What is middle class?

you

Well-known member
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

yurp
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.
 

blacktulip

Pregnant with mandrakes
to answer the main question -

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

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
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.
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
Haha... Iceland mockery vital to middle class self-esteem

“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.”
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
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?
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
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.
 
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baboon2004

Darned cockwombles.
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.
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
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

Darned cockwombles.
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.
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
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

Darned cockwombles.
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'.
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
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.
 
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baboon2004

Darned cockwombles.
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.
 
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