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Slothrop
10-09-2012, 05:43 PM
Some of the usage on here reminds me of the Dylan Thomas quote to the effect that an alcoholic is someone you don't like who drinks as much as you do.

But what actually defines "middle class" as a socio-political grouping rather than a lazy perjorative used almost exclusively by people who are themselves middle class? What constitutes a minimal definition, and what are the characteristics that are shared by virtually all middle class people?

And are YOU middle class?

baboon2004
10-09-2012, 06:09 PM
What percentage of people now self-identify as middle class? It's something incredibly high, I know that. I don't think there are any characteristics that unite all those people. It used to be something to do with a university/college education and a set group of non-manual professions....seems to be much more complicated now, especially as the attitude towards being perceived as working class has altered.

Sectionfive
10-09-2012, 06:24 PM
A load of shite is probably the short answer, these days at least given all the grey area. I see it as relation rather then earnings or living in the suburbs etc.
I think a lot of the self-identifying is based factors away from money or power.

luka
10-09-2012, 07:49 PM
i remember being at 6th form college and the teacher asked us who was middle class and i was the only person that put their hand up hahahahah. i think he did it to me out of spite.

routes
10-09-2012, 08:28 PM
in south africa they have this question.. did ur grandma sleep on the floor?
if u have a job and some money but your grandma slept on the floor, then you're middle class

routes
10-09-2012, 08:30 PM
i could never fully get my head around this.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo

Corpsey
10-09-2012, 09:32 PM
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Watching-English-Hidden-Rules-Behaviour/dp/0340818867

This book has a chapter about class in it which was eye-opening for me. I'm sure it's hardly a comprehensive definition but it was interesting for me to read, as the author basically argues that class is less to do with actual economic standing than the language you use and stuff like that.

I haven't read the book recently or properly as you might have guessed.

outraygeous
10-09-2012, 10:10 PM
The language thing is quite important. I think its less about income these day.

I know an easy way to know if a girl is middle class. If she sits on the floor of like the tube or on the street.

White middle class girls love that shit.

john eden
10-09-2012, 10:26 PM
Ideas of what is "white" have shifted over time, but are always defined against what/who is black. (see the book "how the Irish became white")

Same with middle class. It's a category that doesn't exist in isolation. Whether you use economic or cultural terms, middle class as a category only works in terms of NOT being working class.

IMO, like.

So you need a thread on "what is working class" first, lol.

Sectionfive
10-09-2012, 10:41 PM
Ideas of what is "white" have shifted over time, but are always defined against what/who is black. (see the book "how the Irish became white")

:eek:


Same with middle class. It's a category that doesn't exist in isolation. Whether you use economic or cultural terms, middle class as a category only works in terms of NOT being working class.

IMO, like.



+1

yes, it's a relation

Patrick Swayze
11-09-2012, 09:13 AM
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rubberdingyrapids
11-09-2012, 09:33 AM
I know an easy way to know if a girl is middle class. If she sits on the floor of like the tube or on the street. White middle class girls love that shit.

you should spend more time in essex when its late on a saturday night. girls sitting on the floor of public transport is something that knows no class bounds.

on a totally personal note i recently mentioned the subject of class in an interview recently and immediately regretted it as i thought it mightve made me sound a bit classist.

i was asked about how i relate to people different to me, and i mentioned a really posh girl who i studied with and who i think is great, and then the interviewer asked me 'but arent you upper middle class too?' which surprised me as i get told i sound quite east london/essex which makes sense cos where i grew up was basically people who escaped the east end and for better or worse, ive made a deliberate effort in recent years to try and speak a bit 'better' cos people really judge you on your accent/how you speak ive noticed. its like that inbetweeners episode where simon says to will 'youre not clever, you just SOUND clever!'. i think notions of class can get a bit muddled when youre from an immigrant family actually and i did tell the interviewer this (she seemed quite posh fwiw) but maybe she thought i was in denial or something.

but anyway, i would say there is a certain popular m/c identity that seems to have taken shape in the last 6-7 years that you could basically look at the twees are good thread for. and this strand of m/c identity has gone mainstream in a pretty big way. maybe you could even argue that its not such a bad thing that m/c-ness is seen as somewhat 'cool' after years of w/c cool being so dominant.

john eden
11-09-2012, 10:05 AM
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Watching-English-Hidden-Rules-Behaviour/dp/0340818867

This book has a chapter about class in it which was eye-opening for me. I'm sure it's hardly a comprehensive definition but it was interesting for me to read, as the author basically argues that class is less to do with actual economic standing than the language you use and stuff like that.

The English obsession with class is primarily cultural, yes. The recent C4 series by Grayson Perry on "Taste" is worth a look on this.

He looked specifically at middle class taste being a way for people to differentiate themselves from working class people - perhaps as an indicator of either wealth or success or sophistication. (I.e. both economic and cultural)

"Chavs - The Demonisation of the working class" by Owen Jones would be another reference point.

The marxist conspiracy theory would be that this is a way of dividing people who ultimately have very similar economic interests.

Sectionfive
11-09-2012, 02:47 PM
He looked specifically at middle class taste being a way for people to differentiate themselves from working class people - perhaps as an indicator of either wealth or success or sophistication. (I.e. both economic and cultural)

Like when the Prussians started listening to Bach outside of mass or secular art during the Renaissance.

Slothrop
11-09-2012, 03:11 PM
He looked specifically at middle class taste being a way for people to differentiate themselves from working class people - perhaps as an indicator of either wealth or success or sophistication. (I.e. both economic and cultural).
Interestingly it cuts the other way as well - during the 18th and 19th centuries, middle class food culture was consciously defined against the overly rich and fancy foreign imports that were associated with the upper classes.

But I think there's quite a complex matrix of cultural superiority at the moment - does it make sense to break it down into working class proles and middle class snobs trying to distance themselves from working class proles. To look at holidays, for instance, people who go to obscure bits of Puglia look down on people who go to popular bits of Tuscany, who look down on people who go to beach resorts in the Canaries, who look down on people who go to beach resorts on Kos...


