BASS Politics and Sociology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Social Class and Inequality in Britain

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOCY20601
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course will consider the re-emergence of social class as a primary category of a sociological understanding and analysis and assess its significance for interpreting contemporary inequalities and recent political developments. Set against the backdrop of post-war social and cultural change in Britain, it will begin by tracing the declining salience of class in sociological theory and political discourse before considering the recent development and impact of a more culturally sensitive model of class analysis associated, in particular, with the work Pierre Bourdieu. It will then move on to examine how the key mechanisms of class formation are conceptualised and operationalised by researchers, paying particular attention to debates about social mobility, education and meritocracy. A third section will consider the relationship between lifestyle and classed cultures, the politics of classification, and issues of intersectionality between class, gender and ethnicity. Finally, the course will look at the particular role of elites in defining class-based spatial inequalities and political alignments in ‘Brexit Britain’.


The course unit aims to:

•       Locate the concept of social class in sociological understandings of socio-cultural change in Britain;

•       Critically examine the role of social class in identity formation, inequalities, and the power in contemporary British society;

•       Provide theoretical frameworks and empirical materials to allow students to explore class indicators, processes, relationships and phenomena, and the contexts in which they occur.

Teaching and learning methods

Lecture-style material will be delivered weekly through a mix of up to one hour pre-recorded (i.e. asynchronous) content and one hour live (i.e. synchronous) lecturer-led classes. Additionally, weekly one hour small-group tutorials will be delivered on-campus as long as government guidelines allow, otherwise they will be delivered online.

The lecture component of the lecture-workshop sessions will focus on framing key theoretical developments and contributions to the literature on respective session themes, making use of classic texts in the field and recent debates in key journals, together with illustrations using media and data. Workshop discussion and group work will be organised around the reading of text extracts, interpretation of media material, and exercises with data (quantitative and qualitative). Video materials will be suggested as recommended viewing in advance of particular workshops and shorter video or audio materials will be used within teaching sessions.  

The course will utilise Blackboard to deliver the module’s course content, core readings, lecture slides, any supplementary materials such as video materials, and communication.

Knowledge and understanding

•       Understand the development of class theory in historical, cultural and political context;

•       Understand different analytical and empirical approaches to studying processes of class formation;

•       Be able to apply theoretical, empirical and recent historical knowledge to the understanding of contemporary socio-cultural inequalities and power relations.

Intellectual skills

•       Evaluate competing analytical perspectives;

•       Assess the strengths and weaknesses of empirical evidence;

•       Process material available from academic (including research data), media and policy sources to make effective arguments;

•       Develop and apply a critical approach to academic, media and policy texts.

Practical skills

•       Use library and electronic/media sources and resources;

•       Use quantitative and qualitative data;

•       Undertake and present independent research.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

•       Present ideas, ask questions and support the learning of others in group discussion;

•       Collaborate with others to develop ideas and make presentations;

•       Develop a reflective and critical and approach to contemporary debates about culture, class and inequality.

Assessment methods

Non-assessed mid-term written coursework submission .

ASSESSED - Written end-of-semester coursework (2000 words, 100%)

Feedback methods

All sociology courses include both formative feedback - which lets you know how you’re getting on and what you could do to improve - and summative feedback - which gives you a mark for your assessed work.

Recommended reading

Anthias, F. (2001). ‘The material and the symbolic in theorising social stratification: issues of gender, ethnicity and class.’ British Journal of Sociology, 52, 3.

Bottero, W. (2005). Stratification: social division and inequality. London: Routledge.

Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. New York: Routledge.

Bukodi, E., Goldthorpe, J.H., Waller, L., and J. Kuha (2014). ‘The Mobility Problem in Britain: New Findings from the Analysis of Birth Cohort Data.’ British Journal of Sociology, 66,1.

Evans, G and Tilley, J. (2017). The New Politics of Class. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Grusky, D. 2011 (ed), Social Stratification; class, race and gender in sociological perspective. Boulder: Westview.

Miles, A. Savage, M., Bühlmann , F. (2011). ‘Telling a Modest Story. Accounts of Men’s Upward Mobility from the National Child Development Study’. British Journal of Sociology, 62, 3.

Payne, G. (2017). The New Social Mobility. Bristol: Policy Press.

Roberts, K. (2011). Class in Contemporary Britain. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Savage, M. (2000). Class analysis and social transformation. Milton Keynes: Open University.

Savage, M., Cunningham, N., Devine, F., Friedman, S., Laurison, D., McKenzie, L., Miles, A., Snee, H., Taylor. M., Wakeling, P. (2015). Social Class in the 21st Century, London: Pelican.

Skeggs, B. (2004). Class, Self, Culture. London: Routledge.

Tyler, I. (2013). Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain: London: Zed Books.

Wright, E.O. (ed.) (2005). Approaches to Class Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Verdine Etoria Unit coordinator

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