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The paradox of class

Britain's famous obsession with class is, paradoxically, the result of an unusually high level of social mobility

By David Willetts   February 1999

Class is to Britain what sex is to teenagers-more talked about than practised. Stein Ringen of Oxford University has argued persuasively that: “What is peculiar to Britain is not the reality of the class system and its continuing existence, but class psychology: the preoccupation with class, the belief in class, and the symbols of class in manners, dress, and language.” David Cannadine’s book takes that as its starting point. He then identifies three very different models of a class structure which we jumble up with “sociological meldings and taxanomical glissades.”

His first model he calls hierarchical, with an infinity of…

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