The marxist conspiracy theory would be that this is a way of dividing people who ultimately have very similar economic interests.
Or alternatively a way of distracting them all with consumption by convincing them that it's vital to differentiate themselves...

droid
11-09-2012, 03:22 PM
But I think there's quite a complex matrix of cultural superiority at the moment - does it make sense to break it down into working class proles and middle class snobs trying to distance themselves from working class proles. To look at holidays, for instance, people who go to obscure bits of Puglia look down on people who go to popular bits of Tuscany, who look down on people who go to beach resorts in the Canaries, who look down on people who go to beach resorts on Kos...


Holidays seem to be a good indicator of class alright. Isnt there a cliche that anyone who takes 2 foreign holidays a year is middle class?

Slothrop
11-09-2012, 03:32 PM
but anyway, i would say there is a certain popular m/c identity that seems to have taken shape in the last 6-7 years that you could basically look at the twees are good thread for. and this strand of m/c identity has gone mainstream in a pretty big way. maybe you could even argue that its not such a bad thing that m/c-ness is seen as somewhat 'cool' after years of w/c cool being so dominant.
I remain spectacularly unconvinced by the twee thread - it seems like a couple of marketing trends and some unrelated other stuff being bundled together to produce an "identity" that's so vague as to be more or less meaningless, and completely ignores a whole load of other trends that don't fit the alleged pattern.

viktorvaughn
11-09-2012, 03:34 PM
Holidays seem to be a good indicator of class alright. Isnt there a cliche that anyone who takes 2 foreign holidays a year is middle class?

I'm sure I've heard olive consumption used as some kind of indicator also.

john eden
11-09-2012, 03:45 PM
This is the whole problem with the cultural indicator model of class, isn't it?

It's only really useful for snobbery, inverted or otherwise.

Whether or not you eat olives and/or listen to road rap has no bearing on your relationship to the means of production, maaaaaaaaan.

hucks
11-09-2012, 04:20 PM
I remain spectacularly unconvinced by the twee thread - it seems like a couple of marketing trends and some unrelated other stuff being bundled together to produce an "identity" that's so vague as to be more or less meaningless, and completely ignores a whole load of other trends that don't fit the alleged pattern.

I think there is/ was some truth in the idea that tweeness had become the marketing trope du jour and that this is fucking annoying. The thread itself turned into another Pointless But It Does My Head in thread, and I rather liked it for doing so.

I'm as middle class as they come, the middlest of class. I've come to notice that my London middle classness is very different from the middle classness of my friends elsewhere in the country, though. There are a lot of middle class professions that only exist in significant numbers in London, for instance, like media, or PR.

rubberdingyrapids
11-09-2012, 04:30 PM
i posted this in the other thread but just in case -
http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/esmagazine/class-of-2012-how-the-social-classes-are-meeting-in-the-middle-8112885.html

john eden
11-09-2012, 04:42 PM
i posted this in the other thread but just in case -
http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/esmagazine/class-of-2012-how-the-social-classes-are-meeting-in-the-middle-8112885.html

Yes precisely. We're all middle class now because Essex girls go to the polo and David Cameron likes football and plays Angry Birds.

So we're all the same, honest. Even the Queen is middle class.

This is exactly where a cultural model of class gets you.

daddek
11-09-2012, 07:52 PM
The English obsession with class is primarily cultural, yes.

one of the most striking things about emigrating from the UK and looking back on British-ness from afar, is how unique our conception of class is, and how we are utterly obsessed by it. it seems almost morbid to me now.

To the rest of the world, as far as I have seen, its more like lower class = haven't got enough; middle class = got an adequate amount; upper class = got too much. Ie, economic strata, whereas our conception is almost like caste.

In american politics - obsessed as it is with racial & sexual identity-politics - middle class is used as unreservedly positive adjective, to describe the aspirational median. In the UK its almost unanimously used as a pejorative.. to us it means snobbishly middle of the road, with orbital suggestions like privileged, shallow, soft, etc. Which makes me wonder about the "is music to M/C" thread.. is it produced by too many economically secure people, or is it's character too middleoftheroad, inauthentic, soft etc. which m/c are we talking about?

rubberdingyrapids
11-09-2012, 09:14 PM
to answer the main question -
http://static.bbci.co.uk/programmeimages/528xn/generic/greatbritishbakeoff/sue.jpg

comelately
11-09-2012, 10:34 PM
The cultural model of class falling by the wayside does very much link back to the 'is music too middle class' question. There seems to be this idea, in the UK, that people who would have been too posh to aspire to a career in 'popular music' a generation ago now want to be pop stars or rock stars or whatever - and this blocks access for the unposh - who, yes, are/were often if not mostly upper working class / lower middle class artschoolers.

Middle-class is a pretty empty term at this point. Incidentally, the lady who wrote the Standard article writes elsewhere that for her "despite being the epitome of middle middle class (doctor's daughter, grammar-school girl, boho provincial upbringing), being mistaken for a posho has been a lifetime affliction. " - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/16/benedict-cumberbatch-exposed-chink-pc-armour?CMP=twt_gu

To me - she's posh. I think 'what is posh?' is perhaps a more pertinent question. That's not to say class (in terms of means of production) is not interesting, I just think the former question links back to the apparent bourgeoisification of music better.

Dr Awesome
12-09-2012, 10:48 AM
The thing that always strikes me about "the middle class" is living in suburbia.
It's partly an NZ thang, but owning 1/4 acre of paradise has to be it. Someone is in the middle when they can afford to buy a bit of land, with the help of the bank, and work for the next 20 to 30 years paying it off.

