I recently read perhaps the best book ever written on the American class system, and it set me to thinking quite a bit about the subject.
First, I put this together as a capture location for what I learned.
Then I began to process it. The concepts listed there are appealing to me for a very basic reason: I am obsessed with growing my ability to predict unseen behavior based on observed behavior. It’s modeling. Class models us, and to the extent that it does that accurately I am interested in it.
So that’s one piece.
Another angle to this, however, is what I ultimately find to be respectable in life, and this question doesn’t really have much to do with class. Namely, I value more than anything the exploration of our world, a pursuit of understanding, a respect for logic and reason, compassion for our fellow humans and creatures on this planet, and overall a sense of appreciation for the world and the fact that we’ve been given the privilege of living in it for a spell.
Many people at the bottom layers of “class” excel at this, and many at the top are fairly horrible individuals. In my mind, this class structure (how much you care about compassion and knowledge) is without question superior to the material class discussed in the book. It is true that the book does touch on some of these behaviors, but that’s not its main focus.
I suppose what I’m saying is that material class as discussed in the book is a means of anticipating additional behaviors, be they positive or negative, and I find that fascinating. Furthermore, those types of behaviors that are correlated with success or failure should be evangelized or looked down upon based on how they tend to manifest.
This is quite in line with The Moral Landscape, which promotes using science to help increase happiness and reduce suffering.
I’d like to come up with some sort of visual way of describing these various behaviors and traits in terms of their ultimate worth (in my view). Perhaps mapping the presence of books in the home to one thing, or the belief that the poor deserve to be poor as another. Or mapping the willingness to try exotic foods to education level, or the preference for sugary foods to salary.
Actually, that’s not quite it. That’s all within the realm of material (the book). I want to map those to the real class designations, i.e. caring for others, producing art or literature, producing tools for doing the above, etc.
This is all very interesting to me. I’m eager to hear your thoughts.