In the final chapter of Social Class in the 21st Century, Mike Savage stresses the need to place processes of social classification under the spotlight and assert their political significance. As he puts it on page 403, this entails the “social sciences getting their hands dirty and seeking to wrest intellectual authority from market researchers, consultants, journals and commentators.” It’s interesting to see the themes of ‘coming crisis’ reiterated in relation to such a different topic.
I’m very interested in the challenges big data poses to this endeavour. Is there a risk that such approaches ‘black box’ social classification and, in doing so, make it harder to “wrest intellectual authority” from the increasingly influential practitioners? This is another example of the links between digital capitalism and digital social science I’m starting to think about for my new project: the tendencies the former encourages in the latter and the difficulties this poses for using the latter to understand the former.