Do many "middle class" out side of the worlds biggest metropolitan areas really live in high-density situations?

rubberdingyrapids
12-09-2012, 11:35 AM
Middle-class is a pretty empty term at this point. Incidentally, the lady who wrote the Standard article writes elsewhere that for her "despite being the epitome of middle middle class (doctor's daughter, grammar-school girl, boho provincial upbringing), being mistaken for a posho has been a lifetime affliction."

the lady doth protest a bit much... no one likes being boxed in and yeah, im sure there are people affecting poshness who actually arent (though isnt poshness more than just an accent - its about a certain demeanour or behaviour) but toff bashing often seems to be more like light ribbing than chav bashing to me. or maybe ive just not read enough toff bashing bile to compare.

john eden
12-09-2012, 11:47 AM
the lady doth protest a bit much... no one likes being boxed in and yeah, im sure there are people affecting poshness who actually arent (though isnt poshness more than just an accent - its about a certain demeanour or behaviour) but toff bashing often seems to be more like light ribbing than chav bashing to me. or maybe ive just not read enough toff bashing bile to compare.

I would quite like to be boxed in if it meant that I had become more secure, wealthy and middle class than I am already. :D

Worrying about being perceived as middle class isn't a bad position to be in.

The anarchist group Class War would be a good place to look at over the top toff bashing:

http://www.akpress.org/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/218x/17f82f742ffe127f42dca9de82fb58b1/c/l/classwarshirt_72.jpg

I think the difference with that and chav bashing is how much power people have.

Chav bashing feeds into a general media discourse about the feckless poor which is taken up by politicians who have control over benefits, the NHS etc.

Bashing the rich is pissing in the wind, in the main. (Maybe the UK-Uncut stuff is a good recent example of an effective anti-rich campaign though? Or MPs expenses).

viktorvaughn
12-09-2012, 11:50 AM
Ian Bone's autobiography is interesting/entertaining...good picture of that world.

My copy is signed by him (not for me, got it off ebay) -

"To Mike, Keep on smashing the fucking state, mate."

comelately
18-09-2012, 10:15 PM
Hannah Betts' latest piece, hot on the heels of moaning about being considered posh, is about how she likes wearing fur despite being a vegetarian.

baboon2004
19-09-2012, 12:56 PM
Hannah Betts' latest piece, hot on the heels of moaning about being considered posh, is about how she likes wearing fur despite being a vegetarian.

I read that piece, and the (obviously numerous) comments below the line, until Ii felt like my head would explode.

The best comment was one making the point that people are spectacularly good at justifying their own non-perfect behaviour in any area, while pinning the blame/transferring the guilt onto others who are (perceived as) more extreme than they are. Which I do, for example, to justify eating meat, which I am forced to conclude is pretty indefensible in this day and age if I look at it in any way objectively; in practise though, I say to myself that it's not that bad in the scheme of things (because I don't eat certain products which are particularly barbaric, and I don't wear fur, or whatever - there're always excuses), which is a bit of a cop-out if I'm honest.

Same applies to which brands I buy (clothes, electronics etc). This topic might deserve its own thread, actually.

you
19-09-2012, 07:58 PM
Holidays seem to be a good indicator of class alright. Isnt there a cliche that anyone who takes 2 foreign holidays a year is middle class?

chavs 'take holidays' the middle class spend summers at X

Mr. Tea
20-09-2012, 04:45 PM
I think Slothrop has it spot on in the first post, in that the concept of middle-class-ness is very much a middle-class obsession. Even more explicitly: if you've ever started a thread on an internet forum titled "What is middle class?", you're probably it.

I don't think it's a useful term any more. It was useful in the 19th century when Marx and Engels were writing, and in European and especially British society there were several well-defined social strata that were more or less defined by what you (or your husband, or your father) did for a living: toffs who simply owned land, a working class who did manual labour of some variety and a middle class in the middle, who did jobs that you'd had to have been to a good school and then probably university to do. And obviously an underclass who had no legally or socially acceptable job at all (thieves/beggars/whores). Whereas these days you have people with PhDs from top universities who can't get a job, or are doing a job that could be done by more or less anyone with a reasonable grasp of English and a working knowledge of Microsoft Office, and people my brother, who left education at 18/19 and are doing very well because of skills they can use in emergent industries. So (unlike in America, I think) straightforward economic position or job type is no longer a good indicator of social 'class'. Which leaves tastes, attitudes and all the other rather woolly social things, which are problematic because if you use these to define who is (and isn't) middle class you end up implying that someone is disqualified from being working class if they drink red wine, eat olives and read The Guardian, even if they happen to be a bus driver descended from a long line of bus drivers. In fact it's tantamount to implying that working-class people are by definition uneducated and uncultured.

I'm reminded of something my girlfriend told me, which is that a couple of months back she was having a half of bitter in the 'spoons in Stansted Airport while waiting for her plane, and there was a group of loud, bleach-blonde women sharing a couple of bottles of rosé around the next table, all wearing matching T-shirts, probably off for a hen do somewhere in the Med; and that their respective choice of drinks was pretty much a class inverse of what it would have been a couple of generations ago.


chavs 'take holidays' the middle class spend summers at X

Oi, I just took a holiday! You calling me a chav? I'll fuckin av ya, ya cunt.

comelately
21-09-2012, 07:49 AM
I'm not sure viewing the middle classes in terms of whether they went to university is a solid analysis. The middle classes did not, by and large, go to university in the 19th century. University was a means of being an academic, or a doctor, until quite far into the 20th Century. Being 'over-educated and under-skilled' is an interesting phenomenon caused largely by university access expansion (and the fact that the route from PHD to a career in academia is less easy), but I'm not sure that people's income ever really had as solid a link to their education as you're implying - and to the extent that there was, it's a 20th century trend. In essence, you've talking about the 1860s like they were the 1960s.

In the 19th Century, middle class houses were overfilled with furniture and 'knick-knacks.' In the latter part of the 20th century, working class households became like that. In the 19th century, oysters were a working-class food. In the 20th, a middle class delicacy. Wholemeal bread was considered to be working class food until 1865 in England, whereas it's definitely a middle-class thing now. These changes in tastes are not new.

Mr. Tea
21-09-2012, 12:17 PM
Well I was thinking mainly of 'the professions' - you know, schoolmasters, doctors, dentists, lawyers and other senior law professionals, accountants, civil servants, academics of course, members of the clergy - even in the 19th century, many of those jobs would probably have required at least an undergraduate degree, wouldn't they?

