What is middle class?

IdleRich

IdleRich
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

male pale and stale
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

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
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

Darned cockwombles.
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.
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
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

Darned cockwombles.
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.
 
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Local Authority

bitch city
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

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
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

Darned cockwombles.
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)
 
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