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View Poll Results: How would you assess your social class (read explanations below)

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  • Upper-class

    0 0%
  • Upper-middle class

    13 35.14%
  • Middle class

    8 21.62%
  • Working class

    5 13.51%
  • No idea !

    1 2.70%
  • Don't care

    10 27.03%
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Thread: Do you care about social classes ?

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Post Do you care about social classes ?

    It is a fact that any modern society is composed of people of more or less financal means, more or less educated, more or less cultivated, all sharing a variety of different interests, doing different jobs and dressing differently.

    Contrarily to the belief of people who come from non-class-conscious societies (like Japan or maybe also the US), classes exist everywhere and are not defined only by money. I'd say that for British (or even French) people, classes are determined more by one's education (in the broad sense of the term, including manners, culture, etc.), hobbies, interests and way of dressing or speaking than by money. The main reason is that one;s financial situation can evolve with time (and usually does), while the way of thinking doesn't.

    To simplify the task, I will briefly explain who is usually associated with each of the 4 main social classes : upper, upper-middle, middle and lower.

    Many European countries still have a nobility system (even republics like France, Italy or Germany), so that nobility alone can increase one's social class just from birth. Let's say that most nobles do care to give their children an education suitable to their social class, otherwise it would be very possible for a noble to be considered lower class (many people of lower nobility are indeed middle or upper-middle class).

    Some occupation are also often asscoiated with the upper-classes, such as president, minister, ambassador, governor, big company CEO, or to some extend also university professor. Prestige, be it by the (nobility) title or function usually qualifies for upper-class when combined with fortune and decent manners.

    The upper-middle classes are sometimes called the "professional class", as most doctors, lawyers, bankers, accountants or managers belong to this class. Some call them the "chattering classes", because they are mostly intellectuals and like discussing anything from the latest cultural events to politics or the economy. Another word is "bourgeois", although often seen as negative and associated with materialsitic values (interestingly, in Japanese bourgeois as a positive connotation, but so does naive ).

    The middle classes are most people with an ordinary job - usually not career ones, or with little chance of reaching high managerial positions. The largest part of the people are probably to be found here, from secretaries and office clerks to police officers, shop attendants or company staff.

    The lower classes, more commonly known as "working classes", are most of the people with manual jobs, especially factory workers and builders.

    Some people are difficult to classify. A priest/pastor would probably be (upper-)middle class because of their good education. A plumber or carpenter would be lower or middle class as non-intellectual, regardless how much money they make.

    But it's important to remember that education, behaviour and interests are the most decisive factors, and that a doctor who swears, dresses like a homeless and is more interested in watching football at the local pub with a few beers and loud laughs, will be considered as lower-class, no matter how intelligent, educated or rich he may be.

    More often it is one's personality and one's parent's socio-economic background that defines a person's way of thinking and class. It is easy to differentiate social classes even among 6-year old children. And it rarely changes considerably after that. As a result, it sometimes (often?) happens that even first cousins are in different social classes. That also occurs from parents to children. Add to that the many cases where the parents are not from the same social background (but often, there isn't a world of difference, as they would probably not come to like each others).

    Let me give a few example of very rich and famous people and their social class, just to show how unrelated class is to money.

    David & Victoria Beckham => working class
    The Beatles => working class
    Hugh Grant, Colin Firth... => upper-class or upper-middle class

    In the US, it is sometimes difficult to asssess, as some people that should be classified as upper-class sometimes behave like lower or middle class. The best example is G.W. Bush. In contrast John Kerry would be upper-class, and John Edwards would be upper-middle class even coming from a working class family.

    Jennifer Lopez => working class
    Julia Roberts => middle class
    Gwyneth Paltrow => upper-middle or upper class

    So what do you think is your social class ?
    Last edited by Maciamo; Mar 20, 2005 at 10:41.

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  2. #2
    Chukchi Salmon lexico's Avatar
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    Two options obviously missing are 0) Royalty and 5) Slave & Outcast. That doesn't give me a choice, so I'm working class ! Damn it, and I have a bad mouth, too !
    Quote Originally Posted by Mac
    I'd say that for British (or even French) people, classes are determined more by one's education (in the broad sense of the term, including manners, culture, etc.), hobbies, interests and way of dressing or speaking than by money. The main reason is that one;s financial situation can evolve with time (and usually does), while the way of thinking doesn't.
    I can't say anything about the British or the French, but I would say this is hard to generalize. Materialist philosophy states that the material condition of living determines the culture; the substructure determnines the superstructure. If I should follow your model, eventhough the substructure changes, the superstructure doesn't change. For instance, Puyi, the emperor of the late Qing dynasty was deprived of everything he had and became a proletariat, of the lower class. Of course one could argue that it was his re-education that did it, nevertheless, he literally lost all material possessions which caused his drastic fall from royalty to the lower class.
    "bourgeois", although often seen as negative and associated with materialsitic values (interestingly, in Japanese bourgeois as a positive connotation, but so does naive)
    What should be so wrong with being a bourgeois ? The financially independent city dwellers, with enough money for the guns and ammo, were the catalysts and engine for social change from medieval monarchy-aristocracy to a more equal democracy. The wealth to purchase guns were primarily resonsible for the fall of the feudal system because the knight's armory were now easily penetrable. In that sense, the Japanese are quite alright in viewing the bourgeois as a positive thing. And what's wrong with being naiive ? Do you actually believe that people who are quiet, cooperative, meek, and trusting are in reality stupid or lacking the intelligence to think on their own ? Do you seriously think that the opposite who are full of suspicion, doubt, and sarcasm are necessarily more educated, better mannered, productive, responsible, and intelligent ?

