Class in Britain used to be a relatively simple matter, or at least it used to be treated that way. It came in three flavors — upper, middle and working — and people supposedly knew by some mysterious native sixth sense exactly where they stood, reports today’s New York Times “As the very tall John Cleese declared to the less-tall Ronnie Corbett in the famous 1966 satirical television sketch meant to illustrate class attitudes in Britain — or, possibly, attitudes toward class attitudes — “I look down on him, because I am upper class.
“It is not as easy as all that, obviously. The 2010 election was enlivened at one point by a perfectly serious discussion of whether David Cameron, now the prime minister, counted as upper upper-middle class, or lower upper-middle class. But on Wednesday, along came the BBC, muddying the waters with a whole new set of definitions.
“Having commissioned what it called The Great British Class Survey, an online questionnaire filled out by more than 161,000 people, the BBC concluded that in today’s complicated world, there are now seven different social classes. (“As if three weren’t annoying enough,” a woman named Laura Phelps said on Twitter.) These range from the “elite” at the top, distinguished by money, connections and rarefied cultural interests, to the “precariat” at the bottom, characterized by lack of money, lack of connections and unrarefied cultural interests. Continue reading “Class more than upstairs/downstairs”