In this book on the class structure in Britain, Ferdinand Mount starts with an historical analysis of the different interpretations of what is meant by `class', taking his examples largely from the history of the past 200 years. This includes such things as the roles of education, social convention, earnings and personal expectations. The meat of the book is his assertion that the worst-off in Britain today are more culturally deprived than their parents or grandparents. The evidence he cites for this includes the destruction of institutions created and used by working people, such as Literary Institutes with libraries, Friendly Societies for health provision, and non conformist chapels and churches. This has mainly been due to the actions of the middle class, which has assumed that `they know best'. This attitude is now endemic, with television channels condescendingly showing mainly an endless diet of mindless trashy soaps, panel games, and celebrity chat shows. Politicians, dominantly middle class, have also played an important role in establishing state education and health provision, but the noble ideals behind these have not been fully realized, leading to much frustration. Despite this, Parliament still enacts legislation that intrudes further into our lives, removing the need for self-help, without correcting, or often even admitting, mistakes of the past. As a consequence, there is a lessening of taking responsibility for oneself and one's family, and an increased expectation that `others will take care of things'. The result is a growing gap, cultural, educational and economic, between the `Uppers' and the `Downers', as Mount calls them, and increasing despair amongst the latter. It is a depressing picture.
Having read (and reviewed for Amazon) Ferdinand Mount's excellent book "The new Few: or a Very British Oligarchy", I looked forward to reading this book on the class divide in Britain, but I was a little disappointed. The writing is beautifully clear and the arguments made are well supported, but the emphasis is too much on history, even although the book was updated in 2010. (Incidentally, contrary to one reviewer's assertion, the word `Chav' does appear several times.) Nevertheless, it is a thought-provoking book and well worth reading, even if you do not agree with the author's views.