In some ways, this claim was similar to that of the post-modernists in the 1980’s. They argued that in a post-modern society, class had become deconstructed. People are no longer bound by the way of life in their area because the media brings the same way of life to everyone and everyone is exposed to the same images. They can choose and construct their own identities from the millions thrown out by the media and they can become what they want. Post modernists argue that class is no longer important as a source of identity and that life style and consumerism is more important. They argue that there are new social divisions in class that are not based on class e.g. whether or not a person owns their own home. Differences in consumer patterns do not follow traditional class patterns. A working class man may own his own home, go to the opera and go on holiday to Florida, the same as someone in the middle class. An upper class boy and a working class boy may go to the same football match or concert and listen to the same music. Clarke and Saunders argue that identities are no longer based on class but on lifestyle. People are no longer judged by their job, but by what they consume, the car they drive, the house they live in etc. Unlike Marxists, they do not see class as having a central part in people’s lives.
However there is a lot of sociological evidence that class is still important in contemporary Britain. A person’s lifestyle will depend on their income and thus their job and their class. A person’s social class will affect most aspects of their life, thus class is still a source of identity. It will affect their life chances. These are the opportunities they have in life and their chances of getting the things that people want. It will affect their health, their likelihood of getting diseases and their life expectancy. It will affect their chances of being a victim of crime or of being suspected of crime. It will affect their children’s chances of getting a good education and good qualifications. It will affect the area they live in, the house they live in, the holidays they go on and the goods they can buy.
Also, at the edges of the class system, there is great inequality
The Upper Class
Although there has been some redistribution of wealth, there is still an upper class in Britain who own vast amounts of wealth and have a similar life style. In 1992, the richest 1% owned 29% of marketable wealth and the richest 5% owned 53% of wealth.
There has also been a growth of the poor at the bottom of society. Some argue that there is an underclass in our society who are so poor that they are excluded from the way of life of the majority. The underclass is composed of the long-term unemployed, some single parents and some old people.