    Anyway I agree with your general idea that it is the action and mode of thinking that determines the person's value. For example the kind of restraint, caution, and tolerance that this forum excercises should be some prime examples of noble existence. I believe that was what your were trying to say with this thread.
    Last edited by lexico; Mar 20, 2005 at 06:27.
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  3. #3
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lexico
    Two options obviously missing are 0) Royalty and 5) Slave & Outcast.
    Royalty is upper-class (not higher). Outcast is about cats, not class. Slavery is not related to class, as anybody can/could become a slave regardless of their previous social status (ever seen the movie Gladiator?).

    And you are not working class. You way of thinking and wide range of intellectual interest makes you upper-middle class (as I said it is not realted to money). I just don't know how you dress and behave in society.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Mar 21, 2005 at 09:36.

  4. #4
    Regular Member misa.j's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    A plumber or carpenter would be lower or middle class as non-intellectual, regardless how much money they make.
    I think plumbers or carpenters can be intellectual, since they have to know what they are doing. There is a plumber who is also a judge in my town.

    I've heard that in Norway, to become a house painter you would need a University degree.

  5. #5
    Regular Member quiet sunshine's Avatar
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    I never care about that and had no idea before, but recent years I did have some feeling. According to your definition I should belong to the middle class but I feel my status is even lower than working class.
    Upon the Chinese standard, I think I'm far far below the middle class.
    Last edited by quiet sunshine; Mar 21, 2005 at 12:27.

  6. #6
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    I think plumbers or carpenters can be intellectual, since they have to know what they are doing. There is a plumber who is also a judge in my town.
    This is quite an American view actually. We have almost a pathological aversion to intellectualism unless it is couched behind a "folksy" veneer. The flip side of this is that its quite easy for us to accept someone as an intellectual despite whatever their day job might be.

    There are basically 5 classes in America that I can put my finger on.

    1) The Poor
    2) Working Class
    3) Middle Class
    4) New Money
    5) Old Money

    The strangest thing is that many people identify themselves as belonging to the "middle class" regardless of how much money they make or what level of education they posses. For instance, a dual income working family that makes over 100k a year doing a job that requires a highschool education will consider themselves middle class. Inversely someone with a college degree who makes 35k a year will also consider themselves "middle class".

    Very few people will identify themselves as working class or poor - even though they quite possibly are. It's really quite a contradictory system. Also the distinctions between new and old money are for the most part completely irrelevant for anyone except for people who exist in those classes.

    Sometimes people put qualifications on the class here, such as "lower middle class" or "upper middle class". This also is highly subjective. A family that makes a definite middle class wage, but is lacking in education may be termed "lower middle class" while a family that makes the same wage but has college degrees may see themselves as "upper middle class".

    Also oddly enough, many families that are acqually quite rich (making 10x or more of median income) will identify themselves as "middle class" or "upper middle class". I think this may have something to do with the WASPy American aversion to flaunting wealth.

    It's very hard to determine class in the States, but I do feel that mostly society is stratified along socio-economic grounds.

  7. #7
    Regular Member misa.j's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal
    The flip side of this is that its quite easy for us to accept someone as an intellectual despite whatever their day job might be.
    Exactly.
    Like great artists can be poor but have the deepest knowlege and skills that is earned by their intellect.

  8. #8
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misa.j
    I think plumbers or carpenters can be intellectual, since they have to know what they are doing.
    I guess that anybody who has a job knows what the are doing, or they would be fired or lose customers. "Intellectual" means someone interested in academic subjects, like history, psychology, medicine, law, (theoretical) sciences, etc. It usually involved to be cultivated (i.e. being refined and well-educated, especially regaring the fine arts, history, geography, politics, etc.)

    There is a plumber who is also a judge in my town.
    Doesn't a judge need to be a specialised LLM (Master of Laws) in the US ? Well in Europe I think it's impossible for anybody who hasn't graduated in law to become a judge, and unlikely for someone who has not studied plumbery to become a plumber.

    I've heard that in Norway, to become a house painter you would need a University degree.
    Maybe not "university" but higher education diploma. And it is normal in most of North-Western Europe. I heard that in Spain anybody could become a real-estate agent without qualifications, while in France, the Benelux, etc. that is impossible. Even to own a restaurant or a hotel, people need to graduate in catering (3 years, I think) in most Western European countries. And even with a further education degree, these people are not called "intellectuals" (except if they are, but then are unlikely to choose this kind of orientation).

    Exactly.
    Like great artists can be poor but have the deepest knowlege and skills that is earned by their intellect.
    I wouldn't consider most artists (except some writers) to be intellectuals, not matter how good they are at their art. But that's just my opinion. Intellectualism requires reasoning (left-brain), while artists need creativity(right-brain). Of course, it is possible to be both an artist and an intellectual. But one does not usually include the other.

