While reading Respectable , I couldn t help contemplating how I would write my own version, as I ve sometimes considered doing Like Hanley, I spend quite a lot of time thinking about the British class system and its influence on my childhood and education My background is markedly different to Hanley s, but I have a similar sense of having experienced life in multiple parts of the class hierarchy while feeling slightly set apart from them Unsurprisingly, I found her insights fascinating She writes in a thoughtful, careful style that draws out subtle points about class that I hadn t considered before She is wary of simplistic solutions to entrenched inequalities and delicate in her analysis of politics Perhaps the only flaw in the book is that it felt quite short I wanted to hear from her Particularly acute insights included The interesting thing about entering the middle class is that everything you have known is turned on its head You go from being invisible to society, and yet at the same time the object of constant scrutiny and mistrust, to being at once anonymous and in possession of a voice You are trusted to get on with things, and encouraged to go on endlessly about the way in which you do them.That s as neat a description of how privilege plays out in 21st century Britain as I ve ever come across I also liked this concise explanation of class differences in speech Another quality that Bernstein identified in working class speech is its fragmentary nature By sticking with the description of individual events rather than unifying them into a larger narrative, you accept that contingency of things after all, your circumstances may have changed by tomorrow, and in any case what you ve said is likely to have significance only in the specific context in which you said it Middle class speech, by comparison, smacks of grandeur, because it seeks to place feelings and events in a universal context, with the inference that the individual speaker and his perceptions matter in the greater scheme of things In my experience, at the top of middle class and above speech becomes either very self deprecating with tacit subtext of superiority or even grandiose Often both, varying by context and topic.Hanley devotes quite a bit of the book to the school system and how it reproduces the class system She considers the implications of various educational reforms of the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as the decrepit comprehensive school she attended until sixth form This reminded me of a piece of serendipity that has profoundly shaped my life in 1996 I got an assisted place that allowed me to attend a former grammar, now private, single sex high school A year later, Labour won the election and abolished assisted places There is no way I could have attended a fee paying school without what was effectively a means tested scholarship At my local high school, I wouldn t have been able to study German, Latin, or economics my exam results would have been worse I very much doubt I could have got into Cambridge A lot seems to hang on being lucky enough to be born at the right time Of course, plenty of other Labour policies reduced educational inequalities and I feel ambivalent about assisted places despite benefiting hugely from one I benefited because I already had the middle class speech patterns and enthusiasm for learning, without my family having financial resources to shop around for high schools Intangible social capital exerts considerable influence, from childhood into work life As Hanley puts it Upward social mobility is common than downward because it is generationally harder to lose middle class privileges, once you have them, than it is to gain them A family may rapidly lose money through repossession or bankruptcy, for instance but its members can t lose knowledge already gained, qualifications already earned, expectations already entrenched, half as quickly This is something which members of the middle class tend to overlook or underestimate, and which causes them to work harder than they probably need in order to retain those privileges I d add networks to this losing money needn t mean the loss of social contacts, who can provide invaluable signposts to jobs, housing, etc And on the subject of working harder than they need to, I think visibly working hard for excessive hours has become a matter of pride and signifier of privilege in middle class Britain It demonstrates aspiration, suggests that you find your work worthwhile and interesting, and in a weird way has become associated with independence via ostentatious self discipline Under late capitalism, you can exploit yourself for the benefit of international capital Perhaps this fetishisation of hard work also reflects a very neoliberal perception that the richest people, those at the top of the hierarchy that we should be looking up to, work the hardest of all Which is garbage once you have a large enough pile of wealth, you can do nothing whatsoever and let the magic of compound interest take care of you and your descendants I think anything I write about class is likely to be angrier than Hanley s book, as I seem to have ungrateful resentment about the system s hypocrisies than she does Most likely this is thanks to Cambridge, which inculcates a willingness to criticise and sense of entitlement to be heard like nowhere else except Oxford Since the British class system really needs qualitative analysis, I d love to read memoirs of this kind Please recommend me any that you know of For a quantitative analysis of Britain s class system, I suggest Mike Savage s Social Class in the 21st Century. Very readable and therefore I got through it faster than I expected, but also I found a lot in common in terms of life experiences background and trajectory so it was gripping, and deeply thought provoking I ve always had the sense of running away from my upbringing to a better life of my own making, and in recent years been aware of the rift that creates with the past and the people in it This book makes explicit the emotional divide inherent in those choices It also exposes the structural inequalities that mean those who do make it are the exceptions in terms of social mobility, not the proof of success the Thatcher and Blair governments wanted us to believe The ability to live a full life, that is, to fulfil personal potential, is still impossible for large sections of society for entirely unjustifiable reasons I say that having a strong sense of drive and determination and so the individualistic way to look at this would be that if you have enough will hard work whatever, you can still succeed, but the fact is the majority of working class kids and people have to struggle against far harder odds than those already born into middle class privilege, and I don t just mean money although clearly that s very important It s the backwards in high heels problem deriving from the analogy