Three Classes

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46 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Dude. I enjoyed reading this essay.

    I wince in antici…Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      pation for what some future comments will be.

      But, seriously, this was an enjoyable essay to read and made a lot of really trenchant points.


  2. Avatar RTod says:

    Great piece. It made me think of my father-in-law, who came from an independently wealthy family and gave up a law practice in his 40s to become an antique dealer. He now has no real liquid capital, survives by subsidies from the government, his partner’s deceased husband’s life insurer and his daughters, and more often than not spends more at antique shows than he sells. He owns a huge amount of very valuable stock whose appeal is somewhat esoteric and therefore hard to liquidate, and keeps it all in stacks in his house; neither the stock nor the house is insured at all because he thinks insurance is a suckers game. When any of his family offer to help him, say, set up a website so that he might sell his goods more efficiently, he scoffs at the idea; keeping up the site would interfere with his reading the NYT, restauranting and relaxing time. His van is about to be repossessed, because he has it’s engine rebuilt last Spring but never saw afterward why he should be bothered to pay the mechanic.

    In 15+ years of marriage I have never been able to figure out how he survives. But survive he does, and survives nicely; everyone who meets him assumes that he is fabulously wealthy.Report

    • Perhaps I could have better described the class taxonomy as a cylinder in three-dimensional space rather than as a two-dimensional quadrilateral. Each of the three primary classes could have occupied a certain portion of arc along the cross-section of the cylinder, and one’s consumption affluence could have been reflected by one’s position along the cylinder’s length. This might better model individuals such as your father-in-law, whose experience as described here does not seem to incorporate any substantial exchange of labor for money, but does incorporate elements of both capital-proximity and entitlement.Report

  3. Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

    > My observation is that there are three classes of people –
    > those who do not need to work for a living because of their
    > association with (although not necessarily personal
    > possession of) capital; those who exchange their labor for
    > money in order to survive; and those who get what they
    > need to live by way of governmental entitlements.

    Yeah, this seems like a pretty cogent assessment to me.

    I do think that your upper bracket misses a tad bit of nuance. There are people who are on the dole who don’t want to be and really are members of the second class; they’re the people actually using the welfare system as the safety net it was originally designed to be. But there are also people (who are surrounded by capital), who don’t need to work for a living but nonetheless act as if they were members of the second class. That is to say, they possess that combined sense of responsibility and work ethic that makes them act as if they needed to trade their labor for money in order to survive.

    Unlike the welfare guys who actually are members of the second class (but who are under duress), these people can’t cast off that capital security entirely, and thus they never really will be people who need to work in order to survive. But neither are they unaware of capital in the way that their economic fellows may be.

    You point out that this is a continuum, so this is more of a nitpick than a critical issue, but the difference between the two types of cat are fairly significant from an economic engine standpoint.Report

  4. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    Excellent post.

    One thing to remember about Fussell is that, like anyone engaging in descriptive, non-quantitative sociology, he has to make use of ideal types to get his point across. Methodological issues abound, but if you’re going non-quant, you can hardly do otherwise.

    Some things have changed since 1983 (just look at the phenomenal ascent of beer in class status!), but even accounting for such variation over time, I can readily think of exceptions to his rules in just about everyone of any class status whom I’ve known more than superficially. That’s not really the point, though. The point is that these things are the exceptions, not the rules.

    At this point, a quant will ask how we know the difference, and he will have asked a very fair question indeed.

    But anyway. I would push back a bit on the identity and reality of Class X, too. There really are people who can be called bohemians — the other word Fussell uses. Wealthy or poor, they don’t fit the cultural patterns of their economic class. Instead, they have the preferences and tastes of the bohemian milieu, which draws from both the wealthy and the poor. Think grad students and their professors; journalists high and low; even celebrity performers and their much lower-paid retinues.

    What’s a bohemian do? I think I was literally sipping a martini when I read in Class that bohemians prefer gin over beer, bourbon, wine, or scotch (in ascending order, the beverages of the other classes!). Last month at a party I casually mentioned that I was reading Infinite Jest. The partygoers were upper mids, and not one of them had even heard of David Foster Wallace. I could hardly believe it. (Among my bohemian friends, I might be the very last to read Infinite Jest, much to my shame.)

    Where proles either speak immigrant languages or merely English, and where the upper class sometimes cultivates a bit of very bad French — the badness just as important as the French, mind you — I’m about as good in that language as I am in English. Very bohemian indeed.

