9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS13 Re-Assessing Class in Contemporary Sociology

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Structuring Class: Perceptions, Mobility and Difference Building I, 1E11

The Limits of the Cosmopolitan Vision: Class, Mobility and Mindset

Ulrich Beck has argued that the "cosmopolitan vision" that sociology must adopt if it is to understand the contemporary social landscape necessitates a shift away from concepts of old. In particular, he claims that the notion of social class is now redundant, trapped within a flawed "methodologically nationalist" perspective, and unable to account for - even obscuring - the new forms of border-spanning inequality that really matter today. This paper takes issue with this approach. Pulling out some of the theoretical weaknesses of Beck's vision and drawing on a recently completed qualitative research project based in the UK city of Bristol, it argues that class, as defined by Pierre Bourdieu, not only remains as important as ever in terms of objective life paths and subjective perception but, crucially, seems to underlie some of the supposedly "cosmopolitan" ways of being observed. This is not to deny the existence and importance of cosmopolitan forms of inequality, but the paper provides a counter to exaggerated statements on the future of sociology by asserting their interaction with long-standing intra-national divisions.