Monday, 17 August 2015

The secret garden? Élite metropolitan geographies in the contemporary UK

an article by Niall Cunningham (Durham University) and Mike Savage (LSE) published in The Sociological Review Volume 63 Issue 2 (May 2015)


There is an enduring, indeed increasing, awareness of the role of spatial location in defining and reinforcing inequality in this country and beyond.

In the UK, much of the debate around these issues has focussed on the established trope of a long-standing ‘north-south divide’, a divide which appears to have deepened in recent decades with the inexorable de-industrialisation of northern Britain presented in stark counterpoint to the burgeoning concentration of wealth in London and the south-east, driven by the financial and ancillary services sectors.

Due to a lack of available data, such debates have tended to focus solely on economic inequalities between places, and until now there was little understanding of how these disparities played out in the social and cultural domains. This paper significantly advances our understanding of the true meaning of spatial inequality in the UK by broadening that definition to encompass not only the economic, but also the social and cultural arenas, using data available from the BBC’s Great British Class Survey experiment.

We argue that these data shine a light not only on the economic inequalities between different parts of the country which existing debates have already uncovered but to understand how these are both reinforced and mediated across the social and cultural dimensions.

Fundamentally, we concur with a great many others in seeing London and the south-east as a vortex for economic accumulation but it is also much more than that; it is a space where the coming together of intense economic, social and cultural resources enables the crystallisation of particular and nuanced forms of élite social class formations, formations in which place is not incidental but integral to their very existence.

No comments: