Sunday, November 03, 2013

The inadequacy of class alone to explain things

Let's take two people, one who comes from a working class background, the other who comes from a bourgeois background. One's parents are poorer, the other are better off. Now, the working class individual comes from an intact home where the family is well integrated into the community. They have a pretty healthy home life, despite not having that much money. The bourgeois person, on the other hand, comes from a highly dysfunctional background, with a split family and the family that remains being less than optimal, with lots of problems of their own. They're not well integrated into the community, in fact the community thinks that there's something wrong with them so they avoid them. However, the family members still have jobs that give them a good income.

Which of these two people are probably going to have a better position going out into the world? The working class person has the economic disadvantage, but they have a distinct sociological advantage that the other person does not. If you looked at the situation from the lens of class alone, well then, the bourgeois would not be worthy of sympathy because their family had more money, while the working class person would be, because they had less. Economic background is not everything.

We already recognize this in drawing a distinction between people of better economic backgrounds who are minorities, and those who aren't, so why not just generalize it?

*on edit: family background, class, and minority status all contribute to the whole, with both family status and minority status potentially leading to becoming declassed, despite claims that this can  never happen.

*on edit 2: there's also the issue of "Bourgeois Decadence". When the bourgeoisie do it, it's decadent, when working class people do it, it's a reaction to oppression.

One of the best examples of the poverty of the idea of bourgeois decadence is contained in Bernardo Bertolucci's film "1900". Although Bertolucci has since gone on to make much better films, "1900" is probably one of the most hack, stereotyped, wooden, socialist realist films ever made in the West. The people are paper cut-outs.  In the case of bourgeois decadence, the guy who comes from the prosperous family is portrayed as leading a life of leisure, cocaine, and women, while the virtuous worker spends his time schooling unappreciative fellow workers in basic literacy.

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