  9. #9
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal
    1) The Poor
    2) Working Class
    3) Middle Class
    4) New Money
    5) Old Money
    This is not the kind of social classes I am referring to. In Briain social classes are not related to money, so the Poor, New Money and Old Money could really be anywhere on the scale. Many upper-class nobles are poor or not very rich nowadays. But many people calling themselves working class are dirty rich (including most of the famous pop/rock singers, football players, etc.)

    The strangest thing is that many people identify themselves as belonging to the "middle class" regardless of how much money they make or what level of education they posses.
    It doesn't matter as money is not related to class. But this tendency of American and Japanese people to think of themselves as "middle class" reflects the fact that they don't really care about classes. In the UK, it would be easy to divide the society in about 10 classes, but I chose just 4 so as not to confuse people who are not used to think about classes.

    Another important thing is that it doesn't really matter which class one think they belong to. Classes have such well-established criteria that it is almost impossible for someone to hide their class (just by the way they dress, walk, talk, emotionally react, their topic of discussion, family background, etc.). That's why I can actually say, this or that person belongs to this or that class, even if I have never met them, and regardless of their income or what they think.

    For example, the typical working class people have bad tastes for dressing* don't like intellectual discussions, listen to dance, rap or hip-hop music, might like low-brow TV series, hang out in pubs, watch and talk a lot about football (=soccer), are little concerned about what's happening around the world (rarely watch the international news), gossip about celebrities, etc.

    Upper-middle class people tend to be well-spoken, well-mannered, dress more conservatively, listen to classical music or jazz, go to the theatre, art exhibitions or museums, discuss novelties in sciences, literature, politics, read a lot of non-fiction books, prefer cultural holidays (sightseeing) than beach or wild party holidays, play tennis or golf, etc.

    Upper class people are similar to upper-middle class, except that they usually have (political) power, a lot of money or influence, probably a high-rank hereditary nobility title, a castle with vast expands of land, and tend to be more unconventional than the upper-middle classes regarding the way they speak or behave. A common joke in the UK is to say that only the upper classes and the lower classes would go in slipper and night-gown in the street to buy their newspaper.

    Avtually even the food one eats and the place where one lives (standing of the area, regardless of the size of on'e house) can determine the social class. The upper-middle and upper-classes tend to prefer French food, while the middle and lower class might eat more fast-food, fish'n chips, burgers, burgers, etc. Of course, eating French food regularily doesn't make someone upper-class, and eating junk food doesn't necessarily make one lower class either.

    * eg. Chavs in England, a form of lower-class, do wear brands but so tastelessly (Burberry shirts with jeans, gold rings and Nike shoes) that they can only be lower-class.

  10. #10
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    This is not the kind of social classes I am referring to. In Briain social classes are not related to money, so the Poor, New Money and Old Money could really be anywhere on the scale. Many upper-class nobles are poor or not very rich nowadays. But many people calling themselves working class are dirty rich (including most of the famous pop/rock singers, football players, etc.)
    This is the thing though, in America social class is largely dictated by money. Why do you think we coined the phrase, "He was a scoundrel and a gentleman?"

    In order to understand this you have to understand the entemology of the word "gentleman" in American English. Originally it didn't refer to a person specific mannerisms, but to the fact that they were landed. They owned property. Hence it was entirely possible for someone to be both a "scoundrel" and a "gentleman".

    This additude as pretty much carried over into modern times. For instance, the skank-tastic ***** of the universe - Paris Hilton. Heiress to an enormous Hotel empire that bears her family name. She is definately considered upper-class by most Americans regardless of the fact that she is for the large part uneducated, uncultured and generally uncouth.

    And its not that Americans are not aware of class, we just qualify it differently than Europeans do. Yes, here it is all about the money. You may disagree with it being a "class system" based on your Euro-centric view of what constitutes class, but you can't really deny that in America it is what constitutes our class system (or relative class system).

    Also, when you talk about Chavs or Yobs... one of the most amusing things about American culture is that people who are from higher classes often affect the mannerisms and tastes of people who are from the lower classes. Its very common here for an established middle or upper class family to have offspring that affect the mannerisms and dress of a poor or working class urban american. Infact, its so common that no one even bats an eye at it anymore. Sometimes it can really be quite bewildering how fast things change over here since such behavior was definately not acceptable even a mere couple decades ago.

  11. #11
    Regular Member TheKansaiKid's Avatar
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    Because of the relative youth of American Culture I

    think the notion of class has not had the required time to separate as clearly here as perhaps elsewhere. Most Americans can trace their roots to immigrants from the last 300 years. Someone considered "upperclass" is unlikely to immigrate to another place looking to improve their lot in life, so essentially all Americans come from a place in society that might be considered "low". The stratification of this society started quickly and the difference in education opportunity for the "haves" and "have nots" are only one indicator of a move towards classes here in the USA. That being said in actual life there are an infinite number of classes in every society with each class feeling superior or inferior depending on their economic or social position.
    When my daughter (who is way too young to have a boyfreind) came home and said "Billy asked me to be his girlfriend" I was shocked not because she is too young (the reason I should have been shocked) but because I knew Billy's Father and always felt like he was not in the same class as I was. That sounds horrible and when I realized what was making me feel that way I tried to push it out of my mind, but I think it shows that the human race has an innate tendency to class everything and everyone. I think it is an unhealthy attitude, and I am doing my best not to pass it on to my children, because it is this attitude that can also lead to many forms of discrimination (be it racially or otherwise motivated) As it stands now I accept that she thinks Billy is "so it" whatever that means. Man, I hate getting old.

