One and a million

by | May 18, 2017 | Global inequalities | 0 comments

by Robyn Cullerton

‘But, how?’ is the key question we should be asking ourselves. While conservative economists and right-wing politicians are promoting a neo-liberal economy where the market decides, the masses are comforted with the promise that, with patience, wealth ‘trickles down.’ In reality, without drastic and structural reforms such as the abolition of capitalism itself, wealth will forever be pocketed by the super rich, silently bleeding the world dry. By focusing on British society in the context of an almost globalised world, it’s clear that local and global inequality is growing in coherence with capitalism and consumerism. I believe resource inequality to be of most importance as there is not much that money can’t buy (Sandel 2012). Although Therborn (2014) notes that typical studies of inequality focus on income, it is of equal importance to concentrate on how the poor in the UK and the rest of the world are demonised by politicians and the media, helping to prevent equal access amongst all social strata.

Due to this demonization, decisions are accepted such as the Education Maintenance Allowance being scrapped in 2011. This went to children from financially difficult backgrounds to pay for transport, food, and equipment, yet words such as ‘bribe’ were used in the media to describe it instead of words with positive connotations. While the youth are already demonised, only likely to be portrayed in an admirable manner when met with a ‘violent and untimely death,’ it is my opinion that this is a strategic move from the bourgeoisie and the government to justify welfare cuts like the EMA. The fact that the EMA cut was in 2011 makes it no less relevant than if it was yesterday, equal opportunity is irrelevant if equal access is non-existent. Although the inequality of access is something I focus on, it is important to remember this stems from income inequality and the two are inextricably linked.

In the UK, it is possible to go to an OFSTED approved ‘outstanding’ comprehensive school. However, certain areas with these renowned schools have higher house prices, essentially pushing the working class into areas deprived of good education. While there are tests to get into these schools from outside of the catchment area, tutors are now costing, on average, £22.30 per hour. Children whose parents can not afford expensive tutoring are therefore clearly disadvantaged when competing against well tutored middle class children for places in these schools. If the child did get in, how could a parent not receiving EMA afford to send their child to school from outside of the catchment area? The simple fact is that they often can’t. Without this equal access to good schooling, the rest of their lives are shaped under the pretense of ‘we live in a meritocracy.’ At the other end of the spectrum in this country are the 7% of children who attend private schools, which offer smaller class sizes alongside a slight sense of superior breeding. Leavers from these schools are more likely to occupy the top professions. For example, 74% of high court judges come from a privately educated background. This leads to another inequality, the criminalisation of the working class.

By “at the other end of the spectrum,” I meant in the educational system but there are almost 70 million children worldwide not in education at all for various reasons, which all contribute to lack of equal access. These people are hard to reach and find data on as it is rare that they have access to the day to day workings of mass society. Murray and other sociologists call these people, in the developed world, the ‘underclass.’ People living on the margins of society, excluded from all access often turning to retreatist actions, drug and alcohol abuse, to cope instead of innovation or rebellion like some other working class male groups (Merton, 1957). Murray (2016) chooses words like ‘feckless,’ to describe the underclass when the reality is that they have been deprived of the wealth at the upper strand of society. By demonising the underclass, the masses do not question how they have been let down by society and how the politicians have allowed these people to slip through the cracks, they merely single them out as failures of the capitalist system.

The question I ask is, how can these people’s children succeed in our so-called meritocracy?

Yet, they are still blamed for their own situation due to greed in the capitalist system. This unsustainable economic structure prevents wealth from trickling down and causes media conglomerates, which are also in the grips of capitalism, to demonise those who have been denied access to society, therefore making inequality an approved social value. If inequality is allowed to expand, the population will continue to grow and the climate will continue change, ending the world as we know it.


Q&A: EMA grants – BBC News. (accessed 5.3.17).
“Hoodies, louts, scum”: how media demonises teenagers | The Independent. (accessed 5.3.17).
Mapped: Where England’s best schools are pushing up house prices – The Telegraph. (accessed 5.3.17).
How much do private tutors cost? – ITV News. (accessed 5.3.17).
Sutton Trust – Independent schools are part of the solution on social mobility. (accessed 5.3.17).
70 million children get no education, says report | Education | The Guardian. (accessed 5.3.17).
Merton, R.K., 1968. Social Theory and Social Structure. Simon and Schuster.
Murray, C., 2016. In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State, Revised, Updated edition. ed. Aei Press, Washington, DC.
Sandel, Michael J., 2012. What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Therborn, G., 2013. The killing fields of inequality. Polity, Cambridge, UK.


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