Re: Thanks, Winny

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Trying to make sense of an Unfogged blog? Good luck.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:56 AM
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Canada is in some ways more like England than it is like the US.

I couldn't get past this sentence in the blog and stopped.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:01 AM
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fraught and overwrought.

To Ogged "MC" means "Move to Canada." Sorry, Rakim.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:02 AM
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and about the city upon a hill

Too true. Remember, this is the nation that has shed more blood than anyone for teh liberty of others, and so on and so forth.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:07 AM
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Of course, with due respect, the mighty Unfoggetariat does not neccessarily represent every shade of US opinion and experience.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:10 AM
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every Unfogged thread about middle-class American social norms

Isn't that all of them?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:11 AM
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Too many fucking foreigners, for one thing.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:11 AM
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5: Ya think?

Oddly, normal American opinion is often even sillier.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:12 AM
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Argh! I'm trying to incorporate some information from an Israeli client into a document, and I can't get Word to forget about the right-to-left formatting. Everything's all weird! I hate Bill Gates, and all countries with non-Roman writing systems.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:13 AM
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Basically young, urban, upper-middle-class, educated, non-rightwing, semi-hip social norms. With outliers who are less young and/or less upper-middle-class.,


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:14 AM
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And cutting and pasting through Notepad seems to have saved the day. ("Paste Special" did not -- unformatted text my ass.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:16 AM
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Notepad is wonderful for stripping formatting. I never use it for anything else. It's almost always easier to reformat from scratch than to patch up several layers of old formatting.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:17 AM
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and people wonder why I refuse to use word.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:18 AM
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11: I'm glad it worked out for you, but how ridiculous that you had to use Notepad?! I hate Word with a passion.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:21 AM
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For the first few years of the "return-of-the-big-wedding" era we're living in now, I thought of it as a class phenomenon. But my nearest and dearest, if born after about 1965, have radically different feelings and expectations.

I actually use this as a reminder and marker of how what seemed in my youth to be permanent, desirable social change can just be erased, marginalized, caricatured. That this site, of all places, has hosted "dirty hippy" discussions, not really ironic, demonstrates the enormous normalizing force of our culture, particularly when commercial interests are at stake.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:23 AM
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I used to maintain a website, and I edited the HTML in Word one day and it made the file about ten times longer and full of incomprehensible gibberish such that I could never edit it outside of Word and it had the typical Word problem of everything being mysteriously turned into a 24-point font after I hit "backspace" in a certain place. So I never updated the website again and eventually deleted it.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:24 AM
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Msoft does almost nothing to improve Word as it is a monopolistic cash cow for word processing. Bastards.


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:25 AM
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things are about themselves and about the city upon a hill

Hey, you want to teach my class today? It'd save me some trouble.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:25 AM
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I switched to Open Office Writer but it seems to be a Word clone.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:28 AM
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things are about

Guy DeBord writes:
This is the principle of commodity fetishism, the domination of society by "intangible as well as tangible things," which reaches its absolute fulfillment in the spectacle, where the tangible world is replaced by a selection of images which exist above it, and which simultaneously impose themselves as the tangible par excellence.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:28 AM
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16: Actually, I just did cut and paste-y HTML formatting in Word yesterday, and it worked all right. Of course, the university uses the clunkiest, most impossible thingy to support the web pages--you're supposed to be able to use a kind of cod-Dreamweaver function to lay out webpages, but actually it doesn't work, so you have to do almost everything by actually writing the HTML. We are, however, forbidden to use CSS. So I know a lot of deprecated tags but almost no CSS and thus my skills are not transferable.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:32 AM
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You know, thinking about the original post, I like the idea of somebody trying to suss out the American character via unfogged. "Fascinating, a whole nation of overthinking urbanites who worry every issue to death!"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:35 AM
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It is certainly reinforcing to find a young woman such as Alif Sikkiin as outraged and nonplussed as I am about this range of issues, from wedding style to name-change. But then, Canada may help explain it.

Tastes always differed, but the degree to which these values have reasserted themselves don't merely flummox me, but also inspire anger and contempt.

Yes, I judge.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:36 AM
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Tastes always differed, but the degree to which these values have reasserted themselves don't merely flummox me, but also inspire anger and contempt.

They flummox you?

What we consider normal is determined by pop culture and advertising. The whole "gender equality" thing was a fad within that world and they were all glad to see an end to the hopes of the Equal Rights Amendment so the surprisingly-long-lived fad could be retired.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:38 AM
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Alif is outraged and nonplussed? I had gathered she was more puzzled, but I could be wrong.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:40 AM
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24: Scratch a bourgeois and uncover a nihilist, I always say.

Actually, I think that's sort of true. I often feel a particular bourgeois form of despair myself, and I'm not sure whether I'm being astute in my demoralization or just comfortable.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:41 AM
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Less heat from her, to be sure, but just as much not getting it.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:42 AM
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"Bourgeois" returns! How I have missed your doctrinaire kiss.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:46 AM
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The eighteenth wave of feminism has allowed me to be proud of this name my parents gave me.


Posted by: Coco LeBoobs | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:49 AM
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I thought that handle was only for criticizing B.


Posted by: Chico LeBoobs | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:51 AM
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28: "of, relating to, or characteristic of the townsman or of the social middle class"

I mean, I could have said "middle class" but you wouldn't have liked that either. "Middle class despair"...more Sinclair Lewis than poncy-French-intellectual, but hardly flattering.

While we're laying out our firmly-held political positions, I will say that class formations do have particular politics, ways of thinking, modes of happiness and unhappiness, etc. That this surprises anyone or is unsayable only points to the undiscussability of class in the US.

There are no classes; we're all individuals!


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:53 AM
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Sorry daddy!


Posted by: Coco LeBoobs | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:53 AM
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I have a roommate who's basically a Trotskyist. (Really! In 2007!) He and his friends use "bourgeois" as a conversation-stopping put down. They also consider things like cleaning the bathroom hopelessly bourgeois; we luckily don't share a bathroom.

Still, it's a useful word.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:58 AM
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I have customized Word so that ctrl-V does a plain-text paste, leaving shift-Ins for the traditional paste. This method seems to be the only way of overriding the fact that its default paste behavior is to save the formatting in the stupidest possible way.

I have no idea why Microsoft thinks that you would want to save the font sizes, etc., from a website -- the more sensible way would be to keep italics and things of that nature but conforming the rest to your existing text. The nice thing about Word is that you can almost always get it to behave in the way you want, but the default behavior is almost always exactly backwards. (If I lost my Normal.dot at this point, I'd cry and cry.)


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:58 AM
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33: At least he's not a Maoist. We've got lots of them 'round here. Marxism seems reasonable enough to me (as you might sort of infer) but attachment to the persona of Trotsky is a bit odd. Why Trotsky? I mean, Rosa Luxemburg or someone seems much more sensible, and then you get to be a Spartacist.

I am very fond of saying that things are bourgeois when I don't want to do them. Last night, remembering to put the spaghetti sauce back in the refrigerator was bourgeois; so was doing laundry instead of goofing around on the internet. Perversely, the political meeting I also had to attend was thus bourgeois as well.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:03 AM
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34 seconded. Tweaking the Normal.dot file, adding Macros and the like, can make Word downright bearable.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:06 AM
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31: After the 20th century, when there was so little daylight between definitions of class and the use of violence, "bourgeois" is hardly a neutral technical term -- less so even than "middle class," which overuse by Americans in particular has smudged beyond usefulness.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:09 AM
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I like Marxism, too, although I'm at best some degenerate sort of left-deviationist with tendencies running from anarcho-syndicalist to liberal.

I don't think my roommate is totally attached to Trotsky's personality, but he's really into the doctrines about the importance of the International and how its failure explains Stalinism. He and his Trotskyist friends all went to Wesly/an, so I blame the academy.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:12 AM
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37: What then does one say instead? See, I almost never encounter anyone who proposes a way to talk about class which is useful and less neutral; I tend to suspect that reluctance to say "middle class" or "bourgeois" or whatever often reflects a reluctance to talk about class at all, at least in any directly political way.

Buried class talk with snobby material proxies is always okay, of course. (Which is not to imply that I avoid this kind of talk)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:13 AM
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Speaking of culture and class, what on earth does the post title mean?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:13 AM
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40 gets it right.

I read the whole linked post...no explanation theer.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:16 AM
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39: Barbarians, Philistines, Populace?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:16 AM
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38: Really? Wesly / an is a den of Trotskyists? Teh awesome.

There are many much better and more plausible explanations for Stalinism than the failure of the International. Seriously! How can any non-maoist be so volunteerist? And single-cause-y?


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:17 AM
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If they're not Scottish titties, they're crap!


Posted by: Coco MacTitties | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:19 AM
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What then does one say instead?

"Kulak" is due for a comeback.


Posted by: Felix | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:19 AM
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40, 41: slang from somebody from Winnipeg?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:21 AM
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anyone who google-proofs anything that isn't the proper name of a non-famous individual person is hereby BANNED, permanently, with extreme prejudice.


Posted by: I wish I were Ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:21 AM
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See, I almost never encounter anyone who proposes a way to talk about class which is useful and less neutral; I tend to suspect that reluctance to say "middle class" or "bourgeois" or whatever often reflects a reluctance to talk about class at all, at least in any directly political way.

I have real problems with 'middle class' in US parlance, because it doesn't to me seem to denote anything specific beyond "neither poor nor rich" with both poor and rich being very poorly defined. This is an area where I'd like the language torn down to the ground and recreated more logically -- class divisions in the US seem to me to be more powerfully created by geographical/educational/employment category sorts of forces, which have a lot to do with income and wealth but not a simple relationship with them.

I'm a high-income professional, but on a lot of metrics I've got more in common with a high school teacher whose income is a quarter of mine than I do with a Midwestern business owner who makes what I do. Simplifying lower/middle/upper class into income divisions, as people do, doesn't seem to me to do much of anything but confuse the issue.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:21 AM
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40: John Winthrop, presumably.

At first I thought it was something to do with Churchill, somehow.


Posted by: Felix | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:22 AM
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45: Because yes, when one talks about the middle class in the US in the early 21st century one is of course endorsing Stalin's singularly foolish murders of wealthy peasants.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:22 AM
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I am very fond of saying that things are bourgeois when I don't want to do them.

And the continued degree to which we are the same person disturbs me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:23 AM
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50: It was a joke; no offense or implications of actual Stalinism intended.


Posted by: Felix | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:29 AM
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50: Yes, arranging large-scale accidents would have been much wiser.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:29 AM
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48: The thing is, there's substantial money-culture overlap that's important but tricky to describe. The set of assumptions, for example, which make people-making-decent-wages feel that people-making-crappy-wages should make economic decisions the same way that people-making-decent-wages do.