    And so I would remain, even if I were to lose my job, and even if I were to write a bestseller and become rich.

    Still, an excellent post about a book I really enjoyed.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      While we were discussing Bach and Beethoven, in the back of my mind I realized that to almost all of my friends (smart, funny, successful, engaged, well-read, educated people), it would have been like a comparison of Glenn Miller and Harry James. I got a love of classical music from my parents, but that’s not common these days.Report

    • I wonder if the taxonomy described here is susceptible to quantification. What percentage of subject X’s income comes from paychecks, what from labor, what from private transactions like gifts and self-employment; coordinate that with the normalized value of subject X’s consumption. (Assume an objective way of normalizing consumption, of course.) Repeat for an appropriately large sample drawn from a diversity of communities, and now you’ve got numbers upon which statistical analysis can be performed and academics or quasi-academics can argue.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Hanging with librarians has shown me a great deal of contrasts.

      This one may be old money and took a job/hobby out of the sheer adoration of books. That one may be the smartest of his/her family and got out of a bad situation by fighting through school and was the best candidate when a position opened.

      But, and here’s the point, pretty much everybody has read this, that, or the other book. Or read an article/criticism/review of it. And *EVERYBODY* reads for pleasure. If you make a David Foster Wallace impersonation joke, half laugh and half get offended (I lie down on the floor, you see) but *EVERYBODY* knows who he is and starts arguing about him afterwards.

      And everybody’s backgrounds couldn’t possibly be more diverse.Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to Jaybird says:

        Who(1) is this David(2) Foster Wallace(3) fellow(4) ?

        (1) “Who” being, of course, one of the famous words journalists use. Or at least used to, when they asked questions. God knows what the fuck they do now.
        (2) When I was growing up, David was probably the most common name for boys; like the male version of Jennifer. I think I had four Davids in my freshman writing class. Today? I don’t think there’s one fishing David in my son’s entire elementary school.
        (3) Doesn’t Wallace just sound like the perfect name for a kids book about a walrus?
        (4) I was once drinking in a bar in Scotland, and someone said “I’d like to buy this fellow another pint.” I loved the congenial familiarity of it, the sound of it, and decided right there and then to start using it more often. Like here, for example.Report

  5. While I enjoyed the piece, I still wonder if “class” is the appropriate distinction. Is all stratification “class” and does the cultural differentiation which a country person brings to city life (eg., Jed Clampett) nullify class distinction, or perhaps prove some other phenomenon — perhaps our class-free society still maintains a stratification based on other factors. If, for instance, my current thoughts on a new product were to allow me to build a successful business, then when attending a meeting with established business owners of the same level of success I would still be out of place — I do not golf. But this would be entirely out of experience and background and not founded in an impassable class barrier.
    Perhaps the golfing class is better suited to the successful and da Bears fan class is more suited to the unsuccessful. These can be transcended by either learning golf or learning some important things about cheese and meat packing.Report

    • Avatar gregiank in reply to Collin Brendemuehl says:

      If you have ever met people whose family has been rich for generations then you would find out that no matter what games you learned or tastes you cultivated, you would always at the very best, be only nouveau riche. Having lots of money can’t buy you into “old money.”Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to gregiank says:

        “Having lots of money can’t buy you into “old money.””

        Which, I am starting to believe, doesn’t require any money at all.Report

        • Avatar Matty in reply to RTod says:

          “Having lots of money can’t buy you into “old money.””

          Which, I am starting to believe, doesn’t require any money at all.

          Of course not, ‘old money’ is American for aristocracy. It isn’t about who you are it’s about who you are it’s about who your great great grandfather killed in battle.

          If you want to join then I suggest 1. Go into something like politics and show very publicly that you don’t need the pay. Your descendents will need to be able to talk about what you did without mentioning the grubby business of earning. 2. Put at least some of your money into property, aristocrats have loved owning land since forever and it is one of the few investments that is often kept for centuries, which you will need for.. 3. Wait until everyone who ever met you and everyone who ever met them is long dead and then your descendants get to be Upper Class.Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to RTod says:

          Old money is money you can’t spend. Its capital, usually capital invested in things that are extremely illiquid – large tracts of land, antique furniture, the family firm – and from a conventional perspective unprofitable. So old money usually generates little or no liquid income. That’s also why there’s such a huge culture clash with new money – new money almost always means income and liquid investments and consumption, where old money is often none of those things. As Transplanted Lawyer said, a great many people in the capital class actually have almost no liquid assets.Report