  12. #12
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheKansaiKid
    Most Americans can trace their roots to immigrants from the last 300 years. Someone considered "upperclass" is unlikely to immigrate to another place looking to improve their lot in life, so essentially all Americans come from a place in society that might be considered "low".
    That's a good point. But many have had to time to become very rich, well-educated, powerful or influencial... or even poorer, stupider and more violent. I'd say the gap between the top and bottom is bigger in the US than anywhere in Europe (and the UK already has teh biggest gap within Europe).

    ...but I think it shows that the human race has an innate tendency to class everything and everyone. I think it is an unhealthy attitude, and I am doing my best not to pass it on to my children, because it is this attitude that can also lead to many forms of discrimination (be it racially or otherwise motivated).
    I don't think that being class-conscious is unhealthy at all. It helps organise the society and group people who think similarily (as it's what it's all about, and not just money) together. Maybe that is because Americans try to hard to repress these 'natural human tendencies' that violence is so widespread. Look at the UK or India, both of which are very class-conscious and have huge gaps between the top and bottom; both are incredibly safe societies considering their socio-economic, class-cultural and ethnic diversity.

  13. #13
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    I don't think that being class-conscious is unhealthy at all. It helps organise the society and group people who think similarily (as it's what it's all about, and not just money) together. Maybe that is because Americans try to hard to repress these 'natural human tendencies' that violence is so widespread. Look at the UK or India, both of which are very class-conscious and have huge gaps between the top and bottom; both are incredibly safe societies considering their socio-economic, class-cultural and ethnic diversity.
    I can say without a reservation that class has both little and almost everything to do with American violence. However, not in the way that you seem to posit. If we can accept my asertation that "class" in America is based mostly on socio-economic factors, then its pretty obvious what "class" commits the greatest degree of violence. This has always been the "lower class" in our society, regardless of what ethnicity has mainly held that distinction.

    Currently the lower economic rungs in this country are held by African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, in the past this was held by groups such as German-Americans and Irish-Americans. During both relative periods the general consensus in the country that was that these people were commiting the majority of the crime. As earlier generations of citizens acquired wealth and the subsequent status that went along with this, they rose through the "class system" and their now vacant rungs have been occupied by later generations of immigrants.

    You can see this enacted pretty much daily where I live (The SF Bay area, one of the most multicultural places on the face of the earth). There is a divide in this nation that is focused pretty heavily on wealth and the privelege that goes with it (higher education, more home stability, safer neighborhoods, etc). If you get a bunch of middle class Whites, Blacks, Latinos and Asians together in Golden Gate park, chances are they are going to throw the frisbee around, talk about their mutual funds, retirement accounts and how little Suzie is doing a piano recital next month. Put the same racial mix of people in the same situation, but make sure they are all dirt poor and its almost inevitable that violence will break out in one form or another.

    The telling part is that when you examine the first group of people who are getting along with each other, they can have pretty much nothing in common other than their average earned income. I know many people here in the Bay Area that make incredibly comfortable livings who have never even finished college, people who have never left the area, people who have left the area (and came back), people born from other countries, different religions, traditions, you name it. They all get along. They may not harbor any specific love for each other (especially if their old ties to animosity run deep), but generally speaking everyone starts off atleast neutral.

    The same thing cannot be said for the people on the lower income rungs, and frankly this has become a topic of much debate amongst sociologists and public figures in our nation. Due to the sensitive nature of the issue, its not often discussed on most public media, but still if you listen to more intellectual radio or television you can quite readily see that some of the greatest (and sometimes not so great!) minds of our nation are trying to identify exactly root of this problem is. Practically the only thing they can agree on is that there seems to be some magical watermark of success, that once you achieve it you become fully invested in American society. Invested to the point where ones desire to commit to anti-social behavior is outweighed by a more powerful desire to improve ones lot in life via socially acceptable ways.

    Pretty much they are just re-iterating what we as a country have known forever. That is - if you believe that you have the capacity to raise your lot in life, then you are less likely to commit a crime and jeopardize that future. Really this belief in what people call the "American Dream" is the glue that holds our massively multi-ethnic society together.

    This is the conundrum of a Meritocracy as well as a Democracy. Let me explain:

    Both systems require a simple belief for them to function - Namely you have to believe that the system works. If everyone believes that Democracy works, then it does. Once people stop beliving in the system, they can no longer trust it, so they cannot participate. When people stop participating in the Democracy, it falls apart at a rapidly increasing rate as voices go silenced and entrenched power drives the agenda of the nation. The same can be said for the Meritocracy. So long as everyone actually believes that we have a Meritocracy - it works! If hard work and dilligence pays off, then the obvious conclusion for most people is to work hard and be dilligent! It's my belief that we are seeing a decline in the belief of the Meritocracy in the lower classes of society. They feel that the system does not actually reward merit, but instead favors those with "privelege" or "money" or the right "social connections", or even the right "race". Once you believe the system no longer works, you must take stock of your situation. Here you are at the bottom of society, there is no way for you to escape the bottom rungs (or so you believe!) so at that point what reason is there to even participate in society. This kind of thinking leads straight to being alienated from society and almost definately into a life of crime.