The assumptions that you develop when you can pay for a given thing are what I'm talking about. I tend to assume, for example, that certain types of home maintenance, eating, and exercising are moral decisions rather than sort of imbricated economic/cultural decisions.

As far as "bourgeois" despair goes, political despair has different implications for me--since I am white, college-educated, fairly well established in a nice city, etc--than it does for, say, an Argentinian factory worker. My despair is cushioned on relative comfort and the likelihood of relative comfort's continuation. I know this on an unconscious level, as well as consciously. What feels like "natural" despair--where does that come from? Laziness? Security? A desire not to be responsible? I would argue that it's class-cultural--not because every member of the middle class feels my particular type of political despair but because my feelings are conditioned upon my class status.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:30 AM
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51: I'm not sure that I can ever visit New York, lest we provoke some kind of matter/anti-matter reaction.

52: Sorry to Frown so vigorously; it's just one of those red-baiting things that people say a lot, on the lines of "you endorse some ideas derived from Marx, therefore you must inevitably be proposing politics which will lead to Murder! Gulag Archipelagos! etc." Sort of a portmanteau term which people use--as certain youthful leftists use 'bourgeois'--to categorically dismiss any left-wing government interference in ZOMG! the Free Market! (Right-wing interference is always okay, of course, no matter how extreme.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:37 AM
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(Instead of murdering kulaks, I murder threads. Poor, innocent thread.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:38 AM
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54: Those are all real issues, and issues that are truly describable as class issues, but while they've got a lot to do with income, they're very far from being unilaterally determined by income; our language is flawed. I'd call the class that you and I both belong to something like the "Highly educated/white collar or other professional/wage earning" class, with meaningful high and low income variants, but with a lot more class commonalities within that wide income range than either one of us has with someone with the same income but not fitting the description. "Middle Class" just doesn't convey much meaning.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:42 AM
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They also consider things like cleaning the bathroom hopelessly bourgeois

Bave, you should point out to him that Trotsky was regarded as a bit weird by his fellow Bolsheviks because of his habit of getting stuck in with the housework instead of leaving it to his wife. Your roommate is clearly a revisionist of the worst order.

In terms of everyday arguments, this was the most useful thing I ever learned about Trotsky.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:45 AM
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The thread can still be rehabilitated!

I'm a high-income professional, but on a lot of metrics I've got more in common with a high school teacher whose income is a quarter of mine than I do with a Midwestern business owner who makes what I do

This is an interesting statement. Which metrics are you thinking of?


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:46 AM
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I'd call the class that you and I both belong to something like the "Highly educated/white collar or other professional/wage earning" class, with meaningful high and low income variants, but with a lot more class commonalities within that wide income range than either one of us has with someone with the same income but not fitting the description.

This seems to suggest that class is largely divorced from income. Which is pretty weird to me, as I thought income/wealth/etc. formed the basis for most standard definitions of class. Maybe the Republicans are right, and class isn't an issue?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:49 AM
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Use of the term "kulak" is intrinsically funny. I once had an officemate who was from Russia. She seemed to have tepidly liberal politics. One of my coworkers dropped by my office to procrastinate. We were talking about Stalin and the kulaks, when she piped and said "But the kulaks were really bad. They were selfish peasants who wouldn't share with others."


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:51 AM
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it's just one of those red-baiting things that people say a lot, on the lines of "you endorse some ideas derived from Marx, therefore you must inevitably be proposing politics which will lead to Murder!

Right. Some "humorlessness" around here comes from the knowledge of how much cultural work gets done by what may have begun as and continue to be light-hearted teasing.

"Dirty hippies" is a good example of that. It's often used ironically, as a parody of brain dead responses, back in the day, but it has somehow morphed into a convenient way of expressing real animosity, by people raised to no other perspective.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:54 AM
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Well, I'm a wage-earner, rather than a business owner -- I live paycheck to paycheck rather than from income generated by assets. I probably vote more like the high-school teacher than I do like the business owner.

On the lower income end -- my kids playing with the highschool teacher's kids aren't going to notice a major difference in lifestyle (oh, an adult probably would, money's certainly not unimportant), and neither will be socially intimidated by the other, whereas both would be likelier to recognize a class barrier of some kind between them and the family of, say, a non-college-educated construction worker, even though the construction worker might be higher income than the teacher. (I am not endorsing class snobbery as a good thing, just saying that I think it exists.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:55 AM
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60: This is me, rambling, rather than expounding some commonly relied-upon theory. And I'm really not saying income is unimportant, I'm saying that it doesn't come close to determining all the things we talk about when we talk about class.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:56 AM
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This seems to suggest that class is largely divorced from income. Which is pretty weird to me, as I thought income/wealth/etc. formed the basis for most standard definitions of class.

Not in the UK it doesn't. Class and income are quite divergent. As they are in many class systems, I'd have thought.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:56 AM
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I'm really not saying income is unimportant, I'm saying that it doesn't come close to determining all the things we talk about when we talk about class.

Strongly agree.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:58 AM
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Somewhere Orwell referred to his family as lower-Upper-Middle-Class: essentially with the values of the upper and the income of the lower. This was meaningful then and describes a great deal of the landscape on both sides of the Atlantic.

It's the class both my wife and I have always belonged to, and are obviously raising our kids to.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:58 AM
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SCMT: how would the fallen aristocrats or neveau riche fit into your idea of class-as-income?

LB: I think there are probably wide class `barriers' created by income/assets, but within those there is subdivision. And I also think that the way you grow up has a huge effect on your expectations and the way you handle things.

Think of kids growing up in households with roughly 10k/year, 100k/yr, 1m/yr incomes, and lets say in roughly the same area. These kids have fairly fundamentally different experiences, in ways it would be extremely hard to bridge.

Two 100k/yr households can look pretty radically different *from the inside* (consider perhaps college professor and a successful small appliance business), but if you are sitting at 10k/yr, they probably don't look all that different to you.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:59 AM
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Well, I'm a wage-earner, rather than a business owner -- I live paycheck to paycheck rather than from income generated by assets

I would think that high-earners who lived like teachers to could use the income to buy assets. Maybe you're not far enough along--that is, you're still sort of young--and the difference isn't yet manifest. ("You" being someone in a like situation; it's entirely possible that the specific circs. of yours make all the difference.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:59 AM
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57. I'd say that LB and the hypothetical schoolteacher were both organic intellectuals, but that concept was identified by Gramsci, so we can't use it because he was a Marxist, even though it's a useful category in some discussions.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:00 AM
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Direct paste from me at dagger aleph's....
---
Divergent expectations: shivbunny's family, had they been hosting the wedding, would have invited 300 people. But the reception would have had a homemade dance floor out on his grandma's farm, a number of tents and tables set up for guests, and all of the food cooked by a constellations of aunts.

My family hosted it, so we had 75 people but rented a hall and hired a caterer.

I am disinclined to think that there's a strong national component to it, though the wedding-industrial complex seems to have a bigger hold in the U.S.

I think a big unspoken marker is whether the wedding is religious or not, because in our case, having a Catholic wedding unleashed a whole extra set of expectations... basically, if we'd just run off to the courthouse, it would have been 'done' if we'd had no reception.

But once we've involved the priest, there's already a certain amount of pageantry, and uh, my mother involved. And from there it sort of snowballed.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:01 AM
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LB, we're still gonna getcha when the Revolution comes. We'll spare and reeducate your little amphibians, though.

At their age, shouldn't Newt and Salamander still be aquatic? In amphibian years, I mean.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:01 AM
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ot in the UK it doesn't. Class and income are quite divergent. As they are in many class systems, I'd have thought.

Right, but I think of that as a holdover from more codified caste systems. I suppose I'm wondering if that now also describes the US a bit.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:01 AM
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Base, meet superstructure. Well, actually that's not what I mean, but still: class diverges individually from income (particularly in the UK, I assume from a childhood spent reading UK children's literature) but the concept of class is sustained by its relation to income.

Reptilian Cork-Nethersole, in other words, gets the cushy job not merely because of his posh accent but because he's in a network where most people have more money, better jobs and so on than is (as it were) common.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:03 AM
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10k/year, 100k/yr, 1m/yr incomes, and lets say in roughly the same area. These kids have fairly fundamentally different experiences, in ways it would be extremely hard to bridge.

The thing is, not always (well, the last family is freakish, and the first is probably too poor for what I'm talking about as well, but say 20K rather than 10K). I had a good friend in high school whose single mother was a journalist for some leftwing paper, and they were broke broke broke poor no money broke getting utilities turned off broke. But there's a real class sense in which she grew up in the same class, with largely the same opportunities and expectations for her adult life, that I did in a much higher income family. Another family with their income might have been in a completely different class with a much more circumscribed set of opportunities and expectations.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:03 AM
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Income is only one factor (and not the only one) in class distinctions. We've brushed on this in many threads, though -- one of the huge issues is expectations. Plenty of middle class kids go through a period of time living on `poor' incomes, but rarely with the same expectations.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:04 AM
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Thesis: level of education is at least as strong a class marker as wealth and profession.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:04 AM
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class diverges individually from income (particularly in the UK, I assume from a childhood spent reading UK children's literature) but the concept of class is sustained by its relation to income.

This, certainly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:04 AM
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75: This is true, yes. On average it's determining, but not always. Mostly to do with the parents, and it probably takes a few generations to really shift.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:06 AM
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Thesis: level of education is at least as strong a class marker as wealth and profession.

Indeed, parents' level of education is a very commonly used proxy for socioeconomic status in quantitative research.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:07 AM
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77: I know a few ph.d or m.d's who were the first in their (reasonably extended) family to go to university. The gap between no degrees and two or three is large --- would we assume they've left the `class' of their family?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:09 AM
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Thesis: level of education is at least as strong a class marker as wealth and profession.

Higher education as a luxury good?


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:09 AM
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And to add to 75, social capital just has a huge effect. A family can lose a lot of money over the generations but still have sufficient savviness about how the systems in our society work so such that they can navigate their children's paths in a way that poorer (in social capital) families simply cannot. Barring miracles and exceptions.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:09 AM
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Orwell included in his class self-definition the fact that his family was more worried about slipping down than they were hopeful about rising.

Recently there was a debate within the Democratic party defining "middle class" entirely in terms of education (BA or better). Sort of the New Class. I believe that the Dems have, in fact, been taken over too much by the New Class.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:11 AM
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Reptilian Cork-Nethersole, in other words, gets the cushy job not merely because of his posh accent but because he's in a network where most people have more money, better jobs and so on than is (as it were) common.

And we all agree that R C-N, no doubt an investment banker or some such, should be first against the wall when the revolution comes. But I don't think that's because he wears pastel-colored polo shirts, because he makes millions of dollars, or because he feels that being able to take someone's money confers a moral obligation to do so. My gut feeling is the last one, but I don't think that comes down to "class."