          • Avatar trumwill in reply to Simon K says:

            To some extent, though, you can live off the money that money makes. A good portion of your fortune is illiquid, but depending on how much money we’re talking about, the money made off interest alone is more than most people make.Report

            • Avatar Simon K in reply to trumwill says:

              Certainly no-one in this situation would actually starve. But I know some British near-aristoracts, and I think most people would be shocked how badly many of those families live in the terms most of us measure success on. If your family owns half of Berkshire and has three enormous old drafty houses, the chances are most of the rent from the land goes back into the land and the houses, leaving very little actual cash. You may very well not be able to afford the kind of foreign vacation most working people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at.Report

          • Avatar Boonton in reply to Simon K says:

            An argument perhaps for an estate tax without a large exemption to accomodate the standard sob story about the ‘family farm’ that must be sold to pay the estate tax. I remember Jack Kemp used to argue for lower capital gains taxes on the grounds that it ‘frees up capital’ since people will sell their stock that has built up large gains and presumably use those funds elsewhere when capital gains taxes are low but will opt to ‘hold and hold’ their stock when capital gains taxes are high (thereby making it ‘dead capital’ invested in old industries rather than new and exciting ones).

            Maybe, though, income inequality driving huge estates at the top is actually creating large pools of ‘dead capital’ that is less interested in being productive and more interested in preserving a class distinction for the unproductive. An estate tax forces some of this dead capital on the market where it will be priced according to its actual productivityReport

      • The only way to eliminate class is to eliminate all stratification, real or potential. That seems contrary to liberty. Comes from an alternative frame of reference, which I prefer to reject.Report

  6. Avatar Will says:

    Do we have any evidence at all that Transplanted Lawyer is actually named Burt Likko, and did not in fact choose that pseudonym to enhance his blue collar street cred for the purposes of this post?

    More seriously, this is some interesting stuff. I do think divisions within the “laboring classes” (as you put it) remain important, anecdotes to the contrary notwithstanding. The rise of the service sector strikes me as particularly significant. If your entire career path consists of low-level jobs that require a subservient attitude, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to see a contempt for people who work for a living develop. As you say, there is a continuum between the three categories, and I wonder if the service sector represents a gray area between the laboring and entitlement classes, made up of people who have been conditioned to view work contemptuously or as something of a last resort because their available career paths are so unsatisfying.Report

    • Avatar Matty in reply to Will says:

      Service sector seems an awfully broad category to category to me. Of course a checkout worker is paid for a service rather than for products he makes but so to is a lawyer, accountant or a teacher. I doubt very much that all the jobs that involve selling your services involve low level jobs that require a suservient attitude.Report

      • Subservience may be a matter of perception, particularly in the realm of professional services.

        My clients may see me as a much more assertive figure than I perceive myself. They may see my relationship with a court as neutral or even that I have the ability to make the court do my bidding through the magic of my power as a lawyer. They may see me drafting documents or making arguments in court without any overt direction from them, or more often rely on my reporting back to them about what I did on their behalf, and perceive that I am the dominant figure and they are the subservient ones. I doubt that many of them would consider me a “servant,” albeit a smart one.

        But I see myself as very much subservient to the courts and frequently to law enforcement; my attitude towards my clients when I render my services is that they set the objectives for my employment, not I, and they are the ones with the authority to make agreements. I see myself as very much subservient to my clients. This does not particularly bother me, but Will’s point is well-taken — for some, having to assume a position of subservience at all, to anyone, under any circumstances, may be a perceived as an erosion to one’s ego, something which perhaps can be tolerated under some circumstances but never embraced.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Transplanted Lawyer says:

          Not just lawyers. Remember Cher’s plumber dad in Moonstruck? “Then, there’s copper. Which is the only pipe I use. It’s expensive, but it saves money in the long run. And ya gotta spend money to save money.” “Uh…I think we better do what he says…”Report

        • Granted subservience is in the eye of the beholder but given you make being a lawyer part of your blog name I doubt that it is a job you have contempt for. There is also the fact that a miner or farm labourer who is producing a thing rather than a service is not any less required to serve his employers.

          I supose what I’m saying is that I have a hard time believing that is that being in a service industry necessarily involves being more subservient that being in manufacturing or primary production.

