I’ve watched, very sadly, the decline and fall of my beloved BBC. Perhaps it was always going to be a government mouthpiece of sorts. But whilst governments still represented the median voter, that their (our) public broadcasting systems also might molly-coddle the politicos … well, it somehow didn’t seem so important back then; somehow didn’t seem so grave.
Whilst there is clear evidence out there that the BBC has failed, for government-led ideological and propaganda reasons, to properly report issues of the day, I’m not sure – at least to date – whether anyone accused it of re-engineering the future. But today I think we have such a case. Today we get “The Great British Class Survey”. Its top-down motivations can be better understood here:
Policy makers tend to focus primarily on the economic dimension of class. Concepts like progressive taxation (taxing richer people more heavily than poorer people) are a good example of this.
Increasingly, the social dimension of class is receiving some attention, with initiatives to improve networking opportunities for people who are otherwise socially excluded.
But the cultural aspect of class has so far largely been ignored, perhaps because it is a broad yet subtle concept that can be difficult to measure. The problem is, if we don’t measure it, we can’t know how important it is and how much it influences people’s chances in life.
Especially where we discover its publication will take place:
[...] The data from this survey will be analysed by Professors Savage and Devine and the findings will be published in a suitable peer-reviewed journal.
So essentially a massive survey, which serves to cement the idea that society should be described in a highly fragmented and supposedly snakes and ladders way (presumably looking to promote the idea of a meritocracy where everyone gets the opportunity to climb the multiple ladders of self-betterment), will be carried out through the BBC‘s sponsoring of a mass, and freely obtained, participation by maybe hundreds and thousands of licence-payers – only to end up a) in the naive data-crunching hands of academia, and b) in the insolently ruthless clutches of think-tank folk everywhere.
For the Lord only knows what’ll be made of the findings – or indeed how they will be used, in quite partisan ways, to drive further wedges into a future self-interested stratification of our nation.
But here’s a pointer if you still don’t fully understand the potential implications. Try substituting the word “class” in the title of this survey with the word “caste” – and then see how you feel about it all:
Caste is a form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a style of life which often includes an occupation, ritual status in a hierarchy, and customary social interaction and exclusion based on cultural notions of purity and pollution. [...]
Ring any bells? Does to me, anyhow.
There is, after all, a very fine line between simply describing a situation and ending up prescribing it – especially through the critical framework you elect and the publicity you give to its launch. And the launch that has been given does, I’m afraid, make me doubt its future political neutrality.
In fact, whatever happened to the idea we were all human beings? You know, those human beings at the suffering edge of 21st century history, who were encouraged so firmly to find ourselves “all in it together”.
Oh, these button-pressing, number-crunching academic, political and business leaders! What blessed obsessions with getting to know us via our stats they do exhibit.
Don’t you really just love ‘em?