Last Saturday saw a very large and enthusiastic gathering of Equality Trust supporters and activists at Inequality Today, our annual conference. They came to see a preview of the beautifully filmed and thought-provoking documentary, The Divide, (produced by Dartmouth Films) which is inspired by The Spirit Level book - and to listen to Professor Mike Savage of the London School of Economics talk about the findings in his new book Social Class in the 21st Century.
The afternoon started with The Divide which looks at the lives of people affected by inequality, in both the UK and US, across the income spectrum. It documents the corrosive aspects of living in very unequal societies where the rich are pulling away from the rest of us. It very powerfully exposes how inequality undermines the quality of our lives and our relationships with others, in obvious and less obvious ways.
After the break, the compelling vignettes provided by The Divide were admirably supplemented and corroborated by the findings from Mike Savage's new book which summarises the latest findings from the team of sociologists responsible for the Great British Class Survey. Key findings noted by Professor Savage included:
* The crystallisation of elite politics, with a "wealth elite" becoming increasingly powerful
* Elite institutions are generating advantage at the top
* There's been a pulling ahead of the managerial classes
* A "top-end" effect is at play, people at the very top are living very different lives even to those in the class just beneath them
* The most significant new classes are the 'elite' at the very top and 'precariat' at the bottom - the picture in the middle is more "fuzzy".
In summary, over last 30-40 years, the accumulation of economic capital has been at the heart of the remaking of class in the UK and even though inequality is bad now, it seems likely it will get worse because of the elite's grip on power and resources. However, more optimistically, Professor Savage noted that the resurgence of interest in inequality in recent years has been fundamental to a renewed interest in social class. People care about these issues.
A key element in tackling inequality is to forge a widespread understanding of the scale and damage of inequality and this has always been a key goal of The Equality Trust. There is good, recent evidence that the UK population is becoming increasingly concerned by inequality and poverty and you can help us drive the issue even higher up the list of the nation's concerns by supporting our work or joining or forming a local equality group or by tackling inequality and poverty right where you live.
Bill Kerry, Supporters & Local Groups Manager