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Translating class

I was reminded of how I have not been in America for a while when I stumbled on the introduction to a US senator's press release, about how educational reform is intended to "protect the middle class".

There's a phrase which would alienate an enormous swathe of class-conscious Britain. It left open the question of who could possibly be excluded if public education is for the "middle class". It took family members to translate for me.

The "middle class" is the 99%. The only people who aren't middle class, in current American political rhetoric at least, are the richest 1% of the population. Under the circumstances, it seems odd that there's still reason to use the word "class" with regards to distributions of Americans.


Oct. 16th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
I've had Americans assure me that middle class means basically "has a job", but I'm not sure I really believe it. I think the political discussion is dominated by an articulate and relatively well-off minority who

~think of themselves as "just ordinary working stiffs",
~think of themselves as the majority,
~think of the service class who clean their houses etc. as a minority (in the teeth of the logical arithmetic),
~think of those significantly richer than themselves as a tiny freakish minority (not so far off)
~think of those significantly poor as a tiny freakish minority (not accurate at all)
~would be shocked to learn the actual median and lower quartile household incomes in their country.

Which, all in all, is not that far off the unconscious self-image of middle-class people in this country, either :-) I'd like the class fairy to visit everybody's copy of Nevil Shute's _Slide Rule_ so that next time they re-read it, they notice how much Shute's complaint of "the British people have become so poor that servants are too expensive for them now" depends on the servants who became too expensive not really counting as "the British people".