Social Class and Inequalities

Module code: SY2075

Module co-ordinator: Dr Jackie Sanchez Taylor

Debates around the Channel 4 programme 'Benefits Street' (2014) highlighted some of the problems with making 'poverty entertainment'. Research shows that, although these types of programmes are popular, few people in the UK connect them to class inequalities. It seems rather old fashioned to think about 'class' and people are uncertain how 'class' might shape their lives or what it means.

Theorists have even asked whether class is dead. Yet increasingly society is concerned with the gap between rich and poor and the persistence of economic and social inequalities based on gender and race. This is therefore an exciting time to study class and social inequalities as these questions are framing political and moral discourse on a wide range of issues.

In this module we will start by thinking about how class has been conceptualised traditionally. We will then look at contemporary changes in class formation, the development of neoliberal discourses, and the ways that culture and consumption affect our understandings of class identity. We will examine how gender, race, sexuality, migration, and embodiment can have an impact on access to rights and citizenship, how they operate parallel to class, and how they intersect with class to shape social inequalities.

By linking class to other forms of social exclusion, we will explore the processes that create inequalities of opportunity and how dominant discourses tend to normalise these inequalities.

You will be encouraged to bring examples from current debates in the news and media to the seminars. You will also be allocated a presentation topic that will open a specific seminar discussion. 

Topics covered

  • Is class dead?
  • Why do we often blame the poor for their poverty?
  • Is social mobility important?
  • Why are ideas about racial and ethnic differences so embedded in society?
  • Why does your sexuality matter to the state?
  • What is the link between obesity and poverty?
  • Why is exclusion from citizenship so detrimental?

Learning

  • Eighteen one-hour lectures
  • Eight one-hour seminars

Assessment

A portfolio of 4,000 words consisting of:

  • a critical review of a media programme (55%)
  • a critical review of an article (30%)
  • a short reflection piece on your learning (15%)