And yes, tastes and the kind of people associated with them have always changed, I didn't say everything had been set in stone for hundreds of years until 50 years ago. Food and drink are enormously important class indicators but to be honest we've had the food-and-class discussion on here so many times already I really can't be arsed to go into it again.

comelately
22-09-2012, 05:03 PM
Well I was thinking mainly of 'the professions' - you know, schoolmasters, doctors, dentists, lawyers and other senior law professionals, accountants, civil servants, academics of course, members of the clergy - even in the 19th century, many of those jobs would probably have required at least an undergraduate degree, wouldn't they?


Not really, no. I was taught by an English teacher without a degree in the 1990s, lawyers and accountants certainly did not require undergraduate degrees, dentistry wasn't really a profession in the 19th century, civil servants would mostly have been to college (e.g. East India Company College) and not university. Again, you're talking about the 1860s like they were the 1960s.

you
23-09-2012, 04:43 PM
Oi, I just took a holiday! You calling me a chav? I'll fuckin av ya, ya cunt.

Oh, you won't get a rise out of me! Verbal retaliations and threats are best reserved for you lot! ;-) - - -

----

Thats a bit of a MC thing innit? Shirking away and instead channeling that energy into golf and automotive prowess....



In the 19th Century, middle class houses were overfilled with furniture and 'knick-knacks.' In the latter part of the 20th century, working class households became like that. In the 19th century, oysters were a working-class food. In the 20th, a middle class delicacy. Wholemeal bread was considered to be working class food until 1865 in England, whereas it's definitely a middle-class thing now. These changes in tastes are not new.

You scope on Grayson Perry's Class trilogy? ^^ Worth a watch.

Food is always an interesting class meter. Oysters and Stout, pig hooves and cheeks, and all that shite used to be a poor blokes dish - Oysters took the turn earlier but now off cuts are all the rage in gastro-pubs....... further to this you see an impending backlash against all this wholesome obsession..... through out the 90's and 00 one class binged on (or still do, I dunno) processed junk - now we have heston peddling highly processed food to the middle classes.... (albeit with slightly fancier ingredients and more on point flavour compositions)...... mmmm, the heston gourmet burger (if there is one) is pretty much the culmination of these trains - a coagulation of taking what was once a paupers cut and a paupers gastronomy and re-selling it to the next class up - sheer Re-Capitalisation, marvellous shit no doubt.

Mr. Tea
23-09-2012, 05:05 PM
Not really, no. I was taught by an English teacher without a degree in the 1990s, lawyers and accountants certainly did not require undergraduate degrees, dentistry wasn't really a profession in the 19th century, civil servants would mostly have been to college (e.g. East India Company College) and not university. Again, you're talking about the 1860s like they were the 1960s.

Well, whatever. I'm not a social historian, obviously. But how likely is it that someone born into a working-class family and attending a state school (to the extent that they even existed in those days - when was free universal education introduced, anyway?) would have ended up in one of those professions I listed? Class mobility was pretty limited in Britain until the (19)60s, wasn't it?

Slothrop
25-09-2012, 12:46 AM
Food is always an interesting class meter. Oysters and Stout, pig hooves and cheeks, and all that shite used to be a poor blokes dish - Oysters took the turn earlier but now off cuts are all the rage in gastro-pubs....... further to this you see an impending backlash against all this wholesome obsession..... through out the 90's and 00 one class binged on (or still do, I dunno) processed junk - now we have heston peddling highly processed food to the middle classes.... (albeit with slightly fancier ingredients and more on point flavour compositions)...... mmmm, the heston gourmet burger (if there is one) is pretty much the culmination of these trains - a coagulation of taking what was once a paupers cut and a paupers gastronomy and re-selling it to the next class up - sheer Re-Capitalisation, marvellous shit no doubt.
Hmmm, couple of issues with this:
Firstly, I'm not sure how much you can read into the original class context of the food being recuperated this way - it's just another way of staying ahead of the curve, in the way that people used to eat progressively more obscure foreign stuff. Now that you can get beef redang sauce in a jar in Sainsburys and sashimi in service stations, differentiating yourself from the mainstream means going to a farmers' market to buy organic pig cheeks and turnips.

And I don't think that this sort of differentiation through obscurity is an inherently middle class thing, either - it happens in pretty much all taste cultures.

Also, equating "middle class" with the sort of people who eat at St John / up-to-the-minute gastro pubs is the sort of thing that I was trying to question when I started the thread. Sure that's a part of the middle class - youngish, urban, plenty of disposable income, early-adopter types - but a lot of equally middle class people - suburban, culturally conservative little-englanders, for instance - are basically no more likely to eat pigs trotters in a trendy gastropub than a kid from a council estate is.

Oh, and finally oysters became posh (and I'd say borderline upper class rather than middle class) because they became scarce and hence expensive after stocks collapsed some time in the early 20th century. But that's kind of a side point...

comelately
25-09-2012, 07:55 AM
Well, whatever. I'm not a social historian, obviously. But how likely is it that someone born into a working-class family and attending a state school (to the extent that they even existed in those days - when was free universal education introduced, anyway?) would have ended up in one of those professions I listed? Class mobility was pretty limited in Britain until the (19)60s, wasn't it?

Class mobility is pretty limited now, suggesting that class is as important to talk about now as then.

As there were no state schools, reaching the professions from very 'humble beginnings' was unlikely. The middle-classes of the period were primarily merchants and shopkeepers, that would be the next step up. Fictional example as it might be, someone like Michael Henchard from the Mayor of Casterbridge is an example of a man who became middle-class through becoming a wheat merchant - if he had had sons, they would have been educated and may have went into the professions.

Little has changed really.

you
25-09-2012, 08:42 AM
Hmmm, couple of issues with this:
Firstly, I'm not sure how much you can read into the original class context of the food being recuperated this way - it's just another way of staying ahead of the curve, in the way that people used to eat progressively more obscure foreign stuff. Now that you can get beef redang sauce in a jar in Sainsburys and sashimi in service stations, differentiating yourself from the mainstream means going to a farmers' market to buy organic pig cheeks and turnips.