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:14 AM
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83: this is true, although I don't know how long you can maintain it (generation wise) without outside help. Poor enough, and a lot of this knowledge becomes pretty academic, I think.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:14 AM
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I think that there's a one or two generation lag in class rise or decline.

Marxism is a negotiable form of cultural capital. Look at Alexander Cockburn. He didn't really grow up rich, but he's able to namedrop like crazy. "As my father was saying to John Huston......."


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:14 AM
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The gap between no degrees and two or three is large --- would we assume they've left the `class' of their family?

I think the answer is "it depends." I think I linked this here before, but the book Limbo though modestly written, provides a helpful overview of the "straddlers" -- people who grow up in working-class families and adapt to white-collar work environments as adults. Some people "solve" it by becoming more or less divorced from their families of origin.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:14 AM
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The thing is, we don't have a language that describes a class between or other than Poor and the New Class. Someone getting by in a reasonably non-onerous fashion, but not part of the class that I think of myself and a high-school teacher as both belonging to, is poorly described in our current language.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:14 AM
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(should be a comma after the book title)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:15 AM
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Just for the record, I don't think that being a WASP helps much any more, outside perhaps a few second-rate fields and maybe in New England. Didn't help me any, that's for sure.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:15 AM
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85: I picture R C-N in media, in some job where he makes a nice wage but doesn't actually do very much and where it isn't really obvious if he makes mistakes. R C-N is a drunk and a depressive but will be sustained to the end of his life by family connections of one kind or another.

(Amusingly and sadly, I knew a Reptilian Cork-Nethersole-type when I taught in Shanghai--a very nice man who drank himself to sleep every night. He was a wine drunk, though, which took some money in the Shanghai of the period.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:17 AM
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91: Well, there's WASP in terms of 'white guy with no obvious non-English ethnicity', which doesn't give you an advantage over 'white guy' any more, and there's WASP in the sense of 'a distant relative of alameida's', which I think still helps some getting the I-banking jobs.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:18 AM
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"New England and the South", I suppose, but those are two disjunct WASP populations.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:18 AM
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re: 81

would we assume they've left the `class' of their family?

No. People from working class backgrounds with PhDs are generally just working class people with PhDs.

However, it's a pretty fair bet, their kids would accurately described as middle-class.

re: 88

That's interesting. I'll take a look at that [as a person from a working class background with a couple of university degrees, etc].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:19 AM
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Just as generations can extend within families, so that the grandchildren of one line can be older than the children of another, social class can stratify within families in about one generation.

My dad had an advanced degree, and I've got two. My brother and sister, until just last year in her case, have none. And they are married to people of equal educational level, not so often true in previous generations, as am I.

My children belong to a different social class than their first cousins, although the cousins have grown up in families with higher incomes.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:19 AM
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Look at Alexander Cockburn

I think the cultural capital there is journalism more than Marxism. That must be the most nepotistic profession in the world after large scale land ownership.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:20 AM
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Someone getting by in a reasonably non-onerous fashion, but not part of the class that I think of myself and a high-school teacher as both belonging to, is poorly described in our current language.

Isn't this more or less what "middle class" is supposed to be? Getting by reasonably non-onerously, or at least thinking you're doing so, sounds like as good a definition as any and a better one than most.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:21 AM
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SCMT: how would the fallen aristocrats or neveau riche fit into your idea of class-as-income?

As rare outliers. Haven't there been a spate of blog posts suggesting that income mobility is decreasing in the US, and is less than it is in Europe?

Kaus (gawd help me) likes to distinguish between income inequality--of late, a popular subject--and social inequality. That seems like a useful distinction for this discussion. As I read LB, she's saying that someone like her is of rough social equivalence with someone making much less. That seems plausible. But I have trouble making sense of the problem of income inequality in the absence of social inequality, at least in a country as widely well-off as ours.

I don't know.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:21 AM
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Also, I can't find the darn study, but there's about a billion press releases for it, and it seems to talk about class mobility and parental income.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:22 AM
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No. People from working class backgrounds with PhDs are generally just working class people with PhDs.

I think that's one respect in which the US has more class mobility than the UK. Buck came from a working class family, and is now a college educated professional. He'd be putting on airs if he described himself as working class in any meaningful sense now, although the rest of his family still is. If you've got the education and the income, you've moved from one class to the other fairly completely over here.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:22 AM
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I'm a distant relative of lots and lots of people. I think the cutoff for it being usable is somewhere like second cousin twice removed or third cousin three times removed. My lines seem to have diverged around 1800 or 1850 at the latest.

My parents did, in fact, join the Mayflower Society, and described them as very unassuming. There's sort of an implication that your family hasn't done much in the last 380 years. I met the Portland head of the MS once, and she was a pious low-level hospital worker withut much education but very genteel attitudes.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:24 AM
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98: But then what do you call a highly-educated-non-rich-professional-white-collar type if they aren't middle class? That income range goes all the way down to very close to poverty as well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:24 AM
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All my links! My beautiful links are empty!

Okay: JSTOR article on higher education and class mobility

And one of a billion press releases for an article I can't find about parental income and social mobility


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:25 AM
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re: 101

If you've got the education and the income, you've moved from one class to the other fairly completely over here.

Really? I find that somewhat hard to understand. Do people shuck their attitudes and upbringing like snakes shedding skins when they get their degree certificate?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:25 AM
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Snark's dad, on the other hand, came from a working-class family and has a PhD, and has wound up being thoroughly neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. I think it varies a lot, depending on things like who you marry and how socially/interpersonally gifted you are.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:26 AM
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And don't forget we have a percieved tier structure to our higher education system. Don't tell me that there is no difference in a degree from Yale vs. appalachia State.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:26 AM
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My gosh these conversations of the relative impact on "class" of income and education level make me queasy. I hadn't realized before I started commenting here what a painfully reductive way of looking at the world class and education consciousness can engender.

I mean, I know such things exist, of course, but doesn't this conversation tell us that there are infinite such categories?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:26 AM
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parents' level of education

I agree about this. My dad was a postdoc when we immigrated. Growing up, I had friendships with people whose houses had no books, but they were really different. One thing I notice among the kids of well-educated people who didn't have much money is a strong sense of entitlement-- many of them simply believe that other people should share more.

Higher education is certainly a luxury good, less toxic than the stupid cars and houses that seem popular among tangible alternatives.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:27 AM
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My gosh these conversations of the relative impact on "class" of income and education level make me queasy.

I think this queasiness is very common, but pernicious -- while it's nice thinking of everyone as a unique snowflake, you have to make categories if you want to talk about how social forces operate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:28 AM
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103. I suggested "organic intellectuals". Deracinated intelligentsia if you prefer. The point is that such people are really outliers from the class structure. They may find a home in the middle class, or consciously identify with the working class, or be bohemians, or embittered failures. But they're not really classifiable by the mainstream class markers, and they're generally regarded with a degree of suspicion by people who are happily integrated in the working, middle or indeed upper classes.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:29 AM
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Also, in my experience, people who think that class doesn't exist or isn't important, are people on the 'right' side of all the relevant class divides.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:29 AM
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105: I may be stating this more absolutely than I really ought to, but I do think it's at the least truer here than it seems to be in the UK. John Edwards is the 'son of a mill worker', and that's a meaningful thing to say about his childhood and personal history, and means he knows some things and has some values that someone who grew up well off wouldn't. But saying that he himself is a member of a different class than any other wealthy lawyer now sounds simply incorrect to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:31 AM
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I know lots and lots of people who are not middle class by any definition (income, net worth, or education). Perhaps the homeowners among them can be shoehorned into the lower middle class, but just barely.

I also think that there are more people who are actually poor than people realize (though not poor by Bangla Deshi or even Russian standards).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:33 AM
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I think it varies a lot, depending on things like who you marry and how socially/interpersonally gifted you are.

Definitely. Some people make a conscious effort to shed the skin (accents are a somewhat less concrete marker of status in the US than the UK, I think). In other cases it gets done for them, or at least explicitly encouraged, through grooming and socialization as part of their career climb.

Limbo is an uneven book, but some of the most poignant parts have to do with the difficulty of going home again, after college, to a family that is proud of you but has no real vocabulary for talking with you. (And is also sort of uneasily fearful that you are uppity/too good for them now.)

I see it a lot in my brother-in-law's family -- the conversation inevitably turns to stories of childhood, repeated over and over. Aside from the weather or sports, there just isn't much else that is safe.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:33 AM
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Also, in my experience, people who think that class doesn't exist or isn't important, are people on the 'right' side of all the relevant class divides.

This is true to an absolutely maddening degree.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:34 AM
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112: I'm not saying they don't exist, or that they aren't important. I'm saying that the conversation were having right now is pretty good evidence we're on the "right" side of the class divide.

110: sure, but if you do that in the absence of data you very quickly end up realizing how useless the categories you're trying to create actually are. These fine grained distinctions of "oh well I have a PhD and many parents were poor, but you don't have a good job and your parents were rich": what do these actually have to do with people struggling in society right now?

The reason this conversation makes me queasy is all the implied value judgments about degrees and income and parents degrees and income and all that. Maybe this is because I'm overprivileged and don't like having my nose rubbed in it. Still, queasy.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:34 AM
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re: 113

Perhaps. It may be truer of some people than others, I suspect, even here. I know one person here in Oxford who comes from a working class background [poor single-parent family, council estate in South London] who has worked pretty damn hard to shed all traces of that. I'd probably be uncomfortable describing him as working class, too.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:34 AM
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112 is exactly right.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:34 AM
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what do you call a highly-educated-non-rich-professional-white-collar

Something very pejorative-- boy, maybe. Possibly you don't address them at all, but simply issue orders without any social preamble.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:35 AM
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And I was going to say, by and large few here want to spend much time with low-cultural-capital people without much money. And there are good reasons why not -- I'm just saying that class is pretty real.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:35 AM
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Privileged enough to discard the odd apostrophe, I guess.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:36 AM
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queasy.

That's not really how we do things here, Sifu.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:36 AM
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118 weiner-pwned a bit by 115.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:36 AM
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poignant parts have to do with the difficulty of going home again, after college, to a family that is proud of you but has no real vocabulary for talking with you.

This (and variants) is an odd experience.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:37 AM
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123: classist.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:37 AM
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I'm saying that the conversation were having right now is pretty good evidence we're on the "right" side of the class divide.

I'm not sure if it's evidence, but it seems descriptively accurate.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:38 AM
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I think OFE's organic intellectuals works for this blog, and would be a way of including sifu and Ficke and teo and Frowner, even though none makes much money. We, my family, have a precarious hold on middle class comfort and easy access to non-onerous and dignified work.

