essay:Class

This is, I will admit, inspired by the blog

http://www.halfsigma.com/

whose owner is fairly obsessed with class and mentioned the book by Paul Fussell, 'Class':

http://www.amazon.com/Class-Through-American-Status-System/dp/0671792

which I have bought and read. You do not need to have read the book to understand this post, but I will summarise below the major classes, in Fussell's definition, and I will adopt his terminology for them.

What he calls the 'proles', or conventionally the 'working class', consists classically of manual workers, but now more of clerical and service workers. They are not intellectual on the whole and generally did not attend university; few have incomes much above average.

The middle class can be defined by what it isn't as well as by what it is. In terms of money, they are just about average, though with a wide range. These people usually did attend university and are generally
more intelligent than the proles. To identify a middle-class occupation, look for any career that is primarily meritocratic: if people get hired mainly for their skills and not their connections, it's middle class.

The upper middle class (Fussell's definition) are for the most part the real power in our society, the people with the 'right' social connections. Most of our national politicians and other political figures come from this class. The children of these people often attend 'prep schools' and comprise a large part of the Ivy League student body. To identify an upper-middle occupation, look for any career whose pay is obviously disproportionate to its real worth: any such job not mainly acquired by luck or innate skill is upper-middle or upper class.

I should note here that upper middle class is often used in a different sense than I and Fussell. This alternative definition has mainly to do with money, and middle-class occupations with high incomes are often considered part of it. Perhaps I should call it 'lower upper middle class' as Orwell did - he noted that (in Britain between the wars) this class still kept servants, unlike the 'regular' middle class which no longer could, and made a point of always having at least one. There is some parallel to this today, where the only real servant the Fussellian middle class is likely to have is the nanny, and we know that people in this 'upper middle' class are fairly likely to have one, but it is no where near as universal as among the
true upper-middles where it is essentially a social necessity.

Then there are the Big Names, which is my term for athletes, movie stars, etc. who can make very high incomes. They trade on name recognition, essentially, and employers compete to hire specific people, which is why their salaries get bid up so high. These people are generally not upper middle class in the true sense, despite their wealth. Perhaps they should be identified as a class to themselves.

The upper class are much the smallest of the classes. The true upper class is mainly hereditary ('old money') and associated with great fortunes and prominent families. They are less likely than upper-
middles to be publicly known (other than for being rich or famous) mostly because they are less likely to have any job. These people don't need to work for a living and know it; if they take a paying job, it's likely to be of the same type as the upper-middles but more prestigious still.

That seemed rather lengthy but was really the shortest introduction I could go with.

I didn't mention race above; Fussell didn't, but it's so evident in American society that I must say something about it. I am really in this essay referring to class among whites, but there are parallels to
the first three classes among he other races as well, though the middle and upper-middle classes are severely affected by affirmative action. The true upper class is essentially all white as far as I know; certainly I couldn't think of any exceptions.

So of the four classes I have described, there are therefore three class boundaries. The most important one of these to social division is the middle one. This is a very important point. It's not what most
people would think, in fact people are less conscious of this boundary than the others, and it's almost not discussed at all in our society. Everyone can distinguish the proles and middle class, and the rare times that a politicians talks about class differences, it is this to which they normally allude. This is why it is such a prominent (if stupid) liberal cause to send almost everyone to college - it is the most obvious marker of this class distinction; and indeed, it is possible to advance to the middle class by doing well at university
and getting a good middle-class job. What those politicians don't want to talk about is the IQ difference behind most of this, though; and I think my audience should be able to identify the problems with the
proposal. The boundary of the true upper class also is hardly unknown; everyone has some idea of 'old money' or 'the rich', and they are thinking of the upper class. Ordinary people do have an idea that 'the
rich' are handed many opportunities in life on a silver platter; they do not realise that the same is true of the upper-middles, to a great extent.

I will now, for short, call the proles and middle class together the 'working classes' and the upper-middles and upper class together the 'ruling classes'; this seems the most appropriate terminology.

The term 'working classes' is especially appropriate as they are broadly similar in their relations with an employer. Many of the proles may even be better on this account as they are still more likely to be unionised, to have good job security, and also to be able to live in the same place their whole careers. Further, they will generally earn less than they're worth (produce for an employer), as is to be expected in capitalism.

As well, immigration and outsourcing are affecting both the working classes. We have unskilled, mainly illegal, immigrants that are taking most of the unskilled jobs to the point that Americans are not hired
for many positions anymore. We have skilled immigrants let in on visas undercutting Americans in the middle class. We have outsourcing of almost all jobs that can be; it's not just manufacturing anymore.

Feminism, too, has negatively affected the working classes relative to the ruling classes. The entry of women into the workforce equally has hurt them in two ways, in fact. Women joining the middle class has
depressed wages and meant that each worker earns significantly less than a man would if women were not competing; and in practice the average family with children is probably not better off today with two
incomes than it would be with one under that situation. It is known that the median income per worker has fallen in the past 40 years, and this must be a large part of why. Women joining the upper-middle class workforce has a different effect: it means twice as many rich kids getting the good jobs, and the money for that has to come from somewhere.


This is an essay created by Andrew Usher. Please do not edit it; but only comment in discussion.

Also see the Usenet version:

http://groups.google.com/group/soc.men/browse_thread/thread/670273103063c740#

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