How relevant do you think class & urban-rural divides will be in the future?
In the context of Canadian society, both class and urban-rural cleavages will be subdued going forward. Firstly, the Canadian social and economic backdrop is grounded on compassion and prosperity (Brooks, 2012). On the economic front, Canada over the last decade has seen unemployment fluctuate between 6 to 9 percent. Using unemployment as a leading indicator for deep class stratification and perpetuated social divides among Canadians, we have witnessed much more stable employment rates than in the past. In fact, according to Bloomberg the last decade showcased considerably lower unemployment rate on average and with less volatility than the previous decade from the early ‘90s (Bloomberg). At the same time, Canada has witnessed explosive growth from GDP to wages. These economic forces combine providing dimensions of equality; equality of outcome and importantly opportunity. In turn, socio-economic mobility prevails; the ability of Canadians, individually and as a family unit (or groups), to move from one social position to another, effectively blurring rigid class cleavages (and in some ways also urban-rural divides) (Brooks, 2012). This translates into reduced entry barriers to higher paying jobs and prestigious status groups; even social/business clubs nowadays are based merely on meritocracy and ambition rather than class. What political scientists coin an “open society”; is apparent and will expand more so overtime. I believe the days of the corporate elite, who as defined by Porter circa 1950s, is a social network that reproduces itself largely (and almost exclusively) through self-recruitment is over. The “social capital” of its members (as John Porter put it), whereby elite education (for instance through schools like McGill and UofT, to name a few) paired with club membership also known as networking is now widely accessible to all those deserving and willing. I would even go on to argue that deliberate discrimination has troughed. For example, most institutions have little intent to treat members belonging to a certain group as unequal. Even in cases where the intent exists, it is not acted upon; in light of the ethics importance society now places upon decision-makers. Therefore, in a lot of ways the class cleavages that existed before have been reduced, and I strongly believe they will be once again tampered.
Furthermore, another reason class division is becoming irrelevant is through politics. Once upon a time, the rich voted for the conservatives and those with more limited means, liberal (at least in Canada). We are now seeing a shift in Canadian politics whereby the biggest supporters of the Harper government are in fact middle class Canadians (Akin, 2014). All this to say, even within politics we are seeing a change in Canadian voting habits and less division where it was once rich equals conservative vs. middle, liberal. In fact, the New York Times recently released data on middle-class income putting Canada’s middle class in line with America’s in terms of income (Horgan, 2014). This illustrates class differences are no longer as divisive along political lines. Moreover, this is due to class cleavages having lesser and lesser significance. The divides are no longer as strong as they were in the past. You now have rich liberals and rich conservatives, middle liberals and middle conservatives.
On another note, the widened gap between rich and poor is concerning. This may pressure cleavages to re-emerge as they were and become once again strong. However, today more than ever educational attainment and occupation are the backbone of class (Brooks, 2012). With increasing proportions of Canadians attaining post-secondary degrees and attaining prestigious occupations while maintaining the open society structure; class cleavages are more likely to diminish, despite short-term risks…