We get along with our family and are not resented, except, weirdly, about politics. I think they can look down on or be amused by our vehicles, for instance, even while I have the respect that comes from being the best mechanic in a family where everybody's competent and some are good. I remember hearing a nephew say we lived in a library once, as a sort of whimsical thing akin to living under the base of a tree.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:38 AM
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My gosh these conversations of the relative impact on "class" of income and education level make me queasy. I hadn't realized before I started commenting here what a painfully reductive way of looking at the world class and education consciousness can engender.
I mean, I know such things exist, of course, but doesn't this conversation tell us that there are infinite such categories?

So we can't have any social policy, because everyone is teh different! It's reductive to suggest that we can talk about people as if they belonged to groups or categories, when really we are all just happy little monads in the free market.

The whole point of talking about class--even in fumbling ad hoc ways--is to be able to talk about commonalities. We perceive them and frequently can't articulate them; discussion of class (combined, yanno, with some empirical research) helps us to talk about groups, aggregates, all that stuff.

It's so bizarre that in these United States people will accept all kinds of polls, statistics and aggregations of everything under the sun except money and status.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:40 AM
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U.S. culture is sort of pidgin or creolized, so that it's a lot easier to manage either immigration or class mobility. The coding is more uniform and less detailed. It's more a matter of meeting minimum standards.

This is probably least true in the humanities divisions of universities, but a humanities degree is a ticket out of the middle class anyway. We have a declining bourgeoisie.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:40 AM
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implied value judgement

The washing-machine salesman from an obscure place is a great guy as long as he hates Bush. The value judgement is in spending time with someone socially, a funny thing to be discussing with a laptop.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:41 AM
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I detect a slightly pejorative tone in the references to those who shed the trappings of an early life among the deserving poor.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:41 AM
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I remember hearing a nephew say we lived in a library once

One of my earliest memories of thinking about class is visiting a friend's house where there were no books. I was about seven or eight, and I could hardly wrap my mind around it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:41 AM
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re: 125

In some senses I am quite lucky in the sense that I have been straddling that divide for quite a long time and have largely managed to avoid that awkwardness with my family [who are all pretty well-read autodidacts anyway].

However, I have almost nothing at all to say to the friends I grew up with.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:42 AM
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Perhaps 129 should have been previewed. I was full of rage because--middle class problem!--I had bitten into a potato from the cafeteria and choked on an improperly chopped large piece of horrible dried up rosemary.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:45 AM
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RE: Class markers
Vanessa goes to her 35th reunion from Emma Willard, where she runs into her old pal, Muffy.
"Vanessa, you look stunning! I was so sorry to hear about your divorce."
"Yes, that was very difficult, but I manage".
"What are you doing now?"
"Well, if you must know, I am a high priced escort".
"Didn't you have a reasonable trust fund?"
"Yes, but there have been some reverses lately, and you know with the upkeep on the house, etc. I needed the extra income".
"But Vanessa, a call girl? Surely you could take some money out of your trust so you wouldn't have to demean yourself !"
"Muffy- you don't mean dip into principle!!?!!"

This joke is only funny to the upper class.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:46 AM
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128: see, that still doesn't quite apply to me. By the seeming standards of many people here I'm the worst kind of layabout: I was given plenty of opportunity as a kid, my family has historically been thoroughly overprivileged, and I have access to (among other things) plenty of financial resources that have nothing to do with my achievement, and yet I haven't managed to accumulate any college degrees whatsoever.

But then my actual situation is a lot more complicated than that. So, obviously I've had it a lot easier than 99% of people in the world, but it doesn't mean I fit easily into a category. Maybe other people do.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:46 AM
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134: That's pretty much why I said `and variants'. I run into this a bit with my family, but avoided partially because we don't see much of each other (distance) and partially because they read, etc. although they don't have much in the way of formal education. They can't explain what I do to their friends. Like you though, the people I grew up with and I have little in common anymore, which has made for a few awkward chance meetings.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:47 AM
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136: "Invade capital? I'd sooner invade Russia!"

Ex-Girlfriend #1's mother used to threaten her with Emma Willard and, occasionally, Miss Porter's.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:48 AM
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I've been acutely aware of class all my life, having felt lower class than all my schoolmates and higher class than all my relatives.

I think a lot of the variation between families comes from individual families' values. My boyfriend's parents, solidly middle class, regularly go out and eat at rather expensive restaurants, and spend a lot of money of quality food generally. I'd never eaten at a restaurant where entrees were more than $15 until I was in my twenties. On the other hand, my family, doesn't spend much money on food or consumer goods generally, but my dad has spent thousands of dollars over the decades making our house into a veritable work of art (he's an artist) and sent me traveling all over the world. So, middle-class all around, but it feels very different.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:48 AM
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Aren't you a pretty typical slacking rich white kid, Sifu?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:49 AM
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B hit this subject long ago, when this NYT series came out, complete with fancy (and useful!) interactive graphic that details where people with advanced degrees fit and lots of other stuff.

max
['Oh, why not?']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:50 AM
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I wrote about this on Bitch's blog a while back: my family is a bunch of poor people who act like we're rich.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:50 AM
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I think it just gets more complicated for immigrants, leblanc.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:51 AM
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I proposed that education is a big one for a few reasons. It's a way to get more money. People judge a lot by where you went to college, but not so much by where you went to high school. People assume things about your expectations for your children. It doesn't erase class distinctions entirely, but it does so more thoroughly than just making a lot of money would.

But also because I saw the reactions on some of my friends' faces when they learned I was marrying someone who doesn't have a college education. It was like bringing home John the noble savage. Does he eat things that aren't hot dogs? He cleans up pretty well. Oh dear, darling, do you think he knows not to pee on the mountain laurel? How delightfully rustic.

Most of them got over it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:51 AM
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the ability to piss away opportunities and not be really screwed by it is a pretty solidly middle/upper-class marker, come to think of it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:51 AM
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118, 132: That discomfort is, I think, the UK/US difference in class mobility. I don't think of someone moving from the working to the professional class as needing to work particularly hard to shed traces of anything -- it's not like you could be busted as of working class origin in a way that anyone would give a damn about. (Now, the transition probably looks easier to me, who hasn't made it, than to someone who has, but I still think it's easier and has less tension around it than it seems to in the UK. I'm not saying it's likelier to happen for any individual, just that where it does happen it's less fraught.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:52 AM
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141: No. For one thing, we weren't rich when I was growing up; things like (e.g.) a two parent household, or a parent who didn't work long hours or private school weren't options for me. Now, my parents did everything possible to make sure I had all the options my (generally much richer) peers did, and my situation now is quite a bit different, and again with the "luckier than 99%" thing, and yes, I'm a huge slacker in some ways, but there's more to it than that.

Yes, of course I feel like a douchebag that the above paragraph had the tone of a complaint. I'm almost incalculably lucky.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:52 AM
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Families where one or two children are organic intellectuals and others are decidedly not are common in rural or suburban locales. Families like LB's or my wife's, where all the children are OIs, occur only in cities and college towns, I think. Family isn't everything, social and cultural environment—chosen by family, to be sure—are part of it too.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:54 AM
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Maybe I am a typical slacking rich white kid. It just bothers me, is all. Can't you all be just a little bit sympathetic?!?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:55 AM
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By the seeming standards of many people here I'm the worst kind of layabout: I was given plenty of opportunity as a kid, my family has historically been thoroughly overprivileged, and I have access to (among other things) plenty of financial resources that have nothing to do with my achievement, and yet I haven't managed to accumulate any college degrees whatsoever.

And you have a professional career behind you, you'll have a college degree in a couple of years, and you'll end up in the white collar/other professional/educated class I was talking about like most of the other people who comment here, just with more adventurous sounding stories.

the ability to piss away opportunities and not be really screwed by it is a pretty solidly middle/upper-class marker, come to think of it.

Yep.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:55 AM
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148, ah ok, apologies. You should just admit that you were a circus clown for eight years.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:56 AM
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150 to 151. I don't know what's gotten into me today, but it's ugly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:56 AM
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151 sounded unutterably snotty. Really, Sifu, you are a special unique snowflake, as are we all! And I'm a special, unique, and terribly snippy snowflake.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:57 AM
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pretty solidly middle/upper-class marker

That pretty well indicates the language issue LB referenced, as well.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:57 AM
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and 154 before I saw 153.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:57 AM
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Damn my stories are awesome, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:58 AM
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re: 147

Yeah, there's a million and one ways my class origins can be given away; although Scottishness masks that to a certain extent. I don't have a stereotypically 'Glaswegian' accent [since I'm not actually from Glasgow] and my actual accent, while definitely working class to someone who knows, isn't class-marked enough,* I think, for the average English person to know for sure. Although it'd be pretty obvious from my accent alone that I wasn't upper class or upper-middle.

I can pass as middle-class well enough to be party to conversations in which genuinely middle-class people sneer disparagingly about the lower classes.

* because it's basically not the same accent I had when I was 18


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:01 AM
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Now, the transition probably looks easier to me, who hasn't made it, than to someone who has, but I still think it's easier and has less tension around it than it seems to in the UK. I'm not saying it's likelier to happen for any individual, just that where it does happen it's less fraught.

From what I've seen amongst my friends, there's still anxiety and resentment in the intermediate stages - people who come from lower-class backgrounds at business/law-school still think and act not-rich and are quite aware of the differences, while others are already thinking in terms of being a highly-paid lawyer rather than a heavily-indebted student. But once you're past that, who cares where you came from? So your family was poor and lived in the sticks, big whup - this is America.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:02 AM
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sorry about the anon, concerned a bit about pseud slippage.

I've had the weird experience of living both below (homeless) and above (professional) my lower-middle class family. It doesn't leave you with a really strong sense of belonging anywhere.

I suppose I'm one of the organic intellectuals talked about here, but on the other hand I've also been a high-school drop out, "blue collar" laborer, addict, criminal, professor, "white collar" tech-boom worker, musician, immigrant, drifter.

class is a strange thing.


Posted by: jimmy carter | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:03 AM
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I'm surprised race hasn't come up yet. It intersects with class in complicated but important ways, at least in the US.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:04 AM
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in some job where he makes a nice wage but doesn't actually do very much and where it isn't really obvious if he makes mistakes. R C-N is a drunk and a depressive

I don't know how accurate this is as a class-marker, however, since it describes most of the academics people I know.

("But I don't know anyone who voted for Nixon!")


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:05 AM
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Everyone knows Jimmy Carter has only ever been a humble peanut farmer from Plains.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:05 AM
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161: Thank heavens for small mercies?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:07 AM
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class is a strange thing

Oh yes. I know class, and particularly its relation to masculinity, was why I sought out lower-class jobs and experiences after high school, why I wanted to be a laborer and truck driver. I needed to test myself, prove I could do it and function.

I've come to realize there's an old tradition of this among the educated middle class, going back at least to Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, and it's at work in Moby Dick. Jack London, Hemingway were imbued with this as well.

How much of that is there now?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:11 AM
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136 is funny because it reveals that for all their supposed financial smarts, upper-class people don't know the difference between "principle" and "principal".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:13 AM
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How much of that is there now?

