A couple of years ago, while working as a criminology tutor, I asked my students if they thought of themselves as belonging to a particular economic or social class. The topic for that week was Marxist theories of crime, and I figured that drawing on the students’ own experiences might be a good way to get a discussion going about this cornerstone of Marxist thought.

As expected, most described themselves as middle-class. In one tutorial, though, almost every one of the 20 or so students politely though firmly informed me that there was no such thing as class. Anything people wanted could be theirs, if they were willing to work hard enough for it.

I suggested that what they perceived as the absence of class was in fact instances of class mobility. This line of argument was just as quickly shot down. One student levelled me with the kind of look usually reserved for bringing a well-meaning though hopelessly out of touch great aunt up to speed on current trends. With a mixture of pity and amusement in her voice, she said: “Although class may have been a fact of life in your day, it no longer is.”

I was 28 years of age at the time, little more than 10 years her senior.

Read the full article on The Age.

 

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