Show Some Class
Social class goes way beyond lower,
middle and upper.
What's your social class? While most
think in terms of Lower/Middle/Upper, it's far more complicated.
Sociologists divide each class into 3 more classes for a total
of 9 distinctly different subsets. For convenience sake, these
are abbreviated as L1/L2/L3, M1/M2/M3 and U1/U2/U3.
Examples from the bottom up are:
L1s are unskilled laborers (field hands)
L2s are semiskilled
L3s are trained and often licensed
A tenth grouping - Working class - may
be inserted here but anyone who says they're "Working Class" is
automatically put into one of the Lower classes.
M1s (store clerks) usually earn less
than L3s but have more schooling. They see themselves as
superior to plumbers...who usually agree. L3s, in turn, see
their lack of education as a personal failing and encourage
their children to go to college. Unfortunately, this first
generation to pursue a degree often mistakes Training (a
specific approach that teaches one to earn a living) for
Education (a general approach that teaches one to live). This
leaves both father and son bewildered when the Junior College
graduate winds up in a white collar but meager wage job.
(electrical engineers) may still not make as much as L3s
(electrical contractors) but they carry far more prestige.
M3s (physicians) are near the top of the must-work-to-eat
U1s (new money celebrities - Ringo Star)
U2s (older families
with money - Kennedys)
U3s (established fortune crowd -
Rockefellers) the hierarchy is based not on cash but on breeding
over many generations. Ringo may have far more in the bank than
one of the Rockefellers but it will take several generations
before any of his kin are invited to the same parties.
People in each group share beliefs and
attitudes with others in the same group but not with those in
adjacent groups. Take something as seemingly universal as time.
The higher your class the further ahead you think. Lower classes
live in the present. Wages are typically quoted as dollars per
hour, day or week. The middle class looks further ahead. Wages
are quoted in monthly or yearly figures. Upper classes see way
ahead. Their grants and foundations will carry the family name
into the next century.
Ideas of parenting vary from class to
class. The Lower groups see providing toys as sufficient
nurturing and expect early maturation. The Middle groups believe
there's virtue in working and sacrificing for children.
Consequently, their kids remain kids for a long time before
beginning the next cycle of work and sacrifice. The Upper
classes are there mostly to provide the insights and connections
their progeny will enjoy as adults.
Education is seen differently. The lower
classes see it as a means to more money for less work. The
middle classes also see education as a means to more money but
not necessarily less work. Curiously, the Middle classes see 3.5
years of college as a total failure if the student drops out
short of a diploma, which serves as an entry card. The Upper
classes, having little need for money or entry cards, see
limited effort as an altogether acceptable way of life.
The role of women improves from the
Lower to the Upper classes. While women are considered inferior
to their mates at the bottom and equal to them in the Middle,
the Upper classes often come close to being a matriarchy. The
Feminist Movement, with its emphasis on equality, is a Middle
class phenomenon. The Lowers can't handle it and the Uppers
don't need it.
As for spending money, L1/L2 spend it
like a drunken sailor. A day's labor for a night's fun seems a
good exchange. The upper two classes, U2/U3, are not terribly
interested in making or spending money. It's important simply
that they have it. The middle classes, M1 through M3, are the
one's who fuel our consumer economy. In potlatch fashion they
spend as a means of demonstrating worth. This is the group with
the $10,000 Rolex that keeps the same time as a $10 Timex. Just
as the L3 Building Contractor sees education as a means of
moving up but then mistakes it for training, so too does the U1
Celebrity see money as a means of moving up but then mistakes it
At It This Way
If you find it impossible to
agree with someone, consider his or her place in the hierarchy.
Talk to someone in an adjacent class and the different
beliefs/attitudes will be obvious. Talk to someone several
classes away and you may as well tete-a-tete with the cat.