How can one approach writing a research paper comparing the importance of social class in 18th-19th century England, as seen in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, with the importance of class in today's society?
One way to approach a research project/essay on the importance of class now vs. the importance of class in England during the Regency period is by examining whether or not we still view class as having an effect on society. You will also want to decide if you want to compare Regency England to England today or to America today. Comparing Regency England to today's England could make more sense, although interestingly, you may find that both regions today have the same things to say about class. One current hot topic concerning the effects of class in today's society argues that while we like to deny it and have seen many improvements, the truth is that class still has a great effect on an individual's success.
Current research is showing that, in America, it used to be "each generation's prospects were better than those of the last one," regardless of where the generation was born, such as in the ghettos vs. the suburbs. However, this was seen during points of economic boom, but now that the economy has faltered, we are seeing that the lower classes are receiving fewer and fewer opportunities (McMurrer & Sawill, "The Declining Importance of Class"). Research is finding that if a parent has a certain economic background and a certain skill set, the offspring is more likely to have the same skill set and remain at the same economic level. In addition, "Children of blue collar workers [are] significantly more likely to work in blue collar occupations ... men with white collar origins are almost twice as likely as those with blue collar origins to end up in upper white collar jobs" (McMurrer & Sawill). While our society currently believes in and strives for equality, it seems that there are still some social situations, like class, that even policy can't put an end to. Hence, while we no longer view class as significant, research is showing that it still greatly effects society.
The same is holding true for research completed in England. While John Prescott, the Labour party's deputy leader in 1997, once declared, "We are all middle class now," other authority figures have pointed out that social class is still a determining factor of how successful a child will be. As Gordon Brown, prime minister of 2007-2010, once said:
We need to be honest with ourselves: while poverty has been reduced and the rise in inequality halted, social mobility has not improved in Britain as we would have wanted ... A child's social class background at birth is still the best predictor of how well he or she will do at school and later on in life. (Kirkup & Pierce, "Harriet Harman: Social Class")
Hence, even in both regions there is still a relation seen between a person's origins and social and economic growth.