          But I’m going off at a tangent, Will’s point that being expected to act subservient can be demoralising is well taken. I left my last job for similar reasons so I can certainly sympathise.Report

  7. Avatar North says:

    Congratulations on a most interesting and readable guest post!
    Now if I could only think of something smart to add to the conversation.Report

  8. Avatar Kyle says:

    This is really interesting and to be honest I’m wondering if this fits pretty well with our political divisions of late.

    A class of people whose proximity to capital and business gives them Wall Streets cultural aversion to governmental interference it doesn’t control and/or taxation. Even though in real terms they may not actually lose all that much money and in very real terms marginal rates mean nothing to them. However, they do get on at least one if not multiple levels that Washington’s involvement means less oxygen in the room.

    A class of people who see governmental assistance as a normal and necessary part of life, one that has imposes few additional burdens, if any, to increase. However, it’s also a class of people that don’t have a particular connection to the labor economy and possibly view participation in it as worse trade-off for them, particularly in the short term, even if down the road they might make more money.

    Somewhere in the middle you have a a group of laborers on a continuum of multi-colored collars who are aspirational in a way that connects long-term efforts and payoffs in a unique way.

    With respect to political power you have two parties rooted in either end of the spectrum that then propagandize contrasting messages to the center to convince them to support the something for little to nothing ethos of the entitlement class OR the view of the capital class that uncontrolled government is a competitor for advancement not a partner.

    Idk…something to mull over, though it would imply the that semi-self conscious role of the laboring middle class to play political kingmaker rather than put forth any kind of ethos reinforcing political view might be a backfiring gamble that gives the illusion of political clout in the center, without actually delivering anything.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kyle says:

      Interesting question for someone in the middle: which is more likely to happen to you: advancing to the top, or falling the the bottom?Report

    • This is an interesting take on the issue, Kyle. In your construct, do you think that the laboring class aspires to entree into the capital class (regardless of whether that is a realistic aspiration) or more modestly to increase the amount of cash flow their labor produces for them?

      My suspicion is that most members of the class of people whose economic existence consists primarily of exchanging work for money have no realistic concept of what it is to have an economic existence solidly in the capital class, and think of it as a life of leisure and luxury.

      In terms of political behavior and (small-d) democratic power, I would posit (rather than proclaim, because these assumptions could turn out to be incorrect) that the labor class has an overwhelming amount of actual power at the ballot box and its behavior it best analyzed in terms of internal cleavages rather than cleavages between capital, labor, and entitlement classes. The numbers of the more-or-less pure capital class are small enough that they can be safely disregarded from a voting behavior perspective, and members of the numbers of the entitlement class are significantly unlikely to vote as compared to the members of the other classes.Report

      • At first thought,
        I would imagine that larger cultural issues and backgrounds come into play but on balance probably aspirational to modestly increase their cash flow.

        If I were to conjecture wildly, I would say that immigrant communities are probably more sensitive to perceptions of group advancement and might be less inclined to become/be seen as leisurely wealthy than successful infiltrators of the high professional classes.

        That the more landed a group is the more likely generational thinking and entry into the capital class is on the horizon but that might be indistinguishable from our culture’s feeling that the next generation ought to live better than our own ala John Adams, “I must study war and politics…”

        I’ll have to think about the political behavior more but I’m tempted to say that comparatively strong ability of the capital and entitlement classes to articulate a strong political POV gives them an edge in determining what the voters are actually voting for which is a naturally powerful tool.Report

  9. Avatar trumwill says:

    I don’t have a whole lot to add from a sociological perspective, as I’m still pondering all of this, but when all else fails, go anecdotal.

    My great-great grandfather was something of a pioneer in his field and made a boatload of money. That was new money, but his children spent it on “old money” things, finishing schools and boarding schools to learn all of the proper ways to react. However, his estate was split very unevenly, and my branch was on the losing side of that. So my mother was in the position of being educated and cultured as though they had money… but not actually having the money. The result was one daughter (my aunt) marrying into wealth and re-establishing that lifestyle, but it ending for the other two with one embracing what my mother calls “the sharecropper lifestyle” and Mom trying to keep us up to snuff but ultimately failing in part due to it all being quite alien to the man that she married.Report

  10. “Real-life experience shows that there are artists and then there are artists. There is an economic spectrum within the arts and the great, great majority of those who make their career in the arts do so in exchange for shockingly low amounts of money and live in tremendous obscurity.”

    This statement is true if you constrain your definition of “the arts” in a way that makes the statement true. If you use a definition more along the lines of the definition used by the IRS it becomes false.

