Some people asked what the classes are in America.
The bible of class is the book Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, by Paul Fussell. If there is one non-fiction book that you must read, this is it. Not only is it eye opening, it’s also hilarious. Especially the drawings.
However, the classes as Fussell describes them are slightly different from what people normally think of, so below is my attempt to synthesize this information:
|Paul Fussell name||Normal name||Percent of pop.||Typical job|
|Upper middle||Upper middle||7.5%||BIGLAW|
|Working class||50%||Aviation mechanic|
The school teacher probably makes less money than the aviation mechanic, but class is more than just about money. The teacher has a college degree.
The bottom half of the class structure is pretty meritocratic. If you live by the rules and do everything you’re supposed to, you too can earn a college degree and become a school teacher.
On the other hand there’s no easy way to join the upper middle class. A few gifted middle class students do so well academically that they can graduate from the elite undergraduate and graduate schools and get a job at BIGLAW or in investment banking, but that’s not how most of the upper middle class get there.
Upper class status is a complete crapshoot. You are either born to it, or rise to it by being the lucky and undeserving victor in a winner-takes-all contest—even then you probably won’t be accepted by those born to it, but at least your children will be upper class.
Here is a very brief synopsis of Paul Fussell’s book:
- Middle class people have books in their home and proles don’t.
- Legible clothing is low class. As clothing increases in class, the words become smaller, then are replaced by symbols (like the polo pony), and finally at the top end there are no symbols at all, as with J. McLaughlin. You mean you never heard of J. McLaughlin? This demonstrates how there’s a whole level of clothing above Polo by Ralph Lauren that middle class with pretensions of being upper middle class have never even heard of.
- Upper classes like old stuff.
- Anything that’s British has higher class than something that’s not. That’s why the streets in pretentious housing developments have British-sounding names.
- Proles like to collect stuff stupid stuff, such as limited edition plates.
- The middle class think they’ve accomplished something by just going to college, the upper middle class know that if it’s not Ivy it’s not good. (And if you’re upper class, it’s also important to “prep” at the right place.)
- The upper class “summer” in place like Nantuckett and the Hamptons. The upper middle class are too busy working to do that. The real top upper class summer in places like Dark Harbor. You mean you never heard of Dark Harbor? There’s a whole level of summering spots that the upper middle class with pretensions of being upper class never even heard of. And that’s what Fussell means by “out-of-sight.” Regular people might stumble upon the upper class in the Hamptons, but you won’t see the top out-of-sight summering.
- Bowling is very low class. “If the upper class have yachts, what do proles have? Bowling. If you want to maintain upper status, it’s important that you never, never go bowling.”