Is the Czech Society Really Divided? Czech Radio Presents a Unique Sociological Survey

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What is the structure of the Czech society thirty years after the Velvet Revolution? Is it really divided as is frequently claimed? Czech Radio decided to find the answers to these and other questions. In a unique sociological survey, Divided by Freedom, it analysed the structure of the Czech population thirty years after the restoration of freedom. As a result, six social classes have been identified.

Are we really divided into a handful of members of the elite and the “ordinary people”, who lag behind the elite, as the society is described by populist politicians? Who belongs to the frequently mentioned middle class? The survey titled Divided by Freedom asks several questions, one of them being of major importance – How is a person’s social status related to their feeling of contentment in life, to the kinds of problems they face and their confidence in other people and in political institutions?

“For the thirtieth anniversary of the restoration of freedom, we in Czech Radio decided we would try to come up with some useful, inspiring and, as Václav Havel would have put it, meaningful content. Rather quickly, the expression “divided society” was brought up. We found out it was used very frequently, although its meaning is pretty vague,” says Director General of Czech Radio, René Zavoral. The very question of whether the Czech society is dived and how, has become the basis for the sociological survey presented by Czech Radio.

The findings of the survey were presented at a press conference held on Tuesday 17 September by Czech Radio together with Paulína Tabery, a sociologist from the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Daniel Prokop, a sociologist from PAQ Research and the Department of Social Sciences of the Charles University, and Martin Buchtík, the Director of STEM.

Income, property and social contacts are of key importance

For the description of the structure of the Czech society 30 years after the restoration of freedom, the experts involved in the survey got inspired by the famous Great British Class Survey. Like its authors, they also used the approach of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who, half a century ago, pointed out that apart from income and property, key indicators of a social status include also the individual’s social contacts and relations. That is because social relations may be helpful in coping with crises, finding a better-paid job and obtaining various other benefits. Similarly significant is cultural capital. The Czech survey moreover takes into account another important type of capital, which includes the skills important in the globalized world – these are language and digital skills (human capital).

As follows from the poll carried out by Median and STEM/MARK, six classes are emerging in the Czech society with significantly different composition of their resources and position in the society. There are two types of the higher middle class: the established middle class secured by its income and property and the emerging cosmopolitan class, which has smaller property but also a greater potential for the future given its strong social contacts, cultural capital and the language and digital skills. Together, these two prospering classes make up about a third of the population.

The lower middle class has three types, accounting for one half of the Czech population. The traditional working class has a decent income and property, but limited social contacts, cultural capital and new skills. The vulnerable class is its exact opposite: having the social and cultural capital of a middle class, it suffers economically. Finally, there is the specific class of local ties, which relies on a combination of home ownership and plentiful contacts in their surroundings that would help if needed.

One in six Czechs aged between 18 and 79 years falls to the lowest category which, in the survey, has been called the impoverished class, lacking actually all types of capital – income, property, social contacts as well as the new skills and human capital.

Czech Radio will be covering the topic of Divided by Freedom in its broadcasting

“The survey itself would not be sufficient for broadcasting. Therefore, I am happy we have found a group of six people telling their story, which would help the listeners understand not only what makes the individual classes different from each other, but also what unites them. We are hoping it would inspire the listeners to complete a questionnaire at iROZHLAS.cz(link is external) to find out what class they belong to,” says the Editor-in-Chief of the Czech Radio Radiožurnál station, Ondřej Suchan.

The stations of Czech Radio will be covering the findings of the survey until the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. “The survey also points out several serious problems of the Czech society such as housing accessibility, quality of education or the situation of the vulnerable class in case of economic slowdown. In debates with experts from academic institutes and political parties, Czech Radio wants to look for the solutions. We are also inviting the leaders of all parliamentary parties for a final debate to be held on November 4 on Czech Radio,” adds the Editor-in-Chief of the Czech Radio Plus station, Petr Šabata.