    Not sure if this would cause you to revise your post.Report

    • If I use the IRS definition (cite or reference, please?) would my statement become untrue in that there are no wealthy IRS-defined artists, or would it become untrue in that there are only wealthy IRS-defined artists?

      I used a mental definition of “the arts” as inclusive of the performing arts (e.g., recording and performing music; acting in theater, for broadcast, and/or for film) and the expressive arts (e.g., making and selling paintings, sculptures, written media such as books or scripts or poetry). My impression is that most people who do these things as their primary source of income don’t make a lot of money; however, the ones at the top of their professions make a very large amounts of money at it.

      How might one verify whether it is Tony Comstock or I who is closer to objective reality?Report

      • A recent (hand-wring) NEA report put the average artist annual income at about $38K. Average personal annual wages for all jobs were about $42K.

        Faced with the shocking income gap of $4K, the NEA’s spin what that artist make much less than other professions with similar levels of education. (The income gap there was, wait for it, $6K/year)

        Cry me a fucking river.

        The whole “artist don’t make a lot of money” bullshit appeals to non-hackers who do not pack the gear to serve in my beloved corp and the turd blossoms who love them.Report

        • Avatar trumwill in reply to Tony Comstock says:

          Average in terms of mean or median? Do you recall?Report

        • Avatar Matty in reply to Tony Comstock says:

          The whole “artist don’t make a lot of money” bullshit appeals to non-hackers who do not pack the gear to serve in my beloved corp and the turd blossoms who love them.

          It’s probably just me but when I read this sentence I understand all the words but not when put together this way. I get general disaproval of those who say artists are poor but beyond that.
          The nearest I get is.
          “People who don’t hack computers or have enough equipment to serve in the marines and flowers made of shit.”Report

        • Avatar Boonton in reply to Tony Comstock says:

          Mean or median makes a big deal of difference here. Having Stephen King in your average will make the compensation look great, even if 99 out of 100 people don’t break $10K a year.

          Likewise the definition of artist here is important. Is a person who does illustrations in an advertising agency an artist or just a person who creates illustrations that are sold as art? Is acting in a commercial for mouthwash making a living as an artist or only acting in a drama/comedy? In both cases you can say technically everyone here is making a living doing art but only the latter examples are making a living as an artist.Report

  11. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I do have to say that I find it tiresome when someone’s definition of “class” dovetails neatly with their definition of “rural white person of average income”, which is what Fussell appears to be doing.

    I do, however, think that the blogger’s Tennessee Taxonomy is possibly the best definition of “American class” you could ask for.Report

    • Avatar Boonton in reply to DensityDuck says:

      It doesn’t quite dovetail that nicely. You can have two rural white people both with average incomes but belonging to two different classes….one person’s ‘average income’ coming from say being a contractor and another person’s ‘average income’ coming from disability payments.

      The first thing I thought when I read this was that we should look at policies to address the ‘entitlement class’ because getting them off the dole should be a high priority. But more interesting is that it seems the ‘capital class’ creates its own ‘entitlement mentality’. There are indeed a class of people who make their way by being parasites on the ‘capital class’ either as heirs to fortunes or simply ‘hangers on’ (think of OJ’s “Kato” Kaelin, his ‘houseguest’…..on the Housewives series you also notice that some of the women have ‘houseguests’ who seem to have found a way to enscone themselves in the homes of the rich).

      This is somewhat ironic IMO because you’d think the market system would drive towards efficiency and productivity but it seems like many in the ‘capital class’ are not very efficient nor productive. Yet it does seem to create an upper class of people whose culture has little place for actual work (shared by the lower ‘entitlement class’). This charge is deflected by the claim that they are doing ‘very important stuff’ (day trading, playing in real estate markets, ‘putting together’ business deals…..I’m reminded of the numerous Housewives shows where the rich wives spend their time putting on fashion shows, launching lines of clothes, jewelry, perfume, recording songs or writing self-esteem books. It would seem a whole industy exists to cater to helping some rich people delude themselves into thinking they are being productive just as a industry exists to help the entitlement class feel good about capturing the various entitlements they secure (think of those ‘structured settlement’ commercials you see on daytime TV as well as commercials for slip and fall /disability lawyers)).

      It makes one wonder if there is perhaps something backwards here. Perhaps the ‘entitlement/rich’ class are the smart ones and the workers are the suckers? 🙂Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Boonton says:

        “You can have two rural white people both with average incomes but belonging to two different classes….one person’s ‘average income’ coming from say being a contractor and another person’s ‘average income’ coming from disability payments.”