about Fred Ginger she did everything he did, but backwards and in high heels showing that often for underprivileged groups, often women but it applies to class too to reach the same goals you have to struggle through additional, multiple disadvantages Mainly it made me angry. BOTWhttp www.bbc.co.uk programmes b0785nl9Description Journalist Lynsey Hanley s personal exploration of the experience of class in Britain over the past four decades Changing class is like emigrating from one side of the world to the other, where you have to rescind your old passport, learn a new language and make gargantuan efforts if you are not to completely lose touch with the people and habits of your old life, even if they are the relationships and things that are dearest to your heart Class is a subject we re all aware of but rarely talk about aside from the insidious line that we re all middle class now Hanley examines class aspiration and social mobility through the lens of her own life providing a fascinating insight into what it took to leave her home in Chelmsley Wood, a vast council estate near Birmingham, and make her way against the odds through sixth form college, university and on into the world of professional journalism.Received wisdom tells us social mobility is an unequivocally positive phenomenon, for individuals and for society Yet changing class can be a lonely, anxious, psychologically disruptive process, which leaves people divided between the place they left and the place they have to inhabit in order to get on.Blimey, don t think I am going to become too involved with this anthropocentric subject, yet the music it recalls is great Mel Kim RespectableThe Rolling Stones RespectableThis is My Truth Respectable in the 80s Respectable in the 90s Snakes and Ladders From BBC radio 4 Book of the Week Journalist Lynsey Hanley s personal exploration of the experience of class in Britain over the past four decades.2 5 I can draw an outline of the landscape that shaped us with words such as Nice biscuits, pornography, underpasses, 2p bus fares Hanley s childhood spanned the 1980s when she discovered early on the joys and consolations of music, and gained political awareness by observing the ways in which different newspapers covered the Miners Strike 3 5 Growing up in Chelmsley Wood, a vast council estate near Birmingham, she found school to be a mostly disappointing experience Instead, she found solace in the local library and gained knowledge through the pages of music magazines and broadsheet newspapers 4 5 In this episode, Hanley looks at the process of applying for university and of how many students make educational decisions based on their backgrounds old universities for the middle class, new for the working class, limiting potential advantages for the latter.5 5 In this final episode, she looks at the divisive notion, encouraged by politicians of all parties over the past two decades, that we re all middle class now Changing class is like emigrating from one side of the world to the other, where you have to rescind your old passport, learn a new language and make gargantuan efforts if you are not to completely lose touch with the people and habits of your old life, even if they are the relationships and things that are dearest to your heart Class is a subject we re all aware of but rarely talk about aside from the insidious line that we re all middle class now Hanley examines class aspiration and social mobility through the lens of her own life providing a fascinating insight into what it took to leave her home in Chelmsley Wood, a vast council estate near Birmingham, and make her way against the odds through sixth form college, university and on into the world of professional journalism.Received wisdom tells us social mobility is an unequivocally positive phenomenon, for individuals and for society Yet changing class can be a lonely, anxious, psychologically disruptive process, which leaves people divided between the place they left and the place they have to inhabit in order to get on.Written and read by Lynsey HanleyAbridged by Sian Preece.Produced by Kirsteen Cameron.http www.bbc.co.uk programmes b0785nl9 A very good book drawing on the life of the author who was born into working class Britain, and through education moved to become middle class It is, broadly, a study of what it means to be working class, as well as how difficult it is to extract one from it And the failings of successive governments to address it satisfactorily Quite a unique insight and a very interesting book. The premise of this book is a very interesting one, and it s very definitely a book that makes you think I m not sure whether it s about class, or social mobility I think that both of those topics are big enough for a book of their own I m very glad to have read this, it was useful and helpful Having grown up as an expat I m sort of half in half out on the class thing It was, though, a huge relief to get to the end The book is intelligent and well argued But it goes on and on like a well meaning, impassioned, relative with one too many chardonays on board at the lunch table Good book, some great, intelligent arguments.And ranty But probably worth it. A very readable combination of the author s autobiographical reminiscences of growing up as respectable working class on a Birmingham council estate with academic analysis of class divisions in British society.It s a pity it was published too early to include any analysis of the Brexit vote. Society Is Often Talked About As A Ladder, From Which You Can Climb From Bottom To Top The Walls Are Less Talked About This Book Is About How People Try To Get Over Them, Whether They Manage To Or NotIn Autumn , Growing Up On A Vast Birmingham Estate, The Sixteen Year Old Lynsey Hanley Went To Sixth Form College She Knew That It Would Change Her Life, But Was Entirely Unprepared For The Price She Would Have To Pay To Leave Behind Her Working Class World And Become Middle ClassClass Remains Resolutely With Us, As Strongly As It Did Fifty Years Ago, And With It The Idea Of Aspiration, Of Social Mobility, Which Received Wisdom Tells Us Is An Unequivocally Positive Phenomenon, For Individuals And For Society As A Whole Yet For The Many Millions Who Experience It, Changing Class Is Like Emigrating From One Side Of The World To Another A Lonely, Anxious, Psychologically Disruptive Process Of Uprooting, Which Leaves People Divided Between The Place They Left And The Place They Have To Inhabit In Order To Get On In This Empathic, Wry And Passionate Exploration Of Class In Britain Today, Lynsey Hanley Looks At How People Are Kept Apart, And Keep Themselves Apart And The Costs Involved In The Journey From There To Here Superb A moving, touching and funny account of social mobility Hugely thought provoking a great read I could not put it down. BBC Radio 4 Book of the Book interesting historical and locality reminiscences well written.