    I think this is a fundemental thing that people from other nations do not understand about the United States and how it colours our view of the world and our reaction to threats. Our entire nation is built upon the premise of self involment, or investing yourself into succeeding. People always like to talk about American individualism, but they fail to see that a nation of people with strong individualistic tendancys is exactly what it takes to hold together such a diverse group. I'll try to explain it this way -

    The US runs what is nominally refered to as a Meritocracy. That is people will rise up as far as they can based on their own natural abilities. This assumes that most people will want to push themselves to such places naturally. Obviously this is not the case for all man-kind. Not everyone is prepared to struggle just to rise to the top, correct? Btw - say that to most Americans and they will assume you are some sort of communist just for stating the fact that not everyone wants to be wildly successful at wealth acumulation. Anyway, in such a system there will always be loser and winners. The problem is that the way it is set up right now, the situtation can look very hopeless for the people who are the "losers". Historically to combat this we have always had fairly low bars so that people who were only "marginally" successful could compete with the truley driven individualistic citizens. However we now find ourself at a bad spot: our poverty rate is too high, there are not enough social programs around to help people turn their fortunes around and there is an overwelming disaporia that is spreading out from concentrated areas of poverty that is spreading violence and crime in its wake. Combine this with increasingly demanding levels of education and skill sets in order to compete in our high technology industries and you have a pretty lethal cocktail.

    Quite frankly, America is definately not for everyone. However its our national challenge to figure out a way to make it so that it is. My personal belief is that the best way to combat that malaise that is eating away at our cities is to make sure that everyone has access to the best educational insitutions in the land as well as attempting to lower the poverty rate in this country to below double digits. Hell, in a perfect world we need to get it down to 0%, don't you think?

    Anyway, this is why America sometimes elects leaders who seem extremely conservative by European standards (hell, even our elected liberals are fairly conservative). They are quite literally straddling a ticking time bomb between American-style no-holds-barred free-market capitalism, and American-style do-it-yourself-democracy. The two can co-exist peacefully (they have for many decades!) The reason why you guy see so many free-trade marketeers comming out of our country is because there is a political line of thinking that if you can make the country wealthy enough that you can expand the middle class, lower the poverty rate, and give people more opportunity. Now people can disagree on if this is actually happening or not, but this quite frankly is the course of action our leaders are trying to embark on. Essentially they are trying to acomplish the same level of European income re-distribution, but doing it by increaseing the overall income of the nation instead of through social programs. Very Maverick of course, and totally American. My personal belief is that they wont be able to ride that tiger all the way to the finish line, but I do have to admit that in essence they are attempting to do the right thing by their citizenship.

    Confusing I suppose... but what isn't these days.

  14. #14
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Thanks for this very insightful explanation on the "American way", Mal.

    You start your argument by saying that the lower classes are the cause of most of the crimes. I think what you mean is just "poor people", regardless of their way of thinking (eg. class-related way fo thinking). Do you think for example that a well-educated person who has lost everything and become one of the Poor would be likely to cause troubles in your example of the park ?

    Anyhow, why call economic differences "classes" if you can just define them as the poor, the less poor, the moderately rich and the very rich ? The idea linked to classes is a way of thinking that one acquires in their childhoos and keeps for life. The Beatles were lower class, and insited that they still were even after becoming rich and famous. The point is that they won't change their family, hobbies or way of speaking just because they have become richer (some do, but only because they want to change class, turn their back on their past, on their family and friends and become a new individual - but these are exceptions). That is why it is also possible in Britain to be a scoundrel and a gentleman. Any man born and raised in an upper-class family is a gentleman, but that does not prevent them from committing crimes (why did Lord Archer end up in prison ?).

    British people like clubs, because that's a good way of like-minded people, and that is certainly related to classes too. I think that people find it easier to socialise with people of a similar education and sharing similar hobbies than just people sharing a similar income. As you said, the people with good jobs in the park get along, but share little in common. Class in about sharing something in common. If we want to enter stereotypes, we could say that lower and middle class people like football (soccer) and soap operas, while the upper-middle and upper classes like tennis and go to classical music concerts. That's a bit too general, but a gives an idea of the differences. Rich people also watch football and soap operas, and poor people also play tennis and listen the classical music. If a certain number of criteria are met (dress code, manners, education, family background, hobbies, interests, job, money, pronuciation, formality of language, style, morals, personality, etc.) one can be said to belong more to one particular class than any others.

    I think it could be difficult to assess what would be your exact class in Britain if you are used to think of class as money related. I think "formality" (of speech, clothing, tastes, style, etc.) is a good way of estimating one's class, the more formal, the higher the class, although the real upper class can be quite unconventional in their formality (quite a few eccentrics).

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    Okama XD Kama's Avatar
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    I signed for upper-middle clas..

    I do not agree with everything Maciamo said. Manners (etc) AND money are eqaully important.

    if you have money and no manners you are only nouveau riche and that's not a good thing. Being a bourgoise is also a bad thing.

    I can't imagine society without classes or other kind of hierarchy. It just can't exist. And yes, I do feel there is a difference in social status. I really hate "Titanic". The main heroine shouldn't make a misalliance. Even if they only had a good name in the end...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Thanks for this very insightful explanation on the "American way", Mal.

