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Come on Colman, don't you know that class doesn't exist in America?

The whole Marxist thing is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

One of the pecularities of the United States in the context of the industrialized world is that we have this (asinine) belief that class is no inherited and that through hard work all can own a million dollar mansion, etc, etc....

The irony again (it's that time in the morning, so everything is ironic) is that even though the concept of inherited class as a fundamental determinant of personal success or failure,  I.e. your father works in a factory, therefore so will you. (I was actually told this while in high school, as part of an explanation for why a teacher assumed I had cheated when she graded a paper of mine that she though I had plagarized.  Class is just as real as race in America, and far more blatant in the way it is used to discriminate, alas that's a whole other conversation.)

The irony again is that even though Americans don't acknowledge the existence of inherited class, that's the reality of our society. (Follow the link, it's a pdf of a report that shatters any illusion that America is a classless society.) Note the difference between the graphic on pg. 2 illustrating the American belief in social mobility, and the first graph one pg. 5 showing that in fact Europeans on whole (God bless the UK for breaking the rule) are far, far more socially mobile than Americans.  

I appreciate this section of the report:

relative mobility can occur regardless of what is happening to the society as a whole. Individuals can change their position relative to others, moving up or down within the ranks as one would expect in a true meritocracy. To illustrate the importance of relative mobility, consider three hypothetical societies with identical distributions of wealthy, poor, and middle-class citizens:

* The meritocratic society. Those who work the
hardest and have the greatest talent, regardless of
class, gender, race, or other characteristics, have the
highest income.

* The "fortune cookie" society. Where one ends
up bears no relation to talent or energy, and is purely
a matter of luck.

* The class-stratified society. Family background is
all-important -- children end up in the same relative
position as their parents. Mobility between classes is
little to nonexistent.

Americans sincerely believe that we live in a meritocratic society, where individuals get what they had coming.  Therefore, if you're 35 and trapped in working a job where you don't earn enough to support your family, it's clearly your fault.  Poverty, thus becomes a sign of moral failure.  (The complex interrelationship between religion and economics, thus become more important. And you have what are basically large businesses in these evangelical churches that preach a prosperity gospel.  God does good things for those who are faithful, so it you praise Jesus, and pass the collection plate, you too might one day be a rich man.)

Class is much more than income, it's about status in society. And the reduction of class to a matter of income in the United States is reflective to just how pervasive the market ethic is.  I'm fundamentally a believer in what Bordieu had to say about cultural capital.  Status comes in many forms.  It's something that even the most ardent neo-liberal will recognize.  Martin Wolf was in the FT about a month back saying that by allowing elites in industrialized countries from seeking distinction in terms of how much money they earn relative to "common" workers, we diffuse the tendency to seek distinction through cultural concerns that  may lead to ethnic conflict or war.....

Now he seemed to miss the flipside of this, which is that it seems entirely plausible that when the great masses of a nation are told that they are equal to all others but economic realities conflict with this, they might seek out distinction through religion and culture.  Hence, the United States, and the concurrent growth of inequality and relgious fundamentalism.

It's the "I may be poor, but at least I'm not a ......" (Insert your favorited racial or relgious epithet.)  Remeber that Americans are quite willing to question the status of the rich based upon moral matters.  (Hence the odd fascination with the latest antics of Paris Hilton.) It confirms in a sense that although Paris Hilton is wealthy without having worked for it, at least we know that when she dies (drug overdose anyone?) she will burn in hell.  Therefore, although she is rich in material terms, and I poor, in matters of status, I am wealth because I am morally superior to that blonde .....

I think I've made my point.  And you see, once you get to the bottom of it, it demolished alot of the sacred cows in Anglo-American popular discourse.  

I've got to stop with the caffeine in the morning, it's clearly having an effect.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 09:59:38 AM EST
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