Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Social class

Mark Moncrieff has an interesting post up at his site discussing attitudes to social classes - a theme that I haven't covered much. I think he is correct when he asserts that differing social classes will always exist and that the point is not to seek to abolish them but to value the contributions of each to society. There's an interesting exchange too in the comments about class and opportunity.

If you have any thoughts on this topic feel free to post them here or at Mark's site.

9 comments:

  1. All traditionalist and conservative societies are hierarchical with distinct social classes and boundaries between them. In most societies the way in which to move up social class is by means of education. Money alone is insufficient as money can be made and lost. Social pedigree (ancestry) is the major determinant of class and an attachment to land is usual. Family rank and land are the basis of social structure traditional societies.

    Marriages are endogamous and arranged to preserve class structures, land and property ownership and maintain the value system of each social class.

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  2. Social class is a very interesting topic, one that is often overlooked but can be more interesting than discussing race.

    He seems to be saying "inequality is good, because people have different abilities". Isn't that the concept of meritocracy?

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  3. We shouldn't think of class only in terms of the layer cake of lower, middle, and upper. Edmund Burke, for instance, writes of a social class as something more like a social set, or even a social type. He acknowledges and approves that these sets and types fit into a hierarchy, but presents these sets and types as examples of the "little platoons" that stand between the individual and the state. If they are not ordered in classes, men are reduced to interchangeable individuals--mass men. This was the goal of the French Revolution, and the nightmare of Burke and all true conservatives.

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  4. "We shouldn't think of class only in terms of the layer cake of lower, middle, and upper. Edmund Burke, for instance, writes of a social class as something more like a social set, or even a social type"

    That's a liberal definition of social class. Traditional social classes are defined on the basis of ancestry, titles and land among other hereditary factors.

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  5. Traditional societies are not meritocracies. Due to the emphasis in traditional societies of upholding values and traditions, ability alone is never the sole basis for progression. Nepotism, family connections and adherence to defined values play a far larger role.

    A traditional society, for example, would never elect Barack Obama as President as he does not represent the WASP traditions of American society.

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  6. Traditional social classes are defined on the basis of ancestry, titles and land among other hereditary factors.

    That describes the aristocracy. But what about the kinds of classes you find in a modern society. I think JM Smith's definition of "social types" fits quite well. For instance, there is a social type I recognise that I usually call "lower middle class" which is distinct from, say, the literary, academic middle-class types, who are distinct from prosperous blue collar workers and so on. If you had looked at Australia circa 1980 you could probably have found eight or nine recognisable "class types" - each with a certain kind of culture and lifestyle.

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  7. " That describes the aristocracy. But what about the kinds of classes you find in a modern society."

    This does not define solely the aristocracy.
    In a modern society the various classes - skilled and unskilled working class, lower middle, middle middle and upper middle classes are still largely defined by ancestry and social pedigree.

    A clever working class gangster can make a lot of money illegally and acquire the outer material trappings of a higher level of "social set" but this does not change the fact that he is working class in terms of his ancestry (and therefore genetics) and his values. Similarly a footballer or sports man can make a fortune but that does not change the fact that the majority of them are working class and retain the values and mentality of that class.

    Therefore all traditional societies view the individual in terms of ancestry. Changing an individual's financial circumstances or environment cannot change his genetic constitution which remains the single largest influence on the individual development.

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  8. Oh, for goodness' sake, is this website ever going to put a limit upon the endless use of the name "Anonymous" by persons who are obviously different individuals? I don't expect that the average combox inhabitant at OzConservative will have the stones to use even part of his real name, but most blogs these days which possess the smallest intellectual significance make it quite clear that "anonymous comments will not be posted" (or some very similar wording).

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  9. In answer to some remarks by Anonymous, I'd concede that most traditional societies gave some weight to birth, wealth, and land, but this was only because they understood the heritability of ability. But they also understood the need to promote ability. This is why aristocracies tended to grow overly large as time went by. Military and commercial accomplishment was ennobled, but idiot sons were not stripped of their titles. In any case, aristocracy and meritocracy mean the same thing--rule by the best.

    I recently read the Germania by Tacitus (98 A.D.), and he has interesting things to say about leadership and social order among the ancient Germans.

    “Kings have not unlimited or arbitrary power," he writes, "and the generals do more by example than by authority. If they are energetic, if they are conspicuous, if they fight in the front, they lead because they are admired . . .”

    They were, in other word, true aristocrats. They "fight in the front." And then, speaking of the men who follow them into battle, Tacitus writes:

    “And what most stimulates their courage is, that their squadrons or battalions, instead of being formed by chance or by a fortuitous gathering, are composed of families and clans.”

    In other words, political loyalty, or what we might call patriotism, has a biological dimension.

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