    You start your argument by saying that the lower classes are the cause of most of the crimes. I think what you mean is just "poor people", regardless of their way of thinking (eg. class-related way fo thinking). Do you think for example that a well-educated person who has lost everything and become one of the Poor would be likely to cause troubles in your example of the park ?
    Well, you have to also realize that people self-identify in America. There is basically no formality, or way that someone can accurately judge where you are in society based on your manners or dress (or possessions). Flaunting wealth outside of your economic range is considered taboo. A conversation between say two middle class people will almost always touch upon economics or possession of wealth in some way, the same conversation between a middle class and a working class person is much more likely to revolve around popular culture, with any subjects relating to money being fastidiously avoided. People tend to segregate themselves into strata where they think that they belong. I think this has the general affect of people estimating that their position in life is better than it really is (Why is the middle class in a society always much larger in a poll than what statistics would indicate?). Also people who are well educated and then find themselves down on their luck are no more immune to the tempations of crime or drugs based simply on education - if that was true then crime and drug rates would be going down in this country as people increasingly become more educated. Most people here agree that the economy plays the biggest role in determining crime rate. When people are doing well - there is less crime, when they are doing poorly - there is more. Look at Japan for instance, a 15 year recession and increasing crime rates. The same thing happened here in the US but in the reverse, during the 90's we had a huge economic boom and crime dropped all across the nation. Hence I stand by my assessment that economic factors contribute more overall to crime and violence than most other things.

    Anyhow, why call economic differences "classes" if you can just define them as the poor, the less poor, the moderately rich and the very rich ? The idea linked to classes is a way of thinking that one acquires in their childhoos and keeps for life.
    We call them this because this is the system we have. The way the system works in society is almost analagous to what you know, atleast in terms of function. However the rules here are completely different. Still, it takes up the same place in society here as it does abroad. Think of it this way: Similar function in society, but with different rules. If you deny this to be true, then it would seem that America doesn't actually have a "class" system at all - which I think if you stayed here any particular amount of time, you would see is not true (No society is that advanced yet anyway).

    The Beatles were lower class, and insited that they still were even after becoming rich and famous. The point is that they won't change their family, hobbies or way of speaking just because they have become richer (some do, but only because they want to change class, turn their back on their past, on their family and friends and become a new individual - but these are exceptions). That is why it is also possible in Britain to be a scoundrel and a gentleman. Any man born and raised in an upper-class family is a gentleman, but that does not prevent them from committing crimes (why did Lord Archer end up in prison ?).
    I'm not sure where you are going with this - we're talking USA not Britain. People in the USA do quite frequently turn their backs on their family history if its advantageous for them. Parents will often pass down "values" to their children, but here in the states that most commonly refers to religious values. Why do you think we are such a religious country? Even people who are not religious (or identify themselves as not belonging to a specific institution) often parrot religious views to their children. Almost always in this country people will judge you on the following: Wealth, Religious Piety, Education. Usually in that order. Generally the second two are only even worthy of mention when dealing with people of the same social-economic background as yourself. (A wealthy businessman usually has little, or no respect for say, a lower income College Professor, regardless if the professor has better manners and education than he does - although it is doubtful he will act so in public, any acknowledgement of class in our society is taboo).

    British people like clubs, because that's a good way of like-minded people, and that is certainly related to classes too. I think that people find it easier to socialise with people of a similar education and sharing similar hobbies than just people sharing a similar income. As you said, the people with good jobs in the park get along, but share little in common. Class in about sharing something in common. If we want to enter stereotypes, we could say that lower and middle class people like football (soccer) and soap operas, while the upper-middle and upper classes like tennis and go to classical music concerts. That's a bit too general, but a gives an idea of the differences. Rich people also watch football and soap operas, and poor people also play tennis and listen the classical music. If a certain number of criteria are met (dress code, manners, education, family background, hobbies, interests, job, money, pronuciation, formality of language, style, morals, personality, etc.) one can be said to belong more to one particular class than any others.
    Ok, here is another thing that people often get wrong about America. Our culture revolves around consumerism - everyone across the world seems to know this, but they don't understand how profound it is. Status in the eyes of your peers revolves around how much you can accumulate as well as what sort of acoutrements that people have. Dress, manners, education, interests, etc are far less cared about than for instance, what kind of car you drive, or if you own a home, or where that home is. Why do you think the SUV is so popular here, especially by wealthy urban or suburban people who quite frankly have no use for them >< It's a social status symbol - and its tied directly to wealth.

    Obviously there are people who don't buy into this system, but they should be considered not the norm.

    I think it could be difficult to assess what would be your exact class in Britain if you are used to think of class as money related. I think "formality" (of speech, clothing, tastes, style, etc.) is a good way of estimating one's class, the more formal, the higher the class, although the real upper class can be quite unconventional in their formality (quite a few eccentrics).
    Of course you think this way, you are an European And I agree with you, in Europe those things matter a great deal. In the United States - not so much.

