Social Mobility vs. Social Structure

More Social Mobility versus Social Structural Change

Dr. Andrew McCulloch, Social Science Centre, Lincoln.

Essay Abstract

Commentators in the UK have recently expressed concern about the current lack of social mobility in the UK. There is widespread political party support for the idea that the UK should be a meritocracy. The UK had enjoyed a relatively long period of easy, widespread upward social mobility because of changes in the social structure, such as the decline in manufacturing employment and the increase in white-collar employment. This is not a meritocracy in action as a meritocracy logically involves both upward and downward social mobility. This easy period appears to be coming to an end. Hence, there is the emergence of this somewhat misplaced concern about social mobility. Moreover, there are strong hints that there are the beginnings of meaningful downward mobility in the precarious world of neo-liberalism. The article also tries to clarify some common conceptual and empirical misunderstandings about social mobility and meritocracy.

Download the essay: ‘More Social Mobility versus Social Structural Change

Notes for Know-how (fifth session): Community, connections, methods, mad world

13th November

Dog and Bone Pub, 10 John Street, Lincoln @dogbonelincoln

Present: Andrew, Lucy, Gerard, Laura, Tim, Martha, Joss, Mike

Localism in the Local

We had agreed to meet in the local pub as a way of making more contact with the local community. The Dog and Bone is not only an award winning CAMRA (Real Ale) pub, but hosts the meetings for many community groups.

Community Development Projects

We discussed the Community Development Projects (CDP) from the 1970s. This was publically funded local research across a range of issues of general concern: unemployment, housing, health, welfare. The publications from the programme are all well produced, written in an accessible academic style with photographs and illustrations. They are usually very critical of government policy. We decided this is a good model on which we might frame some of our own work

We heard about work to develop a transnational co-operative university, including the Cooperative College,  Co-ops UK, academics and agencies and a range of other people. There is as yet no clear idea of what the form this facility would take but it might be arranged horizontally as a network of different types of institutions and structures that respond to local need.

Local evaluations and community connections

Members of the group have strong local connections and we heard about previous research and evaluation projects that they had been involved with in Abbey Ward. One of the group raised the concern that this kind of work that we are developing had been tried before and often not very successfully. They were particularly concerned about our relationship with Abbey Ward. This led to a fuller discussion about the meaning of the concept ‘community’. One of the points that came out of this discussion was how we might connect with other localities in Lincoln, for example, the St Giles ward, where other members of the Centre live.

Research methodology and methods

The programme is still in the process of deciding how to frame the research that we will be doing. One idea that emerged from the meeting is that members might want to organise a research project around their own occupations, particularly those who are working in Abbey Ward in areas of social concern. We discussed that this is not simply about content, what they do every day at work, but how they frame that research: what kind of research method and methodology they might use.

The Enemy Within

One kind of research method is film documentary. One of the group had been to see the film ‘Still The Enemy Within’, about the miners strike in the 1980s. ‘The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners’  is the title of a book by the Guardian journalist, Seamus Milne using a journalistic methodology.

Extending the network

The group heard about contacts that had been made with local groups, including meetings with Lynsey Collinson at  Development Plus and the council’s Neighbourhood Development Officer, Paul Carrick. Both of these local community development workers are very positive about the SSC and are keen to support the work we are doing. They have given us a number of people and agencies to contact, including immigrant groups. Meetings are to be arranged with these contacts to discuss ways of taking the research forward programme forward. One idea is to write a history of the area based on the experiences of residents and their own writings and recordings. It emerged from the discussion with the Lynsey and Paul that there are many immigrants living in Abbey Ward with experience of higher education, but have difficulty maintaining an  ‘intellectual life’ given the difficulty in accessing higher education without incurring high levels of debt.

New Deal for Communities

The main part of the session was taken up discussing a paper, written by one of the members of the group, Andrew McCulloch, and published in Capital and Class in 1984 on ‘Localism and its Neoliberal Applications’. The paper was about a more recent government funded community development programme, New Deal for Communities, with reference to a particular programme in the North East of England. This was a wide ranging discussion, including the nature of the concept of community, research methodology and methods, research ethics, and the role of the police. An important issue was the way in which the local state had come to control and contain acts of local activism  in ways that perverted the original aims of the New Deal programme.  We also discussed forms of  resistance to the state that members of the group had been involved with, including squatting in Amsterdam, Climate Camp and Reclaim the Streets. All agreed what a deeply politicising experience this had been for those who took part in these actions.

On Know-how

At the end of the meeting the comment was made that the programme does not have a set objective that is likely to be recuperated by the state, but that we are learning for ourselves and with others how to do research about things that have meaning and purpose for us in this local context. An important aspect of the research process is sustaining and nuturing the SSC. In that sense it is not possible to say that this work had been tried before and had failed.

The meeting ended at 8.55. We agreed to meet next week at Croft Street Community Centre, but that we should return to the Dog and Bone about once a month. The reading for next week is an evaluation undertaken recently by Martha on Abbey Ward.

Sound track

While we sat and talked and drank some beers and juice and coke and water songs were played out of the pubs audio system. These songs included:

Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’; George Michael’s:  You Gotta Have Faith; Huey Newton’s  Power of Love ;  Paul Simon’s Call me Al; Tears for Fears’: Everybody  Wants to Rule the World; Tracey Chapman’s Fast Car and Don MacLean’s American Pie.