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Nouveau riche

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Nouveau riche (French for 'new rich'; French: [nuvo ʁiʃ]), new rich or new money (in contrast to old money; French: vieux riche [vjø ʁiʃ])[1] is a social class of the rich whose wealth has been acquired within their own generation, rather than by familial inheritance. These people previously had belonged to a lower social class and economic stratum (rank) within that class and the term implies that the new money, which constitutes their wealth, allowed upward social mobility and provided the means for conspicuous consumption, the buying of goods and services that signal membership in an upper class. As a pejorative term, nouveau riche affects distinctions of type, the given stratum within a social class; hence, among the rich people of a social class, nouveau riche describes the vulgarity and ostentation of the newly rich person who lacks the worldly experience and the system of values of old money, of inherited wealth, such as the patriciate, the nobility, and the gentry.



The idea of nouveau riche dates at least as far back as ancient Greece (c. 8th century BCE).[2] In the 6th century BCE, the poet and aristocrat Theognis of Megara wrote how "in former days, there was a tribe who knew no laws nor manners ... These men are nobles, now, the gentlemen of old are now the trash".[3] In the Roman Republic, the term novus homo ('new man') carried similar connotations.[citation needed]

Social status


One can define social status in relation to wealth and to the power granted by the wealth. It has been argued[by whom?] that the upper, ruling classes have legitimized "... their rule with claims of status and honor and moral superiority".[4] Ruling classes make claims in defense of the ascribed superiority of wealth inherited through "blood ... and the concept of proper breeding". The nouveau riche are juxtaposed against the old-money social class of those with trans-generational, inherited wealth in order to highlight the cultural, value system and societal differences between the two social groups.

Old Family ties, as traditional claims of status, are not found in the nouveaux riches, which challenges and ultimately redefines social traditions and values such as the institution of debutantes and their debut to society. As seen through the rise in the number of debutantes, the social value of the debut has since shifted from the "family's elite social standing and long family traditions" to "a symbolic value as an element of upper-class life style".[5] This transition allows for high social standing to be established by the nouveau riche through the institution of the debut.[6] Social integration of these elite sects is extremely slow and sluggish, which prolongs and strengthens stereotypes. This rate of integration makes it more likely that the nouveaux riches will "retain identification with the traditional ... group of origin; this is the basis for division between the groups. Furthermore, the isolation that minority nouveaux riches experience within their own class leads them "to prioritize issues of radical justice, civil liberties, and religious tolerance over pure economic self-interest".[4]

Inter-class stereotypes


Often referred to as parvenu, members of the nouveau riche are often discriminated against by the old-money sects of society since they "lack the proper pedigree".[4] These newcomers to economic power are subject to even greater scrutiny from their lack of historical prestige as seen through Dye's comments which reference the new rich as "uncouth" and "uncultured". The behavior of the nouveau riche is often satirized by American society by "implying that stereotyped, rather than real, behavior patterns are copied".[7]

Many people have made claims to the inferiority of those with new money as compared to those with old money. Many have made claims that nouveaux riches "lack political and cultural sophistication" and others make comparisons saying that the old rich are "more sophisticated than the less cosmopolitan nouveau riche".[8][9] These assumptions further perpetuate the differences between the two and lead to even further stereotypes and have lasted for well over a century.[neutrality is disputed] In 1929 Mrs. Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, who herself married into a family that had once been considered parvenu and lacking in pedigree, protested that "the nouveau riche... is making places like Palm Beach no more exclusive than Coney Island. Newport, the last stronghold of the elite, has the moneyed intruder at the gates.... Undesirables are penetrating everywhere".[10] In 18th-century Europe, old-money families attempted to raise themselves above the nouveau riches by sensitively renovating their ancestral residences to allude to their antiquity. Their evident ties to the families' history could not be rivaled by the new, self-made, class.[citation needed] In the Dutch Republic the nobility sought this as an advantage over the merchant burghers of Amsterdam and a similar trend arose in the French court.[11] The same is true of the fashionable lairds of seventeenth century Scotland who re-worked buildings like Thirlestane Castle, Glamis Castle and Drumlanrig Castle to celebrate the lineage of their families.[11]

Nouveau pauvre


The term nouveau pauvre (French for 'new poor') was coined to refer to a person who had once owned wealth but has now lost all or most of it. This term is generally used to emphasize that the individual was previously part of a higher socioeconomic rank and that such wealth that provided the means for the acquisition of goods or luxuries is currently unobtainable. These people may or may not actually be poor, but compared to their previous rank, it seems as if they are.[12] Nicholas Monson (grandson of the 9th Baron Monson) and Debra Scott were authors of The Nouveaux Pauvres: A Guide to Downward Nobility (1984), "a lifestyle manual for poverty-stricken aristocrats"[13] "running an aristocratic lifestyle on a tradesman's budget".[14][15]

See also



  1. ^ "Nouveau Riche". Merriam Webster.
  2. ^ Gill, David H. (1994). "Anti-popular Rhetoric in Ancient Greece". In Schervish, Paul G. (ed.). Wealth in Western Thought. Westport, CT: Praeger. pp. 13–42. ISBN 0-275-94677-0.
  3. ^ Theognis 1973 "Elegies." Hesiod and Theognis. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  4. ^ a b c Burris, Val (2000). "The Myth of Old Money Liberalism: The Politics of the 'Forbes' 400 Richest Americans". Social Problems. 47 (3). CA: University of California Press: 360–378. doi:10.2307/3097235. JSTOR 3097235.
  5. ^ Day, Beth (1966). "After This Party She'll Be Invited Everywhere". Saturday Evening Post. Vol. 239. p. 35.
  6. ^ Knudsen, Dean D. (1968). "Socialization to Elitism: A Study of Debutantes". The Sociological Quarterly. 9 (3): 300–308. doi:10.1111/j.1533-8525.1968.tb01122.x.
  7. ^ Linn, Erwin L. (1966). "Reference Group: A Case Study in Conceptual Diffusion". The Sociological Quarterly. 7 (4): 489–499. doi:10.1111/j.1533-8525.1966.tb01710.x.
  8. ^ Lipset, Seymour M. (1963). "Three decades of the Radical Right". In Bell, Daniel (ed.). The Radical Right. New York: Anchor Books. pp. 373–446.
  9. ^ Szymanski, Albert (1978). The Capitalist State and the Politics of Class. Cambridge, MA: Winthrop. ISBN 0-87626-105-5.
  10. ^ Amory, Cleveland (1960). Who Killed Society?. New York: Harper. p. 21.
  11. ^ a b Wemyss, C. (2015). "The Art of Retrospection and the Country Houses of Post-Restoration Scotland". Architectural Heritage. 26 (1): 26. doi:10.3366/arch.2015.0065.
  12. ^ Rich, Laura (June 15, 2009). "Recession Lexicon: Nouveau Poor". Recessionwire. Archived from the original on August 29, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  13. ^ Working It Out: The Workaholics' Survival Book, Victoria McKee, Robson Books, 1995, p. 30
  14. ^ An Italian in Britain, Beppe Severgnini, BUR, 2003
  15. ^ To Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery, Gail McColl, Carol McD. Wallace, Workman Publishing Co., 2012, p. 352