• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Did Britain become a Classless Society after 1945?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Did Britain become a Classless Society after 1945? Matthew Woodward - The Road from 1945: Britain since the Second World War Social class in Britain played a key factor in determining a citizen's wealth, political power, education opportunities and more generally a person's lifestyle. The Cambridge International Dictionary of English defines class as "a group of people within society who have the same economical and social position" whilst Karl Marx argued that class was an 'economic category'1. Towards the end of the Second World War it was becoming increasingly suggestive that the British social classes were beginning to merge together in order to form what for former Prime Minister Harold Wilson once described as a 'classless' society. Social classes in Britain are traced back as far as the Industrial Revolution, seeing that it provided different parts of the country with various speeds of progress. The struggle of the working class and the dominance of capitalism highlighted class importance all throughout the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century. Since 1945, political events, traditions, national characteristics and consequences of the war all had an impact on the forms of class. Social analyst Michael Young argued that 'the lower classes no longer have a distinctive ideology with the ethos of society'2 suggesting that there was no reason for the British working class to exist. ...read more.

Middle

hand, historians such as Peter Hennessy debated that the Second World War "accelerated and extended [...] so many other areas of national life"9, complimenting Ross McKibbin's studies which suggested that the working class had experienced a positive outcome from the war, as it boosted 'social esteem and political power' along with 'a mild redistribution of income due to the abolition of large scale unemployment'10. The British working class achieved better living standards, notably as the average weekly wage rose from �6 eight shillings in 1950 to �11 two shillings in 1959.11 This provided larger consumer opportunity, which arguably widened the working class as they started to indulge in the widespread luxury of booming consumerism. British Historian Jony Judt explained that with rising real wages, working class families could survive on the income of the primary wage earner, whereas if both parents worked, the family could taste the lavishness the affluent society. This increase in disposable income meant that many working class families could afford commodities such as cars and washing machines, which previously could only be afforded by the middle and upper classes. This is argued by Andrew Marr as he states "as they acquired their new cars and explored their new supermarkets [...] a new country was breaking through - brightly coloured, fashionable, less masculine."12 Thus showing the working class's centrifugal movement towards the ...read more.

Conclusion

On the surface, class was perceived as irrelevant and outdated as modern generations enjoyed the same education, opportunities, popular culture and leisure time which suggests that distinctions of the old social classes disappeared. However, this was not the case as we still define ourselves by our origins, as seen is 'Britain Today' (2007) where bank managers, traditionally a position of the middle classes, defined themselves as working class - showing that social mobility had increased opportunities although this did not affect the way define ourselves, this can be seen as Cannadine argued that "it is widely believed, both in Britain and abroad, that the British are obsessed with class in a way that other nations are obsessed with food or race or sex or drugs or alcohol."17 Overall this indicates that Britain never was a classless society, despite social reforms that blurred the lines of distinction between the social classes and on the surface erased divisions within society. Below the surface people still defined themselves by their upbringing the social class of their parents, making it obvious that Britain remained a social divided nation, although this is seen as the younger generations as irrelevant. But this does not mean that they are any less important. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree 1950-1999 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

This essay is a good attempt to answer the question and provides a reasonable argument and evidence to support it. It would be improved by exploring the definitions of class more closely, specifically whether it was economic, social or cultural, and whether this changed over time. This would give a more nuanced argument.

4 stars.

Marked by teacher Rachel Smith 29/05/2012

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree 1950-1999 essays

  1. What are the major factors that led to the end of the cold war?

    up with the USA is a major factor in the USA becoming a hegemon, and the ending of the Cold War. The USSR's centralised, command economy was geared on producing military equipment, paid for by the sale of oil. This led to long standing systemic problems in the economy that

  2. Assess the contribution of local grass root activists in the civil rights movement

    For example with the Montgomery Bus Boycott "working-class blacks walked miles to their jobs...Black taxis lowered rates to the same dime fare that buses charged and crammed riders in" 1 . This demonstrates the strong bond between the ethnic community as everyone is willing to do their bit for the

  1. The Causes of the Korean War in 1950

    It would also be useful to consider how the involvement of external parties escalated the situation. By and large, though, it is to a great extent true that Moscow had the most determinant role to play in the outbreak of the Korean War.

  2. Coming of Age in Mississippi. Anne Moodys memoir, Coming of Age in Mississippi, ...

    Anne's mother moves the family off of the plantation and eventually settles in Centreville. By the time Anne is in fourth grade, she begins working after school to help support her family. Even though much of her free time is being spent devoted to work, Anne manages to excel in

  1. Explain the origins of the Cold War.

    met again in the German city of Potsdam to discuss the fate of Germany. The Soviet Union, wanted to use German industry to rebuild their economy, but the United States knew that the Soviet economy was in a state of near-collapse.

  2. A study into how much John F. Kennedy was responsible for the ...

    However Peter Wyden?s book Bay of Pigs: The Untold Story is a primary source that is not exclusively biased towards Kennedy. Other primary source material comes from the John F. Kennedy online archives, and throughout this study memorandums that were sent to John Kennedy, that have been declassified are also used in this study.

  1. Assess the success and failures of Thatcherism.

    Labour?s defeat also meant that it would allow Thatcher to ?reverse the relative decline from which Britain was acknowledged to be suffering?. Furthermore to break from the ?Post-war consensus?, which characterized Britain?s governing tradition since 1945. The first Thatcher government was probably the most pragmatic; she was elected with a working majority of 43.

  2. Change in an Indian Village. Analysis of Charlotte and William Wiser's "Behind ...

    They worked almost entirely in mud enclosures. Their days were spent largely in menial labor, ensuring that their family could subside on a day-to-day basis. Their days began at dawn, when they gathered water for their family and their daily tasks of cooking, brushing, and cleaning.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work