additional ways to earn an income and
survive. This example allows a reason regarding the decline of class
inequalities because it is as if the working class are working for the ‘means
of production’ but may not always feel oppressed. This signifies that even if
classes do exist in society, inequalities between classes are not as relevant
because the working class are taking more of an optimistic approach instead of
feeling depressed as a result of class inequalities. Another factor to add here
is the indication that the UK now has a seven-social class society (BBC News
2013).  As the BBC News (2013) express,
Marx’s original class formation of the working and middle class is now argued
to be archaic since there are now seven social classes for the population to
fit into as a result of the Great British Class Survey. Following this, Jones
(2013) declares that instead of using solely occupation and wealth to define
class, the Great British Class Survey used social and cultural factors as well
in order to define the new classes that exist today. This makes us question
whether social class inequality does exist today because even though it clearly
evident that social classes do still exist. In today’s society, it could be
argued that there is less inequality, this is because those at the bottom for
the social class ladder have an easier way of moving up due to social and
cultural activities being their gateway to move up a social class.  An example of this arises where by Savage
(2015) mentions that following the Great British Class Survey, there was a
considerable increase in the sales of theatre tickets by one hundred and ninety
one percent.  This retaliation was a
response to the class calculator’s questions, some members of society believed
that theatre attendance insinuated that they could then gain cultural capital.
This shows an example as to why society is more equal when regarding social
classes today because it is evident that those individuals who completed the
Survey that were working class may have potentially wanted to move up the
social class ladder in hope to be seen as more desirable, demonstrating that it
is easier for them to gain hierarchy. Even though social classes do still
exist, those in lower classes are able to be seen as superior due to their
cultural capital and this was definitely not the case in history, the class system
was not as flexible as what it is now.




In conclusion, it is undisputed that social class inequality
does still exist in the UK today. Even though the social class system has
dramatically change over time, there is still an apparent gap between those who
are rich and those who are poor. However, our society is more equal today, this
is visible through the fact that everyone is now able to have access to
education, there has been a major enhancement in sufficient housing for the
poor and government policies have been put in place to reduce inequalities in
the UK. It is clear that the working class do have a disadvantage in society
compared to the middle class but the difference is that the working class now
have an increased amount of opportunities in attempt to achieve and earn a
living. This definitely is an improvement from history because it was
unthinkable for a working-class person to earn a middle-class income,
considering there is now potential for this to happen, a prime example is Alan
Sugar. Health and Education are both highly influencing factors on social
inequality because there have been attempts to reduce social class inequalities
in both fields, examples of these are benefits for underprivileged families and
improvements to public health. This has improved society and made it more
equal. Even though the class system is still relevant, society is more ‘fair’.


Bibliography (2018). BBC Bitesize- Higher Modern Studies-
Social inequality in the United Kingdom- Revision 1., Available at:


News. (2013). UK ‘Now has Seven Social Classes’. Available at:


D. (2005). Dimensions of Sociological Theory. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


Coffey, A. (2001). Education and Social Change. Buckingham:
Open University Press.


Dorling, D. (2014). Inequality and the 1%. London: Verso


Jones, P., Bradbury, L. and Boutiller, S. (2011). Introducing
Social Theory. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.


S. (2013). Great British Class Survey Finds Seven Social Classes in UK., The
Guardian. Available at:


McKibbin, R. (1994). The Ideologies of Class: Social
Relations in Britain 1880-1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


R. (1981). Class in English History 1680-1850. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.


Nettleton, S. (2006). The sociology of health and illness. 3rd ed.
Cambridge: Polity.


Roberts, K. (2001). Class in Modern Britain. Hampshire:


Russell, L. (2014). Sociology for Health Professionals.
London: Sage Publications.


Savage, M. (2015). Social class in the 21st century. London: Penguin


Wilkinson, R. and Pickett, K. (2009). The Spirit Level: Why
equality is better for everyone. London: Penguin.


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