  17. #17
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Thanks again for this explanation, Mal.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mal
    Dress, manners, education, interests, etc are far less cared about than for instance, what kind of car you drive, or if you own a home, or where that home is. Why do you think the SUV is so popular here, especially by wealthy urban or suburban people who quite frankly have no use for them >< It's a social status symbol - and its tied directly to wealth.
    So what if you are rich and don't want to show it ? Does that make you of a lower social status. What of a millionaire that doesn't have a car, dress very normally and doesn't even have a job as he doesn't need it ? This is quite frequent among upper class people in Europe. I am just wondering what you call them or how they are seen in the United States.

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    So what if you are rich and don't want to show it ? Does that make you of a lower social status. What of a millionaire that doesn't have a car, dress very normally and doesn't even have a job as he doesn't need it ? This is quite frequent among upper class people in Europe. I am just wondering what you call them or how they are seen in the United States.
    If you are wealthy and don't show it then you are basically playing a game. People of your socio-economic level may act towards you in strange ways. Some may admire you if you profess to be doing it for "philisophical" reasons, and others will be somewhat beligerant since they may take your turning your back on material items as a commentary on their own avarice. It's a touchy subject. But once again, it only really matters to people who are of the same strata as you. Anyone above or below is very likely to not care at all.

    Btw, Millionaires who don't work in our society are considered lazy and are looked down upon in private. People here like what they call "a self made man". That is someone who was poor or working class, and then raised themselves up through industrious behavior. These types of individuals are usually accorded the greatest amount of respect in public. Privately there may be some resentment (especially amongst upper classes, people at the top infrequently like to welcome new members), but no one would dare voice anything other than praise in public or on record. Infact it would be pretty scandalous to make any sort of derogatory comment about the person. For example, if they had a non cultured demeanor they wouldn't be refered to as "ignorant" or "uncouth" they would instead be called "folksy" or "down to earth". Negative traits then become positive traits and the only reason for it is because of money ><

    Our President is a perfect example of this:

    - Inability to observe nuance becomes "principled"
    - Poor manner of speaking becomes "folksy"
    - Lousy rationalization abilities becomes "determined"

    See what I mean?

    The "perfect" American would be someone who

    - Has a moderate education. No more than a masters, or perhaps a law degree.
    - Is wealthy, preferably through running a business or has business experience.
    - Dresses in a middle class fashion.
    - Professed love for rural "Americana" virtues
    - Attends religious services
    - Talks in a plain speaking manner

    You just have to look at how we choose our political leaders to observe all or atleast some of those traits in every one of them. These types of people are popular and afforded the most respect by our society. I'm not sure how it is in other countries, but we have a small cottege industry here devoted to writing profiles and biographies of industrialists. Many of them are really quite famous and given celebrity status.

  19. #19
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal
    If you are wealthy and don't show it then you are basically playing a game. People of your socio-economic level may act towards you in strange ways. Some may admire you if you profess to be doing it for "philisophical" reasons, and others will be somewhat beligerant since they may take your turning your back on material items as a commentary on their own avarice.
    I know plenty of thrifty or downright stingy people, and many of them are quite rich. But can you say that it is a good thing in the US to be extravagant or at least care little about saving money ? Even the ultra-consumerist Japanese tend to save quite a big portion of their income, and don't mind not having a car or living in a tiny flat even if they could afford better.

    Btw, Millionaires who don't work in our society are considered lazy and are looked down upon in private. People here like what they call "a self made man".
    What if they become writers or (individual) researchers ? What if they organise some charities (look at the British royal family, who does'nt "work").

    Infact it would be pretty scandalous to make any sort of derogatory comment about the person. For example, if they had a non cultured demeanor they wouldn't be refered to as "ignorant" or "uncouth" they would instead be called "folksy" or "down to earth".
    In Europe people would be fast at criticising them. Look at someone like David Beckham, probably the most famous and richest football (soccer) player worldwide, who even got knighted by the Queen, is often looked down by the upper-middle or upper-classes as a "chav". It's also no wonder that GW Bush was so harshly criticised by so many Europeans. We just can't accept that somebody in a position of power be so uncultivated or ignorant. It conflicts with their status.

    Our President is a perfect example of this:

    - Inability to observe nuance becomes "principled"
    - Poor manner of speaking becomes "folksy"
    - Lousy rationalization abilities becomes "determined"
    I guess that's mostly political correctness, especially when referring to one's own president. But most Europeans are not afraid of talking frankly about their politicians or any celebrity. Maybe that is why it becomes a scandal when an famous upper class person does something that would be ok for a lower class, but not for them (eg. swearing or spitting in public), even if they are not politicians.


    The "perfect" American would be someone who

    - Has a moderate education. No more than a masters, or perhaps a law degree.
    - Is wealthy, preferably through running a business or has business experience.
    - Dresses in a middle class fashion.
    - Professed love for rural "Americana" virtues
    - Attends religious services
    - Talks in a plain speaking manner
    And the perfect European would be like that No, I don't thing there is any "perfect model" in most European countries.

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    I know plenty of thrifty or downright stingy people, and many of them are quite rich. But can you say that it is a good thing in the US to be extravagant or at least care little about saving money ? Even the ultra-consumerist Japanese tend to save quite a big portion of their income, and don't mind not having a car or living in a tiny flat even if they could afford better.
    Americans don't save. We have one of the lowest rates of saving in the developed world, and are personally at an all time low. Generally we're ok, because its been historically very easy to get land and a house in this country. Investment in property has been our version of saving for a long time, thanks mostly to two government agencies refered to as Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae. Because of this there are more Americans that own property and houses than any other nation in the world. Our return on investment in real-estate in this country is phenominal, its quite frankly the best investment any American can make (and the government makes it easy to get into it as well).

