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November 14, 2013



Or maybe Cameron is just trying to head off criticism of his own privileged background, ahead of a challenge by the iconically mobile Michael Gove, should he fail to win outright in 2015.

Szczepan Stachura

Moreover, I think equality and social mobility are connected. It's easier to attain higher class status, if there's no large gaps between classes in the first place.
So unequal, but meritocratic society is hardly a possibility.


"Efficiency requires that we get the best people into top jobs."

Considering that Mr. Cameron has THE top job in Britain, I wonder what implication that fact has for the efficiency fairy tale.

gastro george

"If we had equal opportunity, rich and poor would both feel that they deserved their place. In this sense, social mobility can be used to legitimate inequality."

Which is precisely the Blairite line on "meritocracy". That the rich deserved to be rich because they were, well, rich.


Do we really need 'social mobility' any more? As I see it mass education and the transfer of the brightest into the middle classes was a phenomena that existed from about 1880 until about 1980. Before that no-one cared and after that period the middle and upper classes produced enough bright folk to satisfy demand. Mass education to a high enough level is expensive and inefficient - avoid doing it if you can.

Nowadays we can buy in talent if needed and the need for bright engineers and scientists is not located here anyway. However the downside is that an increasing number are squeezing into the private schools hoping to grab one of a diminishing number of decent jobs whilst perfectly good but less well off or less pushy people are left in the lower ranks. The social hourglass is no longer equi-spaced, the pinch point is moving inexorably upwards.

There is a snag though, the ever diminishing number of workers at the top and the corporations they work for must pay more tax to keep those at the bottom going. Hence the focus on Corporation Tax - once it scarely mattered, now it is important, but hard to grasp hold of.


"[people getting an equal start in life] is a utopian fantasy"

Chris - are you letting the great be the enemy of the good?

Just because parenting alone rules out a certain proportion of kids from becoming prime minister, say, why give up? Why not strive to maximise the proportion of kids who might be able to reach the top?


I disagree.

The alternative to social mobility is a self-replicating elite. Talented kids from working-class backgrounds will continue to be frozen out of top unis and good jobs because they don't know the right people or afford to work for free in London for 6 months.

This has significant political implications too. There is likely to be little pressure for measures to help the poor or even the middle (income and public services) in such a society if there is little chance of unlucky people/those less intelligent will fall there.

I would even argue that in many ways a high social mobility society could be a precursor to more income equality once the politics of those at the top adapting to a society where their kids can fall. The Coalition are banking on no real difference will be made: a pretence of mobility to justify rising inequality (the "British Dream") but it may not play out like that.

I strongly disagree with your implication that we need to be run by a private school elite as upwardly mobile working class kids can't be trusted with the levers of power.

Mike Killingworth

There is one factor which has not yet been mentioned, possibly because contributors feel that it is in bad taste to do so.

Social mobility has evaporated as ethnic pluralism has grown. It may be a co-incidence, but then again, it may not. An international comparative study may shed light on this point.


1. Social mobility has not "evaporated" - there is still a lot but relative social mobility decreased somewhat for those born in 1970 compared with 1958 and been broadly static for later cohorts (economists say) or been static throughout post-war period (sociologists say)

2. Clearly nonsense to link the two: those from ethnic minorities more likely to be socially mobile than others (big advantage from a. very aspirational parents who were willing to leave their country, family and friends to do well; b. very intelligent parents who ended up getting working class jobs due to racial discrimination: kids can rise rapidly once racial discrimination ends, as it has to a large degree, though still some).


"There is a snag though, the ever diminishing number of workers at the top and the corporations they work for must pay more tax to keep those at the bottom going."

I am sure mine workers in South Africa, factory workers in China etc will a raise a glass tonight to people like Katie Price and some of the high flyers off the apprentice for keeping them going!

Really, why does this site attract hooray henry's fresh from the hood?

I tend to think that a society based on Neo liberal, finacialisation is less prone to social mobility than an industrial society. The former is decrepit and sclerotic, the other relatively vibrant and dynamic. So from a capitalist system point of view, a relevant measure I would say.

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