        Except that Fussell would say that both of those persons were the same ‘class’, at least the way he defines classes.

        “There are indeed a class of people who make their way by being parasites on the ‘capital class’ either as heirs to fortunes or simply ‘hangers on’…”

        But that’s not a ‘class’ as defined by Transplanted Lawyer. That’s just an occupation. He’d say that those people you describe are probably solidly within the ‘labor class’, in that they believe Work is necessary to obtain Wealth. The Tennessee Taxonomy doesn’t make any distinctions about what kind of work–indeed, there’s just as much of an industry providing services to the ‘entitlement class’ as there is to the ‘capital class’.

        “This is somewhat ironic IMO because you’d think the market system would drive towards efficiency and productivity but it seems like many in the ‘capital class’ are not very efficient nor productive. ”

        In a way, this is addressed by Transplanted Lawyer’s comment that “[i]n terms of absolute dollars, cable TV, cell phones, clothing, and even auto leases are not terribly expensive anymore.” This applies to both ends of the scale. Society is becoming increasingly removed from the confluence of income and survival; that is, you don’t have to work anymore to obtain what’s needed for survival (and, depending on your tastes, the what’s needed for luxury.)Report

        • Avatar Boonton in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Actually the way I read it the rural white person whose on disability would be in the ‘entitlement class’ while the one that’s a self employed home contractor would be in the ‘labor class’. Both, though, may enjoy the same lifestyle choices and ability to consume. What I take from his graph is that you can have a low ability to consume and be in the ‘capital class’ (I was when I was a kid, my father died when I was very young and left my mom a trust fund from his life insurance payout. While the fund provided a monthly stipend sufficient to have a lower to middle middle class lifestyle, we were technically living on capital the way Paris Hilton is). The graph is stubby near the bottom because while you can be an ‘entitlement class’ person and achieve some pretty impressive levels of consumption there is a limit. ‘Welfare Queen’ rhetoric from Reagan’s California years aside, you probably can’t find a way to live like Paris Hilton off of food stamps, Medicaid and general assistance.

          This applies to both ends of the scale. Society is becoming increasingly removed from the confluence of income and survival; that is, you don’t have to work anymore to obtain what’s needed for survival (and, depending on your tastes, the what’s needed for luxury.)

          Yes but the usual thinking with a market system is that rewards (here ability to consume) should follow productivity. Warren Buffet enjoys a large ability to consume because he works to move capital into worthy investments. Likewise ‘The Dude’ from The Big Lebowski choose not to do much of anything and as a result doesn’t have the options to consume much of anything aside from bowling and pot.

          What’s interesting about this observation by Transplanted Lawyer is that the market seems pretty good at creating a useless ‘capital class’ that, like the entitlement class, doesn’t actually do much of anything but is rewarded with the ability to consume. This class is not looked down on as much because technically it’s ‘their’ money and because the market actually caters to their illusion that they are doing useful things (like day trading or in Lawyers case have hours of legal time spent on pie in the sky ‘business deals’ that at the end of the day amount to nothing of value). Here I think Bravo’s Housewives show is a really, really good illustration of the market’s cottage industry that works to create the delusion that a portion of the ‘capital class’ is actually doing something productive. Contrast this with either Paris Hilton or The Dude, both of whom seem quite aware they aren’t doing anything productive and are simply out to enjoy whatever ability to consume they can.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Boonton says:

            “Actually the way I read it the rural white person whose on disability would be in the ‘entitlement class’ while the one that’s a self employed home contractor would be in the ‘labor class’.”

            Per the Tennessee Taxonomy in the post, yes. Per Fussell’s definition, no. Like I said.

            “Yes but the usual thinking with a market system is that rewards (here ability to consume) should follow productivity. ”

            And the capital class is indeed productive. Transplanted Lawyer gets paid to provide them with legal services; makers of luxury items derive income from the existence of the capital class’s trust funds and investments; heck, even those fund and investment managers wouldn’t have jobs if there weren’t funds and investments for them to manage. While the members of the capital class might not be earning money through their own effort, it’s not like they don’t put money into the economy.

            Indeed, what TL suggests is that the notion of “get money because of personal effort” is an expression of class morality, not a universal truth.Report

  12. Avatar Boonton says:

    I have to say this essay was excellent!Report