SOCIAL STATUS & CLASS
We are all of and in a social class, which might differ over the course of our lives.
We are of the class of our parents, simply born into it. We don’t deserve it. It isn’t earned.
We are in the class that we rose or fell to as adults. It is our current state. Residual elements may remain from earlier positions.
Our social status is a major contributor to our sense of who we are – our identity.
This is not a choice that people ponder over. “Hmmm. Which class would I prefer? To have access to power and resources or not to have access to power and resources?” All other things being equal, people naturally migrate toward classes above their own. Unless someone is already a king or queen.
Upper class culture is filled with indicators of belonging, including home and lifestyle, civic and artistic causes, a full range of highly stylized social activities and, of course designer fashion. Members can spot one another across a ballroom. And they can spot a “visitor” just as easily. Their lives are relatively secure and in their control. Upper class parents tend to emphasize self-directed values in their children. “You are special and deserve to be who you want to be.”
Middle class culture has it’s own indicators, including home & lifestyle (perhaps two working parents to make ends meet), sports team support and neighborhood engagement. They often invest heavily in education and attire for their children to insure access to more opportunities. They are somewhat in control, with access to savings, insurance and some investments. People tend to value independence and self-fulfillment for their children, sometimes prioritized over cooperation. “I’ve got to be me!”
Working class culture is rooted in dependence and insecurity. Hourly wages in uncertain jobs often don’t support home ownership, healthcare or education. Members of this culture are more interdependent as they deal with the ups and downs of employment and family issues. Helping one another – sticking together when the chips are down – is seen as vital. You don’t wander around taking what you want. There are dues to be paid. Working class parents often emphasize conformity, fitting in, as a way to survive. If you make waves, you risk expulsion from work or school.
When kids are in high school these class differences can be brutal. At the age when identity is a dream – a creation – they are exposed to a flood of stories and images promoting how to be cool. Woefully, 99% of what they see comes with high price tags. At the same time, “competition” is at its most intense, being surrounded by hundreds of other teens looking to belong and be special at the same time. It can feel like winners and losers every day. Evidence of social status too often wins the day.
It can be a tall ladder or a long slide. Just being the first in a small local group to get the new haircut can be enough – for a while. Or learning to behave like the group to which you want to belong can set you free. But, so often, when they return home, they are greeted by, “Who do you think you are!”
Let’s explore how people indicate either the status or class they are in or that they aspire to. The arts on full display.