And I don't think that this sort of differentiation through obscurity is an inherently middle class thing, either - it happens in pretty much all taste cultures.

Also, equating "middle class" with the sort of people who eat at St John / up-to-the-minute gastro pubs is the sort of thing that I was trying to question when I started the thread. Sure that's a part of the middle class - youngish, urban, plenty of disposable income, early-adopter types - but a lot of equally middle class people - suburban, culturally conservative little-englanders, for instance - are basically no more likely to eat pigs trotters in a trendy gastropub than a kid from a council estate is. Food is a great meter of class in many ways because of just how close to socio-economic factors it rides. Maybe my first explanation wasn't very delicate - soz.

Oh, and finally oysters became posh (and I'd say borderline upper class rather than middle class) because they became scarce and hence expensive after stocks collapsed some time in the early 20th century. But that's kind of a side point...

no, maybe not an exclusively middle class phenomena, I don't think I said it was, but an interesting meter instead..... re-appropriation of things goes both ways (white bread over ages, burberry over 80-90's etc) - but I think the fact that it is deployed as 'different' or 'new' shows a gap between the new and old contexts - -Food is a great meter of class in many ways because of just how close to socio-economic factors it rides. Maybe my first explanation wasn't very delicate - soz.

Kitchens have a gone-dun a 360 two..... when you think about the architecture... they used to have separate buildings for them, now bitches be knocking down walls, aspiring to have a massive one like nigella....

vimothy
25-09-2012, 10:44 AM
Isn't being middle class (in the modern, Western sense) about being an individual? That's what drives, for example, the desire for, not just nice things, but nice new things.

Sectionfive
25-09-2012, 01:59 PM
you're all plebs now in any case

Mr. Tea
25-09-2012, 08:44 PM
you're all plebs now in any case

And if I see any of you hanging around at the bottom of the drive, I'll set the fucking dogs on you.

rubberdingyrapids
21-10-2012, 07:40 AM
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/oct/19/class-divide-relationships-posh-rough

blacktulip
21-10-2012, 11:29 AM
to answer the main question -
http://static.bbci.co.uk/programmeimages/528xn/generic/greatbritishbakeoff/sue.jpg

If afternoon tea is the true essence and substance of middle class I will take a blood oath to remain true to the doctrine and never waver. Had the best one yet in the Clipper Lounge a fortnight ago surrounded by cunts brokering manufacturing deals and import/export exclusivities.

Mr. Tea
21-10-2012, 01:36 PM
Dennis the Menace is meant to be this ASBO tearaway permanently on the verge of being sent to borstal, yet he owns a pet pig. I can't think of anything more middle class, in 2012, than having a pet pig.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 12:30 PM
Haha... Iceland mockery vital to middle class self-esteem (http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/iceland-vital-to-middle-class-self-esteem-2012111549138)


“Our study found that middle class people are absolutely riddled with insecurity. They can barely make a hot drink without having an emotional crisis about the semantics of loose leaf versus tea bags, and the carbon footprint of turning on the kettle.

“Iceland is a safe anchoring point, something that can be ridiculed freely because it’s ‘unhealthy’ and not associated with a particular ethnic group.”

baboon2004
21-11-2012, 12:58 PM
I remember getting Findus Crispy Pancakes from Iceland. Possibly one of the biggest food rushes available to man. God knows what they put in them.

Dear God:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/6724114/Findus-Crispy-Pancakes-now-available-in-lobster-flavour.html

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 01:06 PM
It's weird, innit. Wine used to be a luxury item but now you can buy Sainsbury's Everyday wine. And Tesco Value smoked salmon.

What's the deal with 'budget luxury' products? Who actually buys this stuff? It's hardly 'prestigious', is it?

matt b
21-11-2012, 01:39 PM
Haha... Iceland mockery vital to middle class self-esteem (http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/iceland-vital-to-middle-class-self-esteem-2012111549138)

I'd recommend those Grayson Perry programmes on Class. Probably still on 4OD.

When asked what the defining characteristic of being middle class was, one bloke said 'anxiety'.


The programmes very good at untangling the different types of middle class too- m. class as consumption; m. class as having cultural capital etc.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 01:49 PM
The main symptom of a very common kind of middle-classness is being secretly terrified that it makes you an awful person, and therefore compensating for it by using 'middle class' as a kind of catch-all deprecator for basically anything you don't like.

Or, as you say, anxiety.

baboon2004
21-11-2012, 02:16 PM
Or (more likely in my experience) by using that trope as a defence mechanism in itself - like 'god if I worried about all that stuff i'd be a wreck, there's nothing i can really do anyway', thereby absolving oneself of all need to do anything much. Whereas the generalised anxiety remains, cos it's never been dealt with, just pushed under the carpet. Much of which initial anxiety comes from the secret fear that one's class privileges might be lost in some disaster, I suppose, knowing they're only circumstantial in the first place, but infrequently/never admitting it (the whole cultural capital thing). It's not random that middle class consciousness (most often reactive - increased use of epithets like 'chav' etc) has increased as the economy has gone down the toilet (or rather, as more money has been transferred to the super-rich - but that's another debate).

