Talk:Upper class

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Archive 1

Gunray's edit[edit]

I have removed Gunray's edit in an attempt to make this article more objective. It represents little of the United States upper class and was written from the perspective of someone from Great Britain. "Aristocratic values" are nearly nonexistant in the U.S. and much of the power base of individuals in the U.S. comes from individuals that were not born into prestige. For every example of a person that was born into "prestige" who holds power in the U.S., two or three can be identified who were not. The notion of "occupational prestige" is ridiculous and impossible to determine objectively. Yes, there exists a sort of New England "blue blood" but it is only a small representation of the social power base in the U.S.A. Very few, in the United States at least, would state that someone such as Oprah Winfrey is not upper class, but it seems prevalent amongst these articles. If you measure her power base, she is up there with Gates, Trump, possibly even higher, yet she did not come from "aristocratic" backgrounds (quite the stark opposite), but the influence she has on America and the world is tremendous.

I think this just goes to show that a one-size-fits-all Upper class article won't do, as your edit hasn't made the article more objective but instead made it more US-centric. I've reverted back to Gunray's edit as some of your edits don't make sense - for instance, has the US ever had a titled nobility? Aren't the UK and France self-evidently not the US? Etc. Matthew 22:58, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
I don't think this conflict will be resolved without a complete re-write for both countries, especially considering that there is already an upper class article for America (written under the same aristocratic ideology that this one is written under). The references, or "sources" in this case do not work as most sources on wikipedia do; many "sources" on this topic as a whole are just subjectivity supporting subjectivity. I have not seen instances of this on any section of wikipedia other than the sociology section - an article that generalizes a political party, then cites a politician making a generalization about another political party would be given no merit whatsoever, yet it is accepted in sociological circles? Not to mention much of the debate breeds arguments like "____ is upper class, ____ isn't", which is enormously one-dimensional. This article is going to be a metaphorical Israel unless it's either completely rewritten or shut down.

Contradictory Definition[edit]

"The main distinguishing feature of the class is its ability to derive enormous incomes from wealth rather than work.[1][2][3] CEOs, Doctors, investment bankers, some Lawyers, heirs to fortunes, some Politicians, successful venture capitalists, Stockbrokers as well as celebrities, are considered members of this class by contemporary sociologists..."

I'm interested that the first sentence and the second sentence seem to be completely irreconcilable. "CEO's, doctors, investment bankers, some lawyers.." and every single other item on that list (with the obvious exception of 'heirs to fortunes') are type of profession. This completely contradicts the previous sentence's strange but sincere conviction that the upper class is defined by *not having a profession*. Unless we've now decided that being a doctor of an investment banker does not imply that one performs any work, this is nonsense. Alternatively if this fact can indeed be documented, I'd appreciate it if someone would do so as I know any number of very sleep deprived individuals who would be gratified to know that they their job does not require any work.

Someone needs to put a little thought into a definitional scheme that makes some sense in context with the evidence, or else just expunge the possibly crypto-marxist intro altogether. The only obvious logical possibility is to either say that upper class status is conferred only upon inherited wealth (in which case investment bankers as a profession, among others, would be excluded from the upper class definitionally) or to say that it can be the result of earned or inherited wealth. If the latter, then obviously it implies that upper class status comes from wealth and it being earned or inherited is incidental...

blah blah blah. Once could go on, but suffice it to say that the current article makes no sense and should be fixed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:20, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Ted Kennedy[edit]

Anyone else feel that the presence of a picture of Ted Kennedy as an example of an "upper class" American is trying to push a point? Rather than a photo of a political figure, wouldn't we be better off a picture that gives an example of upper-class American wealth (say, in the Upper East Side of Manhattan or Beverly Hills, California) without targeting specific individuals? Andrew Levine 15:29, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

I tired posting a picture of a couple of mansions, but then editors said I should try and post a picture of an upper class person. First I used Donald Trump, but that was a too nuveau riche choice for some. Then I thought Astor, but we only have an old picture of John Jacob Astor from the 19th century. Finally I thought of the Kennedy's, undoubtely one of America's most prestigous families (old money, legacy and generations of prominent politicans). I am a Democrat but I am not agruing a political point with the Ted Kennedy picture-yes he is a congressment, but that only examplifies his position within American society. Regards, Signaturebrendel 17:42, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

Accents, Language and Dress - Significance of Class[edit]

In the UK you can pretty much tell what class a person belongs to as soon as they open their mouths. David Beckham could have amassed a bigger fortune than Her Majesty the Queen by the time he reaches her age but he will still be as working class as the day he was born. Accent and dress probably have far less significance in the States which is why there is confusion over Donald Trump.

