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.

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