Grayson Perry programmes sound good, but can't find them on 4od any longer

also, i'd say there's a difference to be made (at least in my head) between 'middle class' - seems more a factual description- and bourgeois - more a certain set of attitudes that can spring from that fact, chief among them (?) that the factual status is somehow 'earned'. People may use the terms slightly differently, but I'd say there's immense usefulness in distingushing between the two somehow or other.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 02:38 PM
I think the automatic association between 'privilege', as such, and being middle class is a bit outdated. I mean, you can earn much more as a plumber or an electrician than you ever will as a university lecturer. I guess there are still certain doors that open more easily if you happen to speak with a certain accent, but there are just so many other factors. Seems that more and more, where you(r parents) happen to live and therefore the school you go to are getting more and more important in determining your chances. (Of course this can be circumvented by sending your kids to a fee-paying school, but these are so expensive as to be the preserve of the properly rich, and are out of the reach of most middle class families.)

baboon2004
21-11-2012, 02:41 PM
what does class mean if it doesn't have association with privilege - that's the very bedrock of the term, surely?the very idea of class is associated with hierachy. by privilege, we don't mean just money, though, agreed - far more complex than that.

and there are still lots of doors open to those with a certain accent, c'mon. the way you're perceived by others is vastly informed by accent/perceived class - why else are so many spaces so uniform wrt those factors? i hear more casual class snobbery now than I ever did when I was growing up, which is quite startling tbh.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 02:45 PM
Well yeah, there's loads of other things. Such as, how people react to you. But being 'middle class', however you define it, might not seem like such a great privilege if you get horribly bullied at school because of your 'posh' accent, for example.

baboon2004
21-11-2012, 02:55 PM
Of course receiving personal abuse is never nice in whatever context, and particularly as a kid. I had that (a little bit) and it was crap at the time, but it didn't scar me in the same way as if kids of a 'higher class' were looking down on me as somehow 'lesser'.

But eventually (however horrible it is at the time), it's much easier to deal with (and of an entirely different order/feel) if it is not associated with the real direction of power in wider society. Mirroring similar discussions about race, gender etc.

The amount of times recently I've heard acquaintances and (more rarely, thank god) friends refer to those considered of a lower class as if they were actually a different species, one a little less human and deserving, is plain depressing. Of course there's all kinds of codes for this, not just calling people 'chavs'.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 03:39 PM
I think before you can answer 'what is middle class?', you have to ask - and then answer, or at least attempt to figure out - 'what is class?'.

You've got people who earn seven-figure salaries, you've got people who earn middling sort of incomes and you've got people who earn minimum wage. You've got people who've never earned anything because they've inherited a colossal fortune, and a rather bigger group who've never earned anything because they've been unemployed their whole adult life. You've got people who talk like they grew up in a castle, people with 'middle class' diction like you and me, people with ordinary working class accents that a snob might consider 'chavvy' or 'scally', and you've got people who go out of their way to talk like Dappy. You've got people with a PhD from a good university who chose to do research on less than 20k/a because that's what they really, really want to do, and people like might little brother who left school at 18 and was probably earning what I am now when he was 22. Does liking opera make you 'posh'? You can see the ENO for a tenner - what does it cost to see a Premiership match these days? You probably can't even watch it on your own TV for that much.

Somehow, out of all this, some notion of 'class' arises. But the link between money and all the other aspects is much less clear-cut than it used to be, except perhaps at the very top and very bottom ends of the social ladder. I would say.

baboon2004
21-11-2012, 03:59 PM
True, it can be complicated at the margins (i.e. there are people who don't 'fit' any traditional definitions), but I think by and large typical ideas of class still reign in the UK. It's mostly about patterns of inclusion and exclusion based upon perceived similarity and difference, which are often almost 'racialised' in the way they are applied, by difference to supposed ideas in common shared by other 'right-thinking' people.

It is difficult to talk about in the abstract, would definitely grant that. Real world example: my new landlord (who is on a personal level towards us a good guy, very fair etc etc) was commenting on our two new neighbours in the block of flats we now live in. Each living in flats of approximately equal value, both perfectly pleasant people on first meeting, but one of them he was very complimentary about, and the other he dismissed in overtly generalising, unfair terms that forced me and my girlfriend to both swallow our fists in unison. Guess who had the 'working class' accent and who had the 'middle class' accent? And yes, he was explicit about the difference between them from his pov - nowt but their class. And yes, he said this to us because he thought we'd agree with him, because we are both middle class. Which we didn't.

john eden
21-11-2012, 04:01 PM
There is more to privilege than income.

john eden
21-11-2012, 04:07 PM
I think before you can answer 'what is middle class?', you have to ask - and then answer, or at least attempt to figure out - 'what is class?'.

.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_class

baboon2004
21-11-2012, 04:12 PM
what really fascinates me is the whole linkage between the minutiae of accents/modes of speech and perceived class - as if 'you can earn whatever you want, but we'll still know what you really are, you can't hide it': which is where it intersects with racialisation

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 04:13 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_class

How handy! I really dunno why people bother debating about stuff like the meaning of life and the existence of God when they could just look it up on Wikipedia. :rolleyes:

Patrick Swayze
21-11-2012, 04:15 PM
being part of the proper 'upper class' must be funny (ha, ha)

john eden
21-11-2012, 04:39 PM
How handy! I really dunno why people bother debating about stuff like the meaning of life and the existence of God when they could just look it up on Wikipedia. :rolleyes:

There are several definitions of class on that page, which do you disagree with least? (Bearing in mind you actually brought up the need to define class on the last page of this thread, as if it was some kind of elusive mystery).

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 05:09 PM
what really fascinates me is the whole linkage between the minutiae of accents/modes of speech and perceived class - as if 'you can earn whatever you want, but we'll still know what you really are, you can't hide it'...

This I think is related to the weird kind of prejudice/resentment that working-class people can sometimes display towards members of their own family who've 'made good' and gone up a rung or two on the economic ladder (regardless of whether said relative has started 'putting on airs and graces' or otherwise acting 'posh'). I think this might have happened a little in my own family, with some elderly female relatives on my dad's side. There's that bizarre phrase, "S/he's no better than s/he ought to be", I mean what the fuck does that actually mean?

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 05:13 PM
There are several definitions of class on that page, which do you disagree with least? (Bearing in mind you actually brought up the need to define class on the last page of this thread, as if it was some kind of elusive mystery).

I haven't looked yet, I was just pointing out that it seems a bit glib to post a link to a Wikipedia article when this is just going to be a summary of various people's ideas rather than a definitive answer. I'm interested in what you lot have to say, which is why I asked the question instead of simply reading an encyclopaedia article.

baboon2004
21-11-2012, 05:31 PM
This I think is related to the weird kind of prejudice/resentment that working-class people can sometimes display towards members of their own family who've 'made good' and gone up a rung or two on the economic ladder (regardless of whether said relative has started 'putting on airs and graces' or otherwise acting 'posh'). I think this might have happened a little in my own family, with some elderly female relatives on my dad's side. There's that bizarre phrase, "S/he's no better than s/he ought to be", I mean what the fuck does that actually mean?

How the class system works, innit, keeping people 'in their place' with a lot of vague shared understandings as to why a certain order is 'natural'.

But I was thinking more of the way in which this is used by the middle classes against working class people who have 'transcended their station' - the whole obsession in the UK with the 'nouveau riche' is I guess the most obvious example of it. And it works in the same way as it does with race (and the concept of 'passing' is immensely useful here) - what I'm intrigued about are the signifiers used for class prejudice,because in some ways they're more nebulous than the (mainly) purely physical signifiers used in racism.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 06:03 PM
The thing about 'nouveau riche' is that when people from backgrounds that have never had much money suddenly find themselves very wealthy, the results can be aesthetically disastrous.

This probably appallingly snobbish, but you know it's true.

Slothrop
21-11-2012, 06:08 PM
But I was thinking more of the way in which this is used by the middle classes against working class people who have 'transcended their station' - the whole obsession in the UK with the 'nouveau riche' is I guess the most obvious example of it.
I think this is very true, but I'm not sure that it's specifically used by middle class people against working class people so much as by people higher up the general class ladder against people lower down - there are so many gradations and subdivisions these days that it's not clear whether it's still helpful to talk about it in terms of that binary.

Which was kind of my original question...

Slothrop
21-11-2012, 06:10 PM
The thing about 'nouveau riche' is that when people from backgrounds that have never had much money suddenly find themselves very wealthy, the results can be aesthetically disastrous.

This probably appallingly snobbish, but you know it's true.

Wow, it's almost like we have a shared sense of aesthetics based on our social background!

baboon2004
21-11-2012, 06:11 PM
it IS snobbish and essentialising! People who have always been in money often have appalling taste too - conspicuous consumption goes wrong in all kinds of ways.

Which I suppose may be the nub, that to let people know you've got money in a way that also shows you're having fun is supposedly 'vulgar'; whereas all that's different is that people who've had money all their lives have had a lifetime to think about ways in which to demonstrate their wealth in more 'elegant' ways. Which are often themselves appalling and hilarious, and very rarely elegant - serving ridiculously small portions of stuff, for example, is still something bizarrely associated with expensive, 'classy' restaurants. Whereas it's just risible, annoying and shit.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 06:16 PM
It's just a consequence of the 'fine arts' having been kept primarily as the preserve of the upper classes for so long in this country. Maybe it's different in other countries, I dunno. I wouldn't be surprised if there's more of a tradition of working-class artists in France, for example.

(Not talking so much about communist societies where there have been quite deliberate programmes to champion all things proletarian and suppress anything aristocratic or 'bourgeois', though I guess they would count too.)

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 06:18 PM
it IS snobbish and essentialising! People who have always been in money often have appalling taste too - conspicuous consumption goes wrong in all kinds of ways.

I was going to add "not that old money is never vulgar either", probably should have.


serving ridiculously small portions of stuff, for example, is still something bizarrely associated with expensive, 'classy' restaurants. Whereas it's just risible, annoying and shit.

Which I guess it's why it's pretty much on the way out, thankfully.

Patrick Swayze
21-11-2012, 06:55 PM
it IS snobbish and essentialising! People who have always been in money often have appalling taste too - conspicuous consumption goes wrong in all kinds of ways.

Which I suppose may be the nub, that to let people know you've got money in a way that also shows you're having fun is supposedly 'vulgar'; whereas all that's different is that people who've had money all their lives have had a lifetime to think about ways in which to demonstrate their wealth in more 'elegant' ways. Which are often themselves appalling and hilarious, and very rarely elegant - serving ridiculously small portions of stuff, for example, is still something bizarrely associated with expensive, 'classy' restaurants. Whereas it's just risible, annoying and shit.

i thought the big white plate/small amount of food thing was the epitome of nouveau riche

i must be really posh

HMGovt
21-11-2012, 08:09 PM
serving ridiculously small portions of stuff, for example, is still something bizarrely associated with expensive, 'classy' restaurants. Whereas it's just risible, annoying and shit.

If you're a billionaire or monarch you're continuously ending up places where people are desperate to serve you food and take your money, possibly several times a day. High-end grazing. Obviously if only massive portions were on offer the rich would all be enormously obese, which of course many presumably were before the novelty of small, perfectly formed portions of poncey grub. And if they decided not to eat it might be assumed the food was awful.

As ever, the middle classes suffer in their attempts to ape the really rich by paying too much for fuck all to eat.

Mr. Tea
21-11-2012, 09:17 PM
Ha, why did you delete that post? It's true, there are guys who are 'technically' the Laird of Skye or whatever whose family fell on hard times in the last century and now they run an estate agency or manage a small shop. There was a massive depopulation of the old aristocracy after WWI, after all.

baboon2004
21-11-2012, 10:45 PM
i thought the big white plate/small amount of food thing was the epitome of nouveau riche

i must be really posh

I thought it'd died out tbh, but last two meals I had at expensive, classic foodie-type restaurants, left feeling hungry. Utter shite.

HMGovt
21-11-2012, 10:53 PM
Ha, why did you delete that post? It's true, there are guys who are 'technically' the Laird of Skye or whatever whose family fell on hard times in the last century and now they run an estate agency or manage a small shop. There was a massive depopulation of the old aristocracy after WWI, after all.

I delete 150% of all my posts. Also, did not want to offend my betters.

Slothrop
22-11-2012, 01:10 AM
I thought it'd died out tbh, but last two meals I had at expensive, classic foodie-type restaurants, left feeling hungry. Utter shite.
Playing devil's advocate here, but surely expensive foodie type restaurants have got way past any illusion that the amount you're paying is proportional to the amount of sustenance you get? You're paying for a load of amazing combinations of flavor, texture and presentation and it's actually no more rational to be annoyed at having to fork out an extra pound twenty for a bag of chips on the way home than it would to be annoyed that you're still hungry after a gig...

