The New Social Mobility
How the Politicians Got It Wrong

Two: Log cabins and field marshals’ batons


A good starting point for re-interpreting contemporary mobility is older views of social mobility, because these ideas shape our interpretations of mobility. Older ‘traditional’ societies with low rates of mobility were contrasted ‘modern’ society, in a dichotomy. But the economic development creating ‘modern’ societies is associated with increased mobility. Political and social theory has interpreted this in various ways, from desirably releasing under-used talent, through offering a safety valve to release working class discontent, to a process which bleeds off potential lower class leaders into the ruling class. As one factor sustaining the status quo, and legitimating elite rule, in contemporary societies, belief that there is meritocratic upward mobility is as important as the actual level of mobility. Mobility is a political issue.

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