Class analysis can be broadly defined as ‘the empirical investigation of the consequences and corollaries of the existence of a class structure defined ex-ante” (Breen & Rottman, 1995, 453). Based on a definition, the sociologist then finds out the extent to which differences in life style and life chances amongst individuals are formatted according to the class structure, as is perceived within the concerned society. Life chances within a social stratification are dependent on many external factors. These are: “health, income and wealth; education; life expectancy; infant mortality; housing; consumer goods ownership; access to leisure” (Sociology intermediate 1 and 2, 2006, 16).
The presence of classes within the UK social structure was brought into prominence in 1980, after the publication of the Black Report, which showed that there were large differences in the mortality rates amongst the British working classes. It highlighted the fact that inequalities within the UK social structure were very much present. The report dispersed the myth, and the utopian feeling that was so prevalent amongst the pre-80s British mindset, which believed that UK was moving towards becoming an egalitarian society, where class divisions and inequalities based on socio-economic factors did not play much role. In this article I will take up this concept of ‘class’ and examine it from various perspectives (social theories), while analysing the various common notions and annotations associated with the term class. The outward manifestation of the disparity in social classes, like the ‘economic standing (wealth and income), prestige, and power’ will be discussed, along with the various factors that come under the purview of life chances, which are dependent on this ‘class’ aspect; all the time keeping in view and focussing on the social conditions of UK, as is prevalent in today’s context.