Class, Politics and the Progressive Dilemma

Research paper by Fiona Devine, Marianne Sensier

Indexed on: 14 Jan '17Published on: 13 Jan '17Published in: The Political Quarterly


This article considers contemporary class inequalities and how they might shape a progressive politics in the UK. Drawing on findings from the BBC Class Survey, it outlines changes in the class structure, class mobility and class identities. It is argued that the class structure is increasingly polarised and fragmented, with a wealthy elite, a vulnerable precariat and fragmented middle and working classes in between. Declining upward social mobility is a source of anxiety for middle-class and working-class parents alike. Class identification, especially working-class identification, has weakened over time, although class snobbery is far from dead. Class has changed and the class basis of politics is changing now too. A progressive politics is possible if the political parties of the centre-left appeal to the majority of the electorate rather than one class, acknowledge common concerns and worries and appeal to shared hopes and dreams that straddle class boundaries.