The idea was attractive to me when I was a teenager, but I never ended up doing anything about it. I suspect it's still fairly common.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:15 AM
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158: I actually have some recollection from English novels of Scottishness generally as a way of making an end run around English class distinctions, possibly because education was less of a class marker in Scotland. But I'm theorizing based on mystery novels more than anything else.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:16 AM
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That's an interesting point, IDP. Certainly shivbunny's private response to my complaints about my sneering friends was 'whatever. they're weak little men and I can bench press them.' And look at Bush clearing brush to show that he is a man who can do manly things.

As to whether this sort of thing is still common with the educated middle class, I think it more often takes the form of doing a year of traveling or service after college rather than working construction.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:17 AM
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161: I'm surprised race hasn't come up yet. It intersects with class in complicated but important ways, at least in the US.

This is absolutely true, but after I gave Sifu a hard time about being queasy about class, I'm queasy talking about the intersection of race and class -- the potential for saying something wildly ignorant seems so huge. I will say that I think the intersection of the two concepts operates in very divergent ways for each 'race' -- the intersection of blackness and class functions differently from the intersection of whiteness and class, or latinoness, or asianness, or native Americanness.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:22 AM
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If you scare me, you're lower class, if not, not.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:25 AM
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158:

I can pass as middle-class well enough to be party to conversations in which genuinely middle-class people sneer disparagingly about the lower classes.

I'm grateful to hear someone voice this. One of the features of being a "straddler," reaching an educational level beyond anything your family is familiar with, is learning to "pass," as ttaM puts it.

I myself (from a middle middle-class background, extended family quite solidly lower middle-class) am always very aware that there's some performance going on, that I'm putting on airs, as it were, because I learned these behaviors, and the preferences I currently harbor, as a young adult.

Self-mockery is us.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:25 AM
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166. Pedant. Her principles don't allow her to invade the principal.

165. It was not uncommon for plu (people like us) to have a summer job in the trades, or some other physical work, if only to reinforce that you didn't want to do that for the rest of your life. I worked as a ranch hand in Waxahatchie TX one summer. the ranch was owned by my father's college room-mate. The ranch manager was not happy to see me, because he usually didn't work that hard in the summer because it is way too hot. But he found something for me to do. About 10 miles of bodark fence posts on some new acreage.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:28 AM
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In most of the rest of the world, things are about themselves.

Wicked idealization here. I'm very frustrated with our public discourse too, but come on, I don't buy this at all.


Posted by: cw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:28 AM
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The hope is always that you can possess the learned behaviors and preferences without feeling performative, that they have grown naturally out of your experience and you really do prefer them, not conventionally or to fit in.

A lot of people must be faking it, though, with many cultural activities. I look at other people at concerts, for instance and feel privileged to be actually enjoying it.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:33 AM
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175:

The hope is always that you can possess the learned behaviors and preferences without feeling performative, that they have grown naturally out of your experience and you really do prefer them, not conventionally or to fit in.

Of course. And I do possess the behaviors and preferences I don't feel performative about. (This sounds circular but is not.)

There is a large range of additional things, however, that are shared by other members of my acquired class that I don't naturally prefer. Quite a few things I see presented on this blog as simply 'obvious' for "people like us." The latter phrase irks for this reason.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:43 AM
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171 is exactly right.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:45 AM
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There is a large range of additional things, however, that are shared by other members of my acquired class that I don't naturally prefer. Quite a few things I see presented on this blog as simply 'obvious' for "people like us." The latter phrase irks for this reason.

Huh, I think this may be what was getting to me earlier, although it comes from a different direction. I was (probably) imagining an implied sense in which, should I manage to get one or more degrees and find satisfying work in a field that I enjoy, I will have managed to accomplish basically the absolute baseline for somebody who grew up in the circumstances I did, which is to say not much. Whereas if I had grown up in comfortable and loving but working class circumstances, and had gone on to achieve more education and/or professional success than my parents, I would have achieved something truly remarkable and admirable.

Petty of me, innit?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:48 AM
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Yeah. Buck and I are in pretty much the same position educationally and professionally. In Buck's case, that means he did something kind of awesome. In my case, it means I didn't fuck up irretrievably all that much.

Self-esteem is overrated; I gave it up for Lent a couple of years ago.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:52 AM
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Fuck the organic granola intellectuals. Just fuck 'em. What a buncha weenies,


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:54 AM
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shared by other members of my acquired class that I don't naturally prefer. Quite a few things I see presented on this blog as simply 'obvious' for "people like us

I hope always to have the gumption to reject things like that, or at least that "by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold."


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:55 AM
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But see, I don't like that conclusion, because I don't really think it's true; there were (and are) other things for me to deal with that got in the way of the normal path. But I don't really have a way to talk about that without coming off like a twit, so I don't.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:56 AM
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182 to 179.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 11:56 AM
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The trouble is, it's destructive the way education gets used as a class marker in the U.S. It's a way of channeling social-class-animus away from the super-rich and towards the highly educated, which has screwy policy effects: sure, Republican economic policies suck, but you've got to show those liberal elites who think they're better than you! But as far as the social circles you tend to run in, yes, it obviously plays a big role.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:00 PM
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But see, I don't like that conclusion, because I don't really think it's true; there were (and are) other things for me to deal with that got in the way of the normal path. But I don't really have a way to talk about that without coming off like a twit, so I don't.

Well, the part where you overcame adversity just happens to have little to do with your class of origin. So what? Scrambling out of the class your parents belong to just isn't one of the things you've achieved by pursuing your degree. That doesn't mean that you haven't achieved anything by it, or that it isn't a real achievement.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:04 PM
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It's a way of channeling social-class-animus away from the super-rich and towards the highly educated, which has screwy policy effects

Right, the $40K a year school-teacher is the liberal elite, while the multi-millionaire small business owner burdened by the inheritance tax is the simple salt of the earth.

182: Hrm. I think at that point you have to think of it as personal narrative, not a story about class, don't you?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:05 PM
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Or what tailshrub said.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:06 PM
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Frowner! I just read the article you linked in 104 today over lunch, for class. The article before it, in the same volume, makes very similar points for elementary and secondary schooling. Both interesting reads.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:06 PM
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186.last: well, right, which is where class assumptions fall apart.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:08 PM
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No one's saying that class explains everything, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:10 PM
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186:

I think at that point you have to think of it as personal narrative, not a story about class, don't you?

Indeed, I think of my own trajectory (higher social class now than the one in which I was raised) as a personal narrative, not a story about class.

Why are these things stories about class, again? I've lost track of the thread; it's up there somewhere.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:16 PM
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A lot of people must be faking it, though, with many cultural activities.

Goddamn phonies. I'm with CW at #174. Nothing is as bourgeois as bourgeois-bashing and the idealization of "realness."


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:17 PM
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191: Well, because class is a useful concept politically -- it tells you who's systematically getting screwed, and by whom. Motion from one class to another is interesting because it means that the set of people with whom your economic and social interests are generally aligned has changed (which doesn't mean your opinions have to change, of course). A narrative including motion from one class to another is still a personal narrative, of course, just a particular type therof.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:20 PM
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190: but I think -- as real as class differences are -- it can be reductive and unfortunate to use it to make some of the distinctions that I imagined people to have been making upthread.

But then, I imagined them.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:21 PM
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because class is a useful concept politically -- it tells you who's systematically getting screwed, and by whom

I'm getting very confused. Isn't it not a useful concept because it--or at least a wide swath of it--is not well-defined? I took that to be your main point.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:23 PM
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It, them, whatever. Is poor English grammar a class marker? Oh, hell no!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:25 PM
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Once you get over 35 and the initial family or upbringing fades, you really start understanding class in a deeper way. A couple with a combined income of $$400-500 K or more (it sounds like LB's family could be headed for this) has many more options on how to structure their future and their kids future than an ordinary family does. People who are *really* successful have opportunities for true power and wealth open up to them in their late 30s or so. (That would not be me, I'm an underachiever relative to the chances I've had, but I've been around a number of people like this).

I think its important to keep your eye on the ball of actual current wealth, opportunities, and so forth. A lot of focus on the early family background stuff and personal style serves to conceal that, sometimes I wonder if that is its function.

But although I'm American, I don't share the weird American love/hate relationship with class distinctions. All societies have hierarchies and elites. The question is how responsibly and well each caste carries out its functions. What you want is a socially healthy upper class, and to avoid rotten aristocracy. Not having a good vocabulary for class makes it hard to hold elites to their social responsibilities.


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:26 PM
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195: Class is a useful concept. Our language for talking about class is impoverished, non-standard from one conversation to the next, and confused. I'd like a better, clearer, language, not to abandon the idea of class entirely.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:27 PM
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A couple with a combined income of $$400-500 K or more (it sounds like LB's family could be headed for this) has many more options on how to structure their future and their kids future than an ordinary family does. People who are *really* successful have opportunities for true power and wealth open up to them in their late 30s or so.

I think you're right that that's a class transition point -- it's one I can see clearly from where I am now, but don't expect to (or particularly want to) get there. But, say, if I made partner here and did well, rather than saving my sanity by moving to a lower paying job that wasn't soul-killing, that's a line we'd probably end up crossing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:30 PM
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it can be reductive and unfortunate to use it

This is true-- judge not, and it's unpleasant to have someone else see you as a member of a group rather than a person. But some Kincaid-loving, SUV-driving, golf-playing cracker from the low-density burb up the damn road from my house deserves scorn for driving like an ass that I wouldn't feel for someone who showed less personality to superficial inspection.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:32 PM
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Rentier class, entrepeneur class, working class. If you have to ask, you're working class.

Thread over. You're quite welcome.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:33 PM
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63

"On the lower income end -- my kids playing with the highschool teacher's kids aren't going to notice a major difference in lifestyle (oh, an adult probably would, money's certainly not unimportant), and neither will be socially intimidated by the other, whereas both would be likelier to recognize a class barrier of some kind between them and the family of, say, a non-college-educated construction worker, even though the construction worker might be higher income than the teacher. (I am not endorsing class snobbery as a good thing, just saying that I think it exists.)"

Really? A factor of 4 difference in household income and you don't think the kids notice. I am doubtful especially as they get older.

Turn it around, your kids interacting with kids from a family that makes 4 times as much as your family. You think your kids won't notice? This situation has arisen in my extended family and the kids noticed.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:34 PM
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There's being totally oblivious, and then there's thinking of it as a noticably different sort of household -- perceiving a class barrier. And of course, my kids are pretty young yet. But they don't in fact seem to notice that sort of income differences.

