The BBC has published the results of a survey on the nation’s class. Its basis is that the old class system – lower, middle and upper – is no longer relevant. Previously class was strictly determined by occupation, wealth and education, but this new method suggests it’s more relevant to categorise people by economic, social and “cultural capital” indicators.
Particularly relevant to the disability experience is that you may be a different kind of person to what your income, education, occupation or housing suggests.
You could be unemployed, you may consider yourself unemployable, but you may have a masters degree, enjoy opera and hang out with CEOs and surgeons. if that’s you, then what defines your class?
Disability campaigner Kaliya Franklin tweeted earlier that she is not sure what class she belongs to. She says she is: “Middle class by upbringing & education but underclass due to benefit receipt?”.
After taking the new class calculator test on the BBC website, Spoonydoc Tweeted that she ended up in the lowest class grouping: “I was precariat. Test very skewed by being housebound. Changed to emergent service worker otherwise.”
What is class anyway?
Well, it’s all about your essence and standing, your station in life, your status, your regardability, your power. It gives clues as to what kind of consumer you are, what your politics might be, and all sorts of other unsumuppable traits. If you can be pigeonholed, you can be broadly understood as a person or householder, and targeted accordingly by those who need to know: advertisers, political canvassers, statisticians, town planners, who knows what.
Many disabled people take a non-standard route through life. It’s recognised that opportunities in education or employment are harder to achieve due to physical accessibility or barriers that are attitudinal. Disabled people are likely to have less money as a result of having fewer opportunities.
If you don’t generate your own economic capital due to not having a regular job, the influences around you are perhaps more important in turning you into the person you are. This survey recognises that and it calculates your “cultural capital” i.e. what TV, newspapers, arts and events you are a consumer of.
Could you, or should you, be summed up by what you like? Rather than what you’re like? Should we define disabled people by what’s going on in their head rather than their bank balance? And is that power?
There are, of course, plenty of disabled people for whom disability has been no barrier to socio economic progress … but it’s not clear quite how many that is.