Application of sociology to a few recent news events.
1. The Death of the Duke of Westminster
Following the death of his father, the new Duke of Westminster has inherited a £9 bn fortune – making him the third richest person in Britain. This is clearly relevant to sociology in lots of ways –
Firstly, it’s a stark reminder of the staggering extent of inequality between the very wealthiest and the rest of us. If you want to fire up a sense of injustice – keep in mind that this wealth is unearned, this guy did absolutely nothing to earn it and thus in no way deserves it by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. He now owns ‘half of London’ – people with properties in Mayfair will now be paying ‘ground rent’ to the Duke – just because there’s a law in place which says they have to pay him ground rent. (What was that Chambliss said about capitalism, private property and the law?)
Secondly, it’s a reminder that the law effectively applies differently to the rich compared to the rest of us – If the duke had paid the standard 40% UK inheritance tax on his new unearned wealth, that would have given the British tax coffers a £3.5 bn boost – but instead the wealth is held in various trust funds, so the new Duke in effect paid 0% tax.
Thirdly, there’s the not insignificant fact of his sisters – the male Duke was third born, he get’s the wealth, not his two older sisters.
2. Reflections on Neoliberalism
Martin Jacque’s article on the death of neoliberalism is effectively a round up of recent news events and a convincing analysis of how they suggest that neoliberalism is no longer hegemonic (even citing Gramsci) and is actually in its death throws. (A brief introduction to neoliberalism here).
The author argues that there is a growing number of people and organisations actively seeking political solutions to neoliberal hypergloablism – that is the free movement of capital around the world. He cites the following (some are quite obvious examples others less so) as evidence –
- Most importantly, neoliberalism has stopped bringing economic growth – we are still feeling the slowdown from the last crisis almost 10 years later.
- Joint most importantly – the consequences of neoliberalism’s biggest failing – increasing inequality are becoming more and more evident.
- Donald Trump’s increased political influence – he’s basically an anti-neoliberal economic nationalist
- the vote for BREXIT
- Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity
- 48% of Americans now identify as working class, it was only 33% in 2000
- The popularity of left-wing economists such as Pickerty, Ha-Joon Chang and Krugman (excuse spelling)
Jacques also notes that we don’t actually know what the alternative is yet, and the conservatives seem to be oblivious to it, but there is mounting evidence that neoliberalism as usual isn’t working.
3. The Olympics
Obviously anyone with any sense doesn’t define sport as newsworthy, but the mainstream media does and there’s been a real love-in with the Olympics over the past three weeks. Or to be more specific, the elitist upper-middle class media’s had a real love-in with the disproportionately privately-schooled Team GB.
Digging behind the rather shallow obsession with winning and league tables the Olympics actually offers us not only a painful reminder of the UK’s class divide, but also a nice illustration of the relevance of Giddens’ structuration theory – see ‘A Sociological Analysis of The Olympics’ for a few thoughts.
Meanwhile, the working classes remain sat on their sofas, eating crisps, getting fatter, being northern and just plain wrong. I’m fairly sure ITV’s switch off for an hour won’t make any difference.