    What if they become writers or (individual) researchers ? What if they organise some charities (look at the British royal family, who does'nt "work").
    Probably not. I can't think of any famous philanthropists who weren't also great industrialists. Slate magazine publishes a list every year of americas top philanthropists, almost all of them are captains of industry.

    I guess that's mostly political correctness, especially when referring to one's own president. But most Europeans are not afraid of talking frankly about their politicians or any celebrity. Maybe that is why it becomes a scandal when an famous upper class person does something that would be ok for a lower class, but not for them (eg. swearing or spitting in public), even if they are not politicians.
    It's not all political correctness - on the part of the media (who knows better) it most likely is. On the behalf of the general population, this are the way they see it (or want to see it) - the exception of course being political partisans, but if it was their guy they would see it the same way. Also you may not know, but there was an event a few months back where the Vice President (on the floor of the senate no less!) told a Senator to "go **** yourself". There were some jokes made, but all in all no one really cared.

    No, I don't thing there is any "perfect model" in most European countries.
    Well, now you're just being silly Of course every society has what they would consider a "perfect" representation of their ideal citizen. (Btw, that poster was funny).

  21. #21
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal
    Because of this there are more Americans that own property and houses than any other nation in the world.
    Please don't get carried away. I guess you meant in total number of people (because the US is by far the most populous developed country). However if you look at the home ownership rate in developed countries, you'll see that the US may have a higher rate than Japan, France or Germany, but lower than Canada, the UK, Australia, and especially Italy and Ireland.

    Our return on investment in real-estate in this country is phenominal, its quite frankly the best investment any American can make (and the government makes it easy to get into it as well).
    What's the typical return rate (in %) for a real estate investment in the US ?

    Well, now you're just being silly Of course every society has what they would consider a "perfect" representation of their ideal citizen. (Btw, that poster was funny).
    Well, I have lived in 5 EU countries and still can't think of any, as it depends too much on individual values. Sometimes I think that individualism also has a quite different meaning in Europe and America. While in the USA it means being able to succeed owing to your own efforts and possess things (mostly economical perspective), in Northern Europe it means not caring about what other people think of you, believe your own judgement (which involves a developed critical sense), or even mot minding travelling by oneself around the world. When I hear about American patriotism, the "American dream", the model of the "perfect American", the "American lifestyle" or the "American way", etc. I sometimes wonder if these values are as homogenous as they would be in a collectivist society like Japan. I think it is closer to Japan than to Europe anyway. In many European countries, people still associated more with their little region that with their whole country, and care more about their personal beliefs than some national values. That is partly why it is difficult to create a sense of European nationality based on common values (except very general ones).

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal
    Americans don't save.
    Please know that you are speaking for yourself and not ALL Americans! I personally save, and my whole family saves. I know of many families who save. Truthfully, those who can do, and those who want to...do, but there are some who just don't. Some people are content with living paycheck to paycheck, some of them by choice, but some because of conditions.

    @ Maciamo...I looked at the site about home ownership, but I didn't see a good explanation as to what they considered a home...a house? A condo? A flat? I think Mal's point was that many people in the US own a house...and the land it sits on, while many people in Japan, England, etc...own their home, but it may be in the form of a condo or along those lines. Am I way off base here? Maybe you could educate me on something: If I own a house and it is leveled by an earthquake, I still own the land. What of people owning a condo or flat? If the building is leveled do they own anything anymore? Technically their property is gone right? (I am generally asking so that I can learn)

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal
    Americans don't save.
    What Americans are you talking about here? Baby-boomers? Generation-X? It's my understanding that Americans in their 20s are much better informed than their parents, and are actually investing money and planning ahead for retirement more wisely than their parents. Do you have contradicting evidence?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kama
    I signed for upper-middle clas..

    I do not agree with everything Maciamo said. Manners (etc) AND money are eqaully important.

    if you have money and no manners you are only nouveau riche and that's not a good thing. Being a bourgoise is also a bad thing.

    I can't imagine society without classes or other kind of hierarchy. It just can't exist. And yes, I do feel there is a difference in social status. I really hate "Titanic". The main heroine shouldn't make a misalliance. Even if they only had a good name in the end...
    this is my point of view exactly....
    there will always be different social classes, you cant abolish them all.

    but why would you because people need to be different dont they?

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    Re: Americans Saving

    I realize whenever someone makes a gross generalization on a Web BBS they ought to preface their statement with either "most" or "many"

    But honestly, the central bank has statistics pointing to the fact that we are currently at our lowest rate of personal savings as well as our highest level of personal debt. To top it all off, we've never been particularly good savers here. Like I said in my post, its not that desperate because of our national desire to own homes - They make fine savings accounts actually.

    And while yes, more Americans today are savvy about what vehicles they have for savings (401k, IRA, Mutual Funds, etc) - they still don't save very much. I believe the nationa average is a whopping 50 dollars a month.

    Yeah thats right, $50.00 a month

    Honestly I'm surprised that one comment got more responses than almost anything else I posted

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