Use of language is another area in which there are differences associated with class. The working class go to the toilet - the middle and upper classes to the loo or the lavatory. It really is as simple as that.

Just in case you don't get the opportunity to listen to them the working class also wear clothing that help distinguish them from the higher classes - the ubiquitious shiny track-suit for example or brightly coloured 'trainers' (sports shoes). The interesting thing about this is that for many of them this is all they ever wear when they are not at work - a working class uniform equivalent to the middle class off-duty garb of leather loafers and chinos. This is far too simplistic, and does not take account of the famous English "upper class" eccentricity.

The significance of class is changing - the existence of class is not. In the UK it is very difficult to move from working class to middle class and well nigh impossible to move from middle to upper. The class system in the UK has nothing to do with wealth or power and it has been impossible to move from the Middle Class into the Upper Class since the demise of ancestral estates and hereditary peerages. Most of the British "upper class" have no real power and may or may not possess any wealth at all. However, members of the Upper Classes are still recognisable by their sentimental attachment to old-fashioned etiquette and manners that have little or no logic in today's world.

One aspect of this changing significance is that the higher classes are quite happy to mingle with members of the working class (or any other lower class) who are also members of the new class - the celebrity class! - disagreed.

Just a few thoughts, mainly from the UK perspective. I hope this helps whoever is re-writing the article on this fascinating subject.

What gets people into the upper class.[edit]

"Overall the American upper class is mostly comprised of individuals residing in households with net worths over one million dollars, who constitute roughly 3% of the population, the majority of whom have attained a graduate or professional degree from a prestigious university.[citation needed] "

I suspect you will not find a citation to support this assertion. The recent book "The Millionaire Next Door" by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko makes a convincing case that most US millionaires do not have graduate or professional degrees from any university, much less a prestigious one. They support their contention that most current millionaires earned their money by operating a small business.

There are lots of other issues that could be raised here. Why is one million dollars the cut off? What about the hundreds of thousands of houses whose value has risen above one million dollars? Does a retired school teacher in Silicon Valley whose two bedroom bungalo has risen in value from $20,000 to $1,000,000 really consitute a member of the upper class?

The term upper class refers to those who have a lot of incluence, authority, and economic cloud. Class is a person's position and function within society. Prestige and income are indicators of high status and commonly a graduate degree is an indicator of an upper middle class whiter collar professional status. As for the upper class, their hallmark is that they're the grand conceptualizers. Upper middle class persons are experts, consultants and managers; upper class persons are the CEOs, board members, trustees, upper management or big time stckholders that bring the big picture into place. That said, a persons class is often told, by many individuals, by prestige which for most people translates into molah. Thus a sugreon who makes $300,000/year may be considered upper class, despite his function in society being of similar nature to that of a professor making $70,000/year. As for millionaires consider that there is a great difference between those who have 1 million in liquid assets (2.6% of households) and those who have it in net-worth (7% of households). Those who have it in liquid assets have much greater economic clout as they can move, invest and spend their money. Money in the form of net worth is frozen and therefore does not create any economic clout, except when you sell your home. I hope that answers some of your questions. Regards, SignaturebrendelHAPPY HOLIDAYS 01:36, 2 January 2007 (UTC)

There is a separate article for the American upper class, hence this article needs to be more inclusive and reflect a broader world-view. My two cents on the issue are that much of the argument has to do with the "insider" versus the "outsider" perspective, and both have their merits and biases. This distracts from the more objective approach, namely the command of capital. At the onset, it will be noted that there are different kinds of capital. Typically, the word carries the connotations of its economics origins, and that is certainly apposite. It will be a matter for the economists to decide on what amount of economic capital allows entry into the upper class. Further to this, the concept expands to cover cultural capital, social capital, and political capital. The former, briefly, encompasses a certain command of the basic cultural mores, hence the familiarity with dress codes and etiquette; the stress on correct pