Dr Sam Friedman


I joined the LSE in 2014 as Assistant Professor in Sociology. My research focuses on issues of social class and inequality, and particularly the cultural dimensions of contemporary class division. I combine these research interests in my recent book Comedy and Distinction: The Cultural Currency of a ‘Good’ Sense of Humour. Here I examine the relationship between social class and comedy taste, finding that a ‘cultivated’ sense of humour has become a key resource for the British middle class and an essential tool in communicating their cultural distinction. You can read a recent Guardian review of this work here

My current research focuses more directly on issues of social stratification. I have recently begun a project, funded by an ESRC Future Research Leaders grant,  examining social mobility into Britain’s elite occupations. The hidden barriers, or ‘glass ceiling’, preventing women from getting to the top are well documented. But as my recent work shows, the upwardly mobile also face a powerful and previously unrecognised ‘class ceiling’ within Britain’s elite occupations. I have found that those in elite occupations whose parents were employed in semi-routine and routine working-class jobs earn significantly less than colleagues from higher professional and managerial backgrounds – even after controlling for a host of factors known to affect earnings. Over the next three years I hope to explore this class pay gap further, conducting four qualitative case studies with socially mobile and immobile engineers, actors,  journalists and those working in elite professional service firms. You can read more about the project here.

I also sit on the editorial board of The Sociological Review and outside academia I am the Consulting Editor of Fest , the largest magazine covering the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.




Selected Publications


Comedy and Distinction cover2014. Comedy and Distinction: The Cultural Currency of a ‘Good’ Sense of Humour’. Routledge (shortlisted for the 2015 BSA Philip Abrams Prize) .  Click on image right for details.



Social Class in the 21st Century cover2015. Social Class in the 21st Century. Penguin (with Mike Savage et al). Click on image right for details.


Journal articles

2016. ‘The Class Pay Gap in Britain’s Higher Professional and Managerial Occupations’. American Sociological Review (with Daniel Laurison – early view available here)

2016. ‘Like Skydiving without a Parachute’: How Class Origin Shapes Occupational Trajectories in British Acting, Sociology (with Dave O'Brien and Daniel Laurison - early view here).

 2016. ‘Are the Creative Industries Meritocratic? An Analysis of the 2014 UK Labour Force Survey’ Cultural Trends, 25 (2) (with Dave O’Brien et al - early view available here.

2016. ‘Habitus Clivé and the Emotional Imprint of Social Mobility’, Sociological Review, 64 (1) 129-147  

2015. ‘Editors Introduction: Cultural Sociology and New Forms of Distinction’, Poetics, 53: 1-8 (with Hanquinet, Miles and Savage)

2015. ‘Breaking the ‘Class’ Ceiling? Social Mobility into Britain’s Elite Occupations’, Sociological Review, 63 (2) 259-290 (with Daniel Laurison and Andy Miles)

2014. ‘On Social Class, Anno 2014’ Sociology (Special Issue on British Social Class Debate) 48 (3) (with Mike Savage et al)

2014. ‘The Hidden Tastemakers: Comedy Scouts as Cultural Brokers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’, Poetics, 42 (2) 22-41

2013. ‘The Price of the Ticket: Rethinking the Experience of Social Mobility’ Sociology 47(6) 352-368

2013 ‘A new model of social class: findings from the BBC’s Great British Class Survey experiment’, Sociology, 47 (2) (with Mike Savage et al) 219-250

2013 ‘There’s something fundamental about what makes you laugh’: Comedy Taste and Symbolic Boundaries’, Cultural Sociology (Special Issue on Field Analysis), 6 (2) 179-195 (with Giselinde Kuipers)

2012. ‘Cultural Omnivores or Culturally Homeless? Exploring the Shifting Cultural Identities of the Socially Mobile’, Poetics, 40 (3)

2011. ‘The Cultural Currency of a ‘Good’ Sense of Humour: British Comedy and New Forms of Distinction’, British Journal of Sociology, 62: 2

Book chapters 

2015. ‘The Limits of Capital Gains: Using Bourdieu to understand social mobility into elite occupations’. In Ingram, N. Thatcher, J. Burke, C. Abrahams, J. (eds) Bourdieu: The Next Generation. The Development of Bourdieu's Intellectual Heritage in Contemporary UK Sociology, Routledge. London

2014. ‘Comedy as an Aesthetic Experience’ in Hanquinet, L. and Savage, M. (eds) Handbook of the Sociology of Art and Culture, Routledge: London

2013. ‘‘Handling the Darkness’: Chris Morris as Cultural Capital’, in Leggott, J. (ed) The Comedy of Chris Morris, Palgrave Macmillan: London

Edited special issues

2015 ‘New Forms of Cultural Distinction’, Poetics, 53 (with Mike Savage et al)

2011. ‘Comedy Audiences’, Participations: International Journal of Audience Research, 8 (2) (with Brett Mills and Tom Phillips)


 Sam Friedman