IdleRich
22-11-2012, 11:39 AM
There's that bizarre phrase, "S/he's no better than s/he ought to be", I mean what the fuck does that actually mean?
It's a very old-fashioned phrase isn't it? Something I always see in 19th century novels when they're trying to imply that someone (always a woman I thought!) has been flirting with boys or maybe even lost their virginity before marriage! I take it to mean that not only are they no better than they should be, they actually aren't as "good" as they should be - but it's a moral judgment isn't it rather than one relating to class? Or have I got it wrong?
Edit: google says that it does relate to (sexual) morality but may refer to class in that it suggests someone's sexual morals are limited by their class.

john eden
22-11-2012, 12:11 PM
I haven't looked yet, I was just pointing out that it seems a bit glib to post a link to a Wikipedia article when this is just going to be a summary of various people's ideas rather than a definitive answer. I'm interested in what you lot have to say, which is why I asked the question instead of simply reading an encyclopaedia article.

I've explained what I think on this thread and in the other one:
http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?12652-is-music-too-middle-class

So I guess you now have the option of not reading what I think as well as not reading Wikipedia.

Mr. Tea
22-11-2012, 12:14 PM
Hmm, maybe I've mistakenly associated that saying with social class, but I thought it had or at least could have class connotations too.

What I was getting at is that when people rise in social class, they can get flack both from the established middle class and from the working class - even (or especially) their own family - they're leaving.

baboon2004
22-11-2012, 12:22 PM
Playing devil's advocate here, but surely expensive foodie type restaurants have got way past any illusion that the amount you're paying is proportional to the amount of sustenance you get? You're paying for a load of amazing combinations of flavor, texture and presentation and it's actually no more rational to be annoyed at having to fork out an extra pound twenty for a bag of chips on the way home than it would to be annoyed that you're still hungry after a gig...

(I'm not talking about the Fat Duck or anything that expensive/avant garde btw). I know you're playing devil's advocate, but in my view I still go to a restaurant to get fed and I'm pissed off if I'm not! The gig comparison doesn't work - the actual comparison would be going to a gig and getting ten minutes of music. However good the music, your'e gonna be fucked off. If it isn't even that good, you'd be quite mad.

Also, the food really wasn't that amazing. As I say, it wasn't Heston Blumenthal, but some averagely good meal that paled in comparison to stuff half the price. And not getting fed properly just topped it off.

To me it shows the ease with which people with money can be ripped off. Money really cannot buy taste.

Mr. Tea
22-11-2012, 12:25 PM
I'm with baboon on this one. If a tiny bit of something is good to eat, surely more of it is better? If a dish is delicious, I want to enjoy it properly, not hoover it all up in three mouthfuls.

baboon2004
22-11-2012, 12:31 PM
Hmm, maybe I've mistakenly associated that saying with social class, but I thought it had or at least could have class connotations too.

What I was getting at is that when people rise in social class, they can get flack both from the established middle class and from the working class - even (or especially) their own family - they're leaving.

This is true, but they're coming from different places and have to be treated separately (not saying that you're disagreeing with this, btw).

Consider the comparison with race. If you don't distinguish clearly between the two, you get the absurd/morally bankrupt situation where Rio Ferdinand (in some people's minds, astonishingly) is considered as bad for calling Ashley Cole a 'choc ice' (he retweeted it I know, but let's forget that detail for a sec), as John Terry is for calling Anton Ferdinand a 'black cunt'. One is coming from a place of racist privilege, and the other is coming form a feeling of frustration (merited or not - I think merited in that particular case) that someone who is also subject to racism (i.e. Ashley Cole) seems to be colluding with the very system that considers him inferior.

And so the result in that situation was that you started to see a black person (i.e. Rio Ferdinand) being blamed for racism, which I wouldn't have believed if I hadn't actually seen it happen.

Which is to say, that in the case of class, if you don't draw a clear line between the two types of flak described, then you get a situation where working class people become implicated in the blame for classism, deflecting from the actual power dynamic at play.

Local Authority
22-11-2012, 01:37 PM
I think the defining aspect of the middle class is a hyper-awareness to their will and themselves as an individual entity, with an almost non-awareness to anything other than that.

Mr. Tea
22-11-2012, 01:58 PM
Consider the comparison with race...

I'm not sure race and class map onto each other as neatly as you suggest, but yes, there's obviously a difference between the two 'directions' of prejudice as you say, and the Cole/Ferdinand case was particularly ridiculous.

All the same, the kind of inverted snobbery I'm talking about could be just as damaging to someone's chances as ready-salted snobbery if, for example, they were put off from going to university or applying for a particular kind of job because they were worried their family would disapprove, thinking they'd got ideas "above themselves" and had decided they were "too good" for their family any more. Goes without saying it's just a reaction to the usual top-down snobbery, obvs.

baboon2004
22-11-2012, 02:08 PM
It's not exactly neat, but I think they map fairly well. Fully support Erving Goffman's ideas in this area*

I agree about the practical effects of inverted snobbery, but also with the other part - that that kind of reaction is coming from a sense of disappointment/disillusionment, and I think, often, a sense that the person in question is colluding with the oppressor (although to what extent this is true obv depends on the job in question, if we are talking about taking a traditionally 'middle class' job). It's definitely complicated.

Which I guess brings us full circle to asking where the power-led kind of prejudice (top-down) most often actually comes from - simple exercise of power, fear, bolstering self-esteem...? So in terms of the original debate, why do middle class people so frequently feel they 'have' to bash working class/perceived working class culture/attitudes etc etc?

(*that stigma/prejudice generally operate in the same way across different areas -traditional identity politics rarely acknowledges this and thus is missing a massive trick/ultimately colluding in divide-and-conquer tactics from above. For example, obviously very interesting in the context of Uganda at the moment, and how different people are framing the issue of the horrific laws being proposed by the govt there)

ToRMeNT
06-08-2013, 03:21 AM
i always thought they were a great band myself.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N7G3gf10hw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wy8XsvN7W4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4H8wCMSuBLQ