It seems such a harmless phrase doesn’t it? It so fits with our ambition that folk can progress free from the shackles of poverty, ignorance or conformity. So we use it often.
I don’t like it and I want us to stop using it.
Partly because mobility goes both ways. Up and down. I don’t want people moving up and down the escalator of life. I want them only to move up. I want everyone in the first class seats.
But more because the phrase ‘social mobility’ has become the language of winners and losers.
It’s become associated with tales of folk with what is now called a fabulous back story (another phrase I detest). ‘He was the only the son of an immigrant shopkeeper/bus driver/office cleaner who attended an inner city comprehensive school but went to Oxbridge and became a millionaire banker before dedicating his life (and enormous bank account) to public service’ goes the usual schtick…
It’s the lottery winner strategy – it could be you (but it probably wont be).
It’s the argument used in America that means inheritance tax there effectively starts at…wait for it… $10m. There’s a tiny tiny tiny proportion of Americans who ever have to pay it but try and reduce it to say, $9m – and folks are up in arms, even thought they’ll almost certainly never have to pay it, because you never know – they might win the lottery and they would have to (except they wouldn’t – their relatives would…oh let’s not get into that. Watch this brilliant video from John Oliver who makes that point much better than I will).
But anyway – I’m not interested in social mobility for the winners.
Which is why I’ve started to use the term Social Progression instead. I think it says more about a general wish for society as a whole to move forward. And it hints at a more progressive society as well (none too subtley).
So no more Social Mobility please. Just Social Progression.