Move from us to 4 times our income, and I think that would be much more conspicious.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:41 PM
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203: I dunno, LB. I was certainly highly aware as a kid which of my classmates lived in houses and which lived in apartment. I clearly remember being a bit jealous of a kid who lived in a duplex, because we were in an apartment. I would have been maybe 7?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:44 PM
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the ball of actual current wealth, opportunities, and so forth.
Explicit wealth and education, OK, certainly for census purposes. But one thing that sucks about being poor and unconnected is having no margin for error. Latent wealth + opportunity (slack off too badly and your parents will serve as housing insurance, for example, or having college or family friends who say useful things when talking about career prospects) changes risk appetite, and perhaps incentive. The census can't detect this, or at least not well, but it can be discussed.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:44 PM
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163: and a carpenter, remember?

I just brought that stuff up earlier to point out you can have a long tortured path to end up somewhere, and it's interesting to think about how much of yourself was picked up along the way, how much upbringing.

When I talked about blue collar jobs (construction, demolition, scrap metal, farm labor, etc. chimney sweep, even ..) I wasn't talking about the middle class summer job effect, but only (legal) things i could do to pay rent at the time. I did this stuff long enough that it felt like home, for a while. Not like a visit.


Posted by: jimmy carter | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:45 PM
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203: It's probably a combination of the fact that your kids are young and that they're on the top end of the playground income divide. (No aspersions cast.)

They're a little too young to be status-conscious about items (give it two years), but they're also not going to be asking why they didn't go skiing like EmmaJacob's family.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:50 PM
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204: NYC living may be flattening in that regard -- owning or renting is a big economic difference, but isn't all that visible to a kid when they're both apartments. But what I'm talking about is not that the kid couldn't figure out who was richer if they worked at it, but that there's a pretty broad range of incomes over which, if the other class markers are shared, living conditions are going to look familiar and ordinary, rather than odd.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:51 PM
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207: yeah, "how come we always have to stay at other people's second homes?" was another one it occured to me to ask embarrassingly early on.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:52 PM
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207: No offense taken, and again, I didn't mean to say that even kids the age of mine were completely oblivious to economic differences. "Major difference in lifestyle" may not have been the clearest.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:54 PM
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I guess I think that kids are a misdirection in this discussion-- I think that kids don't perceive wealth much the way adults do unless parents or other adults teach them to. Of course, if money, ethnicity, and geography all coincide, they pick up fast on what it means to live on THAT side of the tracks.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 12:59 PM
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Yeah, I may have fumbled in the manner I brought them up. I was trying to get at the idea that for someone who isn't thinking directly in terms of money, class commonalities in lifestyle can be fairly powerful over a fairly broad range of incomes. A home filled with brick&board bookshelves is going to feel more similar to one with expensive furniture bookshelves, so long as they have similar books on them, than the first home will feel to one at the same income level without the bookshelves.

(Not minimizing income, just talking about how non-income factors play into feelings of class commonality.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:23 PM
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I find it really funny that this post about the social differences between the US and Canada created a thread of responses about income disparity. Canada's not that poor, you know - we do have paved roads for the dogsleds (not that you can see them under all the snow, but nonetheless...)


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:24 PM
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Dude, I drove through Saskatchewan and while the road is paved, it's only wide enough for, max, two dogsleds. And a semi.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:30 PM
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I was self concious about my family's house compared to my friends' growing up. This was as much to do with us being slobs as class, and probably had a lot to do with tumultuous family goings on that I told myself were just about the house, but I still think the difference in houses is something kids might be aware of. Clothes too. Things like education as ways of improving your social status with peers don't kick in until later unless you go to private school. In high school, it makes you a nerd, but you're also in the AP & honors classes etc.--in elementary school, though, it's another strike against you.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:31 PM
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It took careful planning to measure out the width of the dogsleds. I mean let's face it, not all dogs are created equal, and now with the rise in obesity rates all across America, I can hardly fit the huskies in the garage anymore! We'll be having to resize them roads soon.


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:33 PM
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215: I may just be wrong here, but what I'm trying to get at is a difference between perception of ranking on the economic ladder, and perception of being in or out of a common social group.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:36 PM
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Or make your huskies run in single file.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:36 PM
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a difference between perception of ranking on the economic ladder, and perception of being in or out of a common social group

The former can be divided up into as finely as necessary to ensure that there are schisms not just between the homeowners/apartment-dwellers, but between the kids whose parents don't have the right kind vacation home and those who do.

The latter means feeling as though your friend's house is reasonably predictable/comprehensible in terms of food, personal interaction, schedules, expectations of behavior, telephone manners, etc.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:51 PM
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"Also, in my experience, people who think that class doesn't exist or isn't important, are people on the 'right' side of all the relevant class divides."

I don't think this is quite right. The 'right' class is well-aware of class and its importance. But they also believe that class is deserved or earned more than other side.

Haven't there been a spate of blog posts suggesting that income mobility is decreasing in the US, and is less than it is in Europe?

Even if income mobility has slowed in the US (and I strongly believe that), most Americans still strongly believe in that mobility.

That if they start a business, buy real estate or trade stocks on the internet, they'll become rich when the data shows chances are very slim. I believe that belief is not as strong in the UK. What do those in UK think?


Posted by: terpbball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 1:52 PM
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203

"... But they don't in fact seem to notice that sort of income differences."

They don't appear to notice looking down. How about looking up? It makes a difference.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:09 PM
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Yeah, this sort of conversation is a large part of what makes it so difficult to talk about class in the US -- any discussion of the fact that classes exist and have interests tends to get turned to snob-shaming. True egalitarians are above perceiving this sort of things.

For a substantive answer to your question, Shearer, see 208, 210, 212, 215, and 219.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:28 PM
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As fascinating as I find the topic of "straddlers" (being one myself), it's worth keeping three things in mind:

1. It's a pretty damn small demographic category, particularly if we restrict it to organic intellectuals rather than people who struck it rich along the way. The reason Harvard could afford to waive parental financial contribution for students whose families earn less than $60K is that there are so darn few of them

2. We are apparently grossly overrepresented at Unfogged

3. We are extraordinarily fortunate: not only to have landed in the rarified world we landed in, but also to have experienced life from another perspective.

I realized pretty early on that my more affluent friends--and here I mean children of educated professionals raised in nice suburbs--could never hope to replicate the experiences I had in my youth, whereas a whole lot of what they experienced (travel, culture) I could make up for in adulthood.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:40 PM
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If you scare me, you're lower class, if not, not.

You want scary, you should meet some serious aristocrats some time.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:40 PM
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I think that kids don't perceive wealth much the way adults do unless parents or other adults teach them to.

I think close to the opposite may be the truth. Kids are very sensitive to whether they can get stuff or not, and they know the kids who have stuff and the ones who don't. Obviously they aren't as sensitive to subtle markers of taste (although brand awareness is pushing ever lower in the elementary school ranks), but they can self-sort by affluence to a high degree of accuracy.

What parents can teach them is appreciation for non-pecuniary things, like the value of the life of the mind.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:45 PM
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I would mildly dispute 223.1. The four-year liberal arts college my sisters attended had a substantial minority of students who were making just this leap, and the two of their classsmates with whom I became close friends are living adult professional lives similar to those described earlier in this thread. It's not millions of people, granted, but it's a lot more than just the Harvards of the world.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:47 PM
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223: I think it's pretty fortunate over all, but I don't agree that you can exactly `make up for' everything in adulthhod. Traveling as an adult is not the same as having grown up as a child who travelled a lot. This isn't judgemental, just a different path sort of thing.

Pretty much anyone can reproduce some bits of the experiences of my youth given enough alchohol, drugs, and a serious commitment to forgo a sense of self preservation. Other bits, not so much I guess.

The (over?) representation of `straddlers' here at Unfogged is probably interesting.

224 is very much correct.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:50 PM
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223: I have now lost track of what "Organic Intellectuals" means. When it was introduced, I thought it was a category meant to include low income knowledge workers, like school teachers, and fancy pants lawyers like Lizardbreath.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:50 PM
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The truth of 223.1 is a corollary to the previously discussed research about declining social mobility.

In a country of 300M, there's going to be a fair number of first generation college students even if they are a small proportion of the population. If we further restrict it to the small proportion of students attending selective colleges, you're down to small single digits. I don't have time to google, but I wager it is well under 1% of each years college leavers.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:52 PM
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whereas a whole lot of what they experienced (travel, culture) I could make up for in adulthood.

Ehh.... I wouldn't be so sure. Now this is probably just a coarse attempt to defend my own privilege, but there were some pretty amazing things I got to see due to constant travel as a young'un that won't even exist in another 20 years. If they haven't disappeared already.

I think there's also a lot to be said for having been immersed in so many different locations and cultures while still very young. You grow up finding very little to be weird.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:52 PM
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Whoo hoo! I consider 227's pwn to be the coveted soup biscuit stamp of approval!


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 2:54 PM
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212: A home filled with brick&board bookshelves is going to feel more similar to one with expensive furniture bookshelves, so long as they have similar books on them,

Does that mean that the porn is out?

max
['Damn.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:00 PM
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228: It's the granolas.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:12 PM
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Look, I don't want to romanticize growing up in modest circumstances. Given the low odds of breaking out, you would much rather start from a privileged position and take what life gives you. But for those working class kids who are fortunate enough to successfully storm the castle of the elite, there is real and unique value in the experience of a modest upbringing.

If nothing else, it gives you a lot of good stories to tell: Belle Waring's stories of shotgun discharges in the family living quarters fall into this general category.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:19 PM
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the ability to piss away opportunities and not be really screwed by it is a pretty solidly middle/upper-class marker, come to think of it.

This is a very very big deal. I think it also intersects with the group of Republican voters who think it's very important to ensure that people (poor people, although they don't say so) will be made to suffer properly if they step off the straight and narrow (there's an unusually clear example in comments to McMegan post yesterday), but I haven't worked out just how.

I realized pretty early on that my more affluent friends--and here I mean children of educated professionals raised in nice suburbs--could never hope to replicate the experiences I had in my youth, whereas a whole lot of what they experienced (travel, culture) I could make up for in adulthood.

I'm struggling with this in my thinking about the remainder of my kid's childhood. Over the course of my childhood, my parents went from pretty much no money at all to comfortably middle class. For a variety of reasons, including their struggles with social/class stuff, I grew up with a weird mix of experiences and less social capital than I turned out to need when I graduated from high school and went off to the elite college that seemed like the logical next step. Now my kid is in a place where he's getting a great education and tons of social capital but missing out on some of the experiences that I had growing up and value a lot now, painful though some of them were at the time. Sometimes I feel like I'm really doing him wrong by not uprooting him and taking him off to experience a different life for a while.



Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:21 PM
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NPH: If some of Belle's stories are taken as the measure for the value of a lower class upbringing, you can always replicated them by acquiring drug habits and behaving recklessly. Really its quite easy.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:31 PM
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No problem replicating the sort of experiences I'm thinking about, and no confusion about the difference between what I'm thinking about and genuine poverty.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:33 PM
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If nothing else, it gives you a lot of good stories to tell

Sometimes. Sometimes not. At the time, to friends, I laughed about getting subsidized meals in my elite suburban HS, but it didn't feel very funny presenting that card to the cashier. It felt like everyone was watching.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:35 PM
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if this anon stuff is just annoying people tell me to stop. but this thread brings up a question that's sort of interesting to me, but I still don't want to discuss it under my pseud.

so from above you'll see i went through what might be described as a rough patch at one point. My childhood home is what I guess I would call lower-middle-class: middle class values, not much money. At some point though, i was just trouble; mostly my own fault I'm the first to say. Headed for at absolute best a semi-stable working class day-to-day, at least if I managed to stay out of jail.

So here's the thing: One day I just (literally) decided that this would suck, and left. Got up in the morning and walked away. Straightened up, left my job and friends, lived cheap, made up high school courses by correspondence. high school to community college (more high school + freshman stuff) to university to grad school, with a few bumpy bits along the way.

The question is: Would I have had the imagination for this if I hadn't been brought up with middle class expectations? Am I just more stubborn than many? How much does it help that once I was back in `the system' I've got the right sort of name and skin color?


Posted by: jimmy carter | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:41 PM
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I guess it depends on how old the kid is. Personally, I have a hard time imagining where purposely making a kid's life less stable would be useful. Going to stay with relatives for a summer if they're bored, or summer travels without an itinerary-- maybe. Mom and dad are going to become unpredictable, expect to fend for yourself-- this seems like a bad idea.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:43 PM
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"whereas a whole lot of what they experienced (travel, culture) I could make up for in adulthood."

Not really, IMO. As I have said, there are not spectrum of classes, but 2-3, and the different ways they experience culture (eg) are not really transferable.

Paris Hilton is depraved for her class in her desire or need to become famous. Prince Charles, in his deepest soul, could have not have cared less about becoming the world's best polo players. I watch Kim Simmons and Shannon Tweed's reality show, and they will never be upper class. And they know it.

For the upper class, achievement accomplishment have little meaning or value. They listen to a Joshua Bell differently than the bourgeios, because they can't relate to that ambition. Neither can a coalminer, without opportunities or real aspirations, really understand a novelist or painter except as a rise in class.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:44 PM
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The reason Harvard could afford to waive parental financial contribution for students whose families earn less than $60K is that there are so darn few of them

There may be darn few of them, but I wouldn't be surprised if Harvard could afford to waive more tuition than that. Harvard's endowment is very large.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:44 PM
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doing something different with the kids always seemed to be an excellent idea to me. Doing something to fake financial constraints or whatever doesn't, though. I knew a family that just sold everything off and sailed around the world for 2 years. Another that moved to a `real' city so their kids would have different experience. Neither of these families had all that much money, for that matter, but it's probably irrelevant. I don't think it's the particulars so much as the idea that you can use the resources (and interests presumeably) you have to show your kids that its a wide world.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:47 PM
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Actually the partner watches Simmons & Tweed, and I catch it in passing. It's pretty funny.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:48 PM
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Harvard's endowment is very large.

Hmm. I wonder if this is what my old girlfriend meant when she said nobody would mistake me for a Harvard man.



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:49 PM
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242: Harvard could pay everyone's tuition with a fraction of the yearly interest on their endowment.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:52 PM
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IME, Harvard has, um, a range of endowments.


Posted by: Drew Faust (presidential!) | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:53 PM
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I guess it depends on how old the kid is. Personally, I have a hard time imagining where purposely making a kid's life less stable would be useful.

I'm not getting my point across very well. I really do mean different experiences--more unstructured time, more manual labor, different school experience, and just having the experience of transition and living different ways as a kid rather than waiting until adulthood--not flaking out on the kid completely.

243 is more or less what I'm talking about.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:57 PM
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My parents will never let me forget that they arrived in Canada with just the clothes on their backs and a suitcase in each hand. They have worked hard, and saved in order to place themselves squarely in the middle class bracket with realty to show for it. However, they also didn't let us forget for a second that we were POOR and that only hard work and modesty would save us.

They would yell at me for 'wasting electricity' when I stayed up reading (for pleasure) into the wee hours of the morning. I prefer this to any other experience I could have had, because now when I pick up a book and do some pleasure reading, I feel like it is still somewhat illicit and indulgent. I feel like I'm 'getting away with it' and it still feels thrilling. I know alot of kids from upper crust families who were pushed to read, and dispized it.

Mind you, even though my parents told me and my sisters we were poor, we still took trips to Portugal every year, so that's a bit of my privellege talking too.


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 3:59 PM
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I guess I am the most lower-class person around here, even tho the household makes high 5 figures, because I am not from the "aspirational" class. Good job, nice house car, family, retirement was about all that was conceivable and all that was wanted. There are exceptions, doctors and businessmen...they have nicer cars & houses. The family doesn't really care about the doctor's reputation in his field because they can't relate to that kind of competition.

I really do look at most of the blogosphere differently than you look at yourselves or each other. On the one hand writing nd publishing a book is astonishing, but admirable more as a blessing or gift or luck than I spect y'all see it, but on the other hand I am not quite sure why one would want to.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:00 PM
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Harvard's endowment is very large.

I saw something recently about there being some Congressional interest in requiring educational and cultural nonprofits to spend at least a certain percentage (4-5%?) of their endowments every year. That would be a very good change, and one that could maybe draw support from both Democratic do-gooders and Republican pointy-head-haters.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:00 PM
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Would I have had the imagination for this if I hadn't been brought up with middle class expectations? Am I just more stubborn than many? How much does it help that once I was back in `the system' I've got the right sort of name and skin color?

My sense is that all of this does make a huge difference; that it's much easier to clamber back into the middle class after something's made you fall out of it, then to claw your way in initially.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:02 PM
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251: Warren Buffett, who donated the bulk of his money to the Gates Foundation, stipulated that it get spent in a relatively short period of time. Coming from a guy who is famous for his frugality and for his understanding of sound business practices, I found that striking.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:04 PM
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249: I had sort of the opposite experience. We emmigrated too. Mine never told us we were poor, but it took many years before they could afford a trip back to visit family. Never talked about it explicitly, but Mom made our clothes when we were little and we didn't have `vacations' per se, that sort of thing, so the first 10 years or so must have been rough on them. Not that I really noticed; It probably helped that we were in a very economically mixed school district. By the time we were old enough to really figure this stuff out, their income was better, so I guess it worked.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:06 PM
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136 and 139: My sister went to Emma Willard for a bit and was thrown out. She got depressed, they said that she had anorexia and that it wasn't safe to have her there. She came home for a few months. was treated and went back on medication. She had a note from her doctor saying that her level of exercise (which she'd used to elevate her mood) was healthy. The counselor who had no real training declared that she was running too much in an attempt to control her weight. They grabbed her and forced her in the infirmary and wouldn't let her get her things until my Dad arrived. So shitty. They wouldn't give an exit summary which you need to go to another provate school, so we had to hire a lawyer. We did noy want to sue, but they were being ridiculous, so the lawyer wrote threatenign things about the ADA. Such a shitty place.

It actually seemed to me to be kind of not upper class. Troy, NY is such a dump. One fo the girls I met aspired to being a police officer or something, and it wasn't in a cool, hip way. Very, very different from the ISL or Deerfield.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:09 PM
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253: Possibly we're due to catch on that running a nonprofit with tons of money and limited oversight can be a pretty sweet gig, that people in such positions do not check their self-interest at the door, and that they do all sorts of stuff that's perfectly legal and aboveboard but not necessarily the ideal use for the zillions of dollars they control.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:12 PM
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250: That's not simply a class thing, though. I guess I'm one of those `straddlers' talked about above. Nobody in my direct family had a university degree when I went. Only one person extended family that I know of. So while getting a bachelors seems like something someone might do (given the climate of `it's the only way to succeed'), I don't know that anyone in my family really understands why I did graduate degrees, etc. It certainly wasn't something anyone aspired to. It sounds like you're hardly the only one in this thread....


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:16 PM
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OTOH, the other hand, let me see:4 grandparents, 7 aunts and uncles, 21 cousins, 50+ second cousins, and two divorces in almost a hundred years. One of them 15 years after a teenage shotgun wedding. The woman died of hyper-metasisized breat cancer, but the guy's 2nd marriage is approaching 40 years.

We are talking past each other. Culture and experience are much less transferable and communicable than y'all imagine, but then, y'all are from the aspirational class. Bourgeois.

Madame Bovary is a pretty good book.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:16 PM
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y'all are from the aspirational class.

cross post, but I pointed out this isn't really true.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:17 PM
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Culture and experience are much less transferable and communicable than y'all imagine

I've heard this case made quite persuasively, but I can't seem to connect it at all to my own experience. I feel as though I am in many ways the product of my upbringing.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:23 PM
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257:I am reminded of the bar conversation in Metropolitan:"Ten years on, none of us will have really achieved anything."

I guess the Kennedys and Bushes generated some politicians, but any doctors, generals, artists, entrepeneurs? I don't think anyone here understands that class.

Rentiers, entrepeneurs, workers:land, capital, labour. Maintenance, mobility, maintenance.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:24 PM
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242

I agree, Harvard raises tuition every year because they can not because they really need the money.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:25 PM
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266: not communicable or transferable across class divides

I am convinced a Kennedy hears a symphony orchestra differently than I do, reads Madame Bovary differently than I do, on the basis of class.

Where is SEK? But who was Wharton, anyway?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:28 PM
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262:
What, and other universities don't? Ivy league universities are rolling in dough. They can afford to donate to some of the community colleges - now that would be a wise investment.


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:30 PM
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Harvard has much, much more money than any other school in the country.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:31 PM
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262: sorry, misunderstood the punctuation. They do it because they can- not because they need the money... I totally agree....


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:31 PM
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I'm not up on all the details of universities' funding, but my alma mater kicked around Harvard's idea of not charging tuition to those making under $40,000 (only 10% of Harvard undergrads.. a fun fact to bring up to kids getting on the best of the best of the best train), and it turned out that it wasn't really fiscally feasible without Harvard's level of money.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:34 PM
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261+

Rentiers, entrepeneurs, workers

One owns the means of production, one creates and transforms the factors, the last is and is used by the means of production.

Capitalism created the creative and liberal class which values creativity and liberalism very highly.

Over my head, probly with trite and very old insights. Goin to cook dinner


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:36 PM
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What, and other universities don't?

Lots of universities really do spend the tuition they bring in, and have budget shortfalls when tuition income is not as high as projected.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:37 PM
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Good, because this 'my extended family are all lawyers and doctors but I'm working class because we don't want to be famous' schtick is beginning to sound like one of your jokes, bob.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:37 PM
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256: No kidding, (I've worked for and with a few of them myself)- the thing is they rarely last if they are mismanaging the funds. Whole executive boards rarely ALL conspire together, leaving lots of room for infighting and scandal.


