Saturday, October 25, 2008

Working Class

Politicians and commentators frequently make references to "working class (Americans)", but in my opinion, working class is a meaningless term in modern America. (1)

Although Wikipedia offers a conflicting definition, I take "working-class" to mean someone who is not either independently wealthy (a member of the aristocracy), nor a member of elite, independent professions (traditionally medicine, law or the clergy), nor an business owner. In other words, somebody who has to show up, day in and day out, to earn a paycheck. That could describe a factory worker, but it could also describe a well-paid professional. (The Japanese term, salaryman, neatly captures the idea as related to professionals.)

Anyway, what got me thinking about this subject enough to finally sit down and write about it was this quote I came across:
"A stunning statistic is that unlike in past epochs, the higher up the income ladder you go, the more hours you work," said Dalton Conley, a sociology professorat New York University.
The key point being: working, in the sense of trading one's time for income, is highly correlated to economic status.


(1) In fact, it is probably an irrelevant term for almost all parts of America, for all times, except maybe plantation owners in the pre-bellum South.

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