Posted by: Lucy | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:47 PM
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271: my extended family are all lawyers and doctors but I'm working class

You don't read well, Cala?

250:"There are exceptions, doctors and businessmen"

The average family member is a HS teacher, I suppose.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:49 PM
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I thought you were cooking dinner, mcmanus. Or is that revolutionary code?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:52 PM
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271: Yeah, the really scandalous, fraudulent, illegal, etc. stuff tends to come out and have consequences. Mere incompetence, empire building, underspending on programs, etc., not so much.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:56 PM
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273: You don't need a garde manger man to tell you which way the salad goes.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 4:57 PM
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272+ Trying to think, there are a shitload of 2nd cousins, but bachelor's is around the peak, with about half not getting the bachelor's. Trades, crafts,
accountants but not quite CPA's. Even unto the 5th generation. The third generation, the baby-boomers, seemed to do the best.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:00 PM
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273:Salad & sliced fruit ain't hard. And the fucking dogs can wait.

Nah, they're bitching at me. Ok I'm gone.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:02 PM
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I guess I am the most lower-class person around here

Are you fucking kidding me? Or does 'here' mean, specifically where you are?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:08 PM
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279:Seemed to me there are a bunch of academics and lawyers. There, are IIRC, a couple pink-collar types.

And my near six-figure household income doesn't define my class. A plumber is not really bourgeois. A plumbing contractor may not be.

A long weird thread that I didn't follow completely, but I am not saying college teachers are rich or identify with the rich, although there is a little bit of that above, and a little of that in what I am saying.

The aspirational class. I don't think Cala can quite believe the few degrees in the fifth generation of my family. Are we hillbilly trailer trash? I think America has gotten harder, and the marginal aspirationals may have slid backwards.

I identify with the older guy at the bar in Metropolitan I identify with Dr Bovary, with Levin.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:32 PM
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278:I meant the Unfoggedtariat, if that was the question.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:33 PM
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This is an interesting subject for me, just now. As I noted yesterday (on the asking thread) the wife's class trajectory is steeply upward. Mine is more gently downward. Our kids seem to be unconsciously replicating my own long-ago efforts at steeply downward movement: the wife finds it utterly incomprehensible, while I have to restrain myself from telling stories scary stories.

The toughest part of parenthood, for me, at this point, is calibrating the sanctions for missing/blowing opportunities. Chastened but not demoralized is what I'm going for. Of course, it's really just a play for time, until they're savvy enough about the ways of the world to know that the things they like about being in our class really aren't available in the places you end up if you screw up too badly.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:35 PM
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281: IIRC your kids are 8-10 years older than mine. I assume from comments you've made about where you live that they've had access to fairly privileged schooling, and you've talked recently about maybe moving to a different sort of environment. If you don't mind my asking, was that something you thought about when they were younger, and if so, are you happy with how it's worked out where you are? We seem to be on a somewhat similar path toward having the kid grow up in an urban, privileged environment and then maybe do something different for a while after he finishes school, and as noted above, some days I have doubts.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 5:51 PM
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The last two comments have inspired me. And I don't mean to be offensive or judgemental. And maybe Emerson can help with what I view as the Midwest non-aspirational anti-Amberson's lifestyle.

It's for the children. They may not have your talents or abilities or ambitions, and for instance growing up in ever-larger houses with ever nicer cars, going to the better schools, may lead them to expectations about how their lives should go, how their children should live. Disappointments and tragedies.

So you quit work at six, and instead of studying for the advanced degree you go play softball with the community. You have the kids at twenty instead of thirty, which has all sorts of advantages. You decline the promotional transfer.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 6:11 PM
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The two degrees in the 2nd generation, graduating 1955-60:

The one uncle, brilliant wunderkind, rising like a fucking rocket in a multinational, turned down South America at age 32, quit the corporation, returned home to start a small marginal business.

THe other uncle, driven accumulative surgeon, discovered as his kids hit their twenties that his kids were fucked up and hated him. Because he was saving lives every day, he couldn't find the time and it took about 15 years for him to get back with his kids and help them get together.

I don't need no stinking ambition.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 6:38 PM
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Yeah, what kind of jerk saves lives, anyhow?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 6:39 PM
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A surgeon, duh.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 6:40 PM
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(hands the precious over to LB)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 6:41 PM
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Uh, Bob, urban and privileged doesn't necessarily imply ambitious, driven, and acquisitive.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 6:43 PM
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285:It was a miserable 15 years for that family. And he was spending all his free time buying Russell's and condos in Costa Rica.

I love both those uncles very much.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 6:48 PM
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I don't know, seems reasonably easy to give your kids stuff and really hard to give them your time.

Your twenties, your ambitions, your preferences about where to live, your own desires for lots of stuff, for preferred activities & entertainment, for the approval of your peers. All these things are really time. I suppose most parents think they give enough.

Little fuckers probably don't deserve it anyway.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:07 PM
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Geez, this is getting like the time I was doing document review at 3am when Sally was seven months old and I was still breastfeeding and the radio started playing Cat's in the Cradle. You're depressing me.

(Jurisdiction, really, is depressing me. Such a boring category of legal issues.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:10 PM
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It's hard, but one of the things I figured out when the kid was really small is that I couldn't be either the sort of parent I'd be if I didn't have to work or the sort of lawyer I'd be if I didn't have a kid. I'm OK with that, and we've finally managed to work our way into jobs that both pay better than most and give us more time off and more control over our schedules than most working people have. We're very, very fortunate. Which doesn't mean I can't daydream/worry about whether it would be better to be fortunate in some other way.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:33 PM
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LB, I'm also working on jurisdiction but about to give up and start drinking.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:45 PM
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282 and previous:

some days I have doubts.

NPH, it's so cool that you worry about this, your kid's experiences and expectations. I hope that doesn't sound patronising or obnoxious.

Similar to 243's thoughts (family who took off to sail around the world): one of the most marvelous sets of people I've ever come to know took the kids off to live essentially on the beach in Puerto Rico back in the 70s for a couple of years. They didn't have a lot of money, and it was rough going, but by the time I came to know those kids in the mid-80s, they were the most independent, resilient, open-minded, and unstoppable people I'd ever met.

The other day when I went to do our weekly pick-up of vegetables from our local organic CSA (farm), a mother had brought her little 5 or 6 year old girl, who whined:

"That's why I don't like coming to the farm! I don't like the flies!" (Waving arms in the air with look of prissy disgust on her face.)

and: "Look at all this stuff on the floor, yuck, yuck." (It was stray bits of straw.)

Figured that kid needed to be made to do a little farm work, pronto.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 7:49 PM
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Thanks, parsimon, but I think most of us do that in one way or another. It's funny, my kid is kind of prissy in a lot of ways, but he absolutely loves what little country boy stuff he gets.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:52 PM
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Uh, Bob, urban and privileged doesn't necessarily imply ambitious, driven, and acquisitive.

Uh, that's what Bob was saying. Snark works better when it reflects what's going on.


Posted by: el topo | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 8:53 PM
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I think the problem's the other way around. Ambitious and driven or 'aspiration' doesn't entail middle class. Lack of it doesn't mean you're not middle class.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:06 PM
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Jeez. I was objecting to Bob's implication that Charley and I are too busy being upwardly mobile to spend time with our kids. And yeah, he said he didn't mean to be judgmental, but some of us get a little defensive about anything that looks like criticism of how we raise our kids. That's all. If Bob has a beef with the way I phrased the objection, he's welcome to raise it.

And why am I responding to a drive-by anyway?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:15 PM
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295: Sorry, just to clarify. Of course kids can be prissy (as can adults). My impression was that the little girl in question was on the road to being entirely divorced from where her dinner that evening was coming from. It seemed to be something calling for correction: an example of privileged disengagement, fast on the road to becoming entrenched.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:26 PM
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I got that and agree. I was just commenting on how it's a little weird that my kid is prissy about some stuff but not much about what little rural life he's encountered. Maybe it helps that we commonly describe the meat on his plate as "dead baby sheep" rather than "lamb," etc.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:29 PM
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Maybe. I'm not the most enlightened of souls, but I'm not that prissy, and my response to going to the zoo, at age two, was a very firm "I can look at the animals in my book, and I don't have to smell them."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:29 PM
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282 -- This is hard to answer in this forum, respecting the kids' privacy, and not boring everyone with excessive detail. Of course I wonder if some of the difficulties they've experienced would've gone away had our lives been different, but it's far from obvious that this is the case. And there's been plenty of positive from the kind of life we've had here. It's just too hard to tell one way or the other.

A few years ago, when picking colleges was the big task, it was clear that in terms of how one's life was going to go -- partnering up, included -- the choice was going to be extraordinarily significant. And there was no way on earth to tell which would turn out to be the correct decision. My parents met in college, and of course if either had gone somewhere else, they'd never have met, but odds are they'd have met other people. Terms like better or worse have no meaning in a thing like this.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:32 PM
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Maybe it helps that we commonly describe the meat on his plate as "dead baby sheep"

Dude. Harsh. I love it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:33 PM
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301: There are various sorts of prissiness and you can have some but not others, but we could probably find another adjective if you like. I think there's value in not getting too far removed from the crassly biological, but opinions legitimately differ on that.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:35 PM
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I don't believe my kids wish they'd spent more time with me, by the way.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:37 PM
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304: Oh, I'll admit that was a prissy thing for me to say. I'm just denying that it's necessarily a sign of a character flaw that must be aggressively remedied.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:40 PM
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Both Canada and England have a much stronger working class than the US. That and both countries are a lot further along the "women are, in fact, human beings" scale than we've managed to get yet.

I think those two differences explain most of the issues Alif Sikkiin points to.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 9:48 PM
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302: Sorry, I didn't mean to pry or to ask if you felt like you'd screwed up by living where you do. I think I'm mostly just struggling with the realization that my son will be deeply rooted in a very different sort of environment than the one I feel rooted in, which is really independent of geography and something I should have learned in Parenthood 101 anyway, but still seems to be smacking me alongside the head of late. I only have eight more years of being able to warp the kid's mind through daily contact.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 10-10-07 10:29 PM
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re: 279

Ah, you mean, you currently do a job that's less 'aspirational' than the majority of the Unfoggedariat? That makes sense, I suppose.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:18 AM
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Further to 309, I assumed you meant 'came from a background that was lower class than all of the rest of the Unfoggedariat' which I'd be extremely surprised if true.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:22 AM
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I would like some aspirations. Being surrounded by people with them has only made it more difficult, oddly.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 12:27 AM
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I can think of worse people to own the capital of the country than Harvard endowment.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 5:49 PM
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308 -- The past is a foreign country, Hamlet. We're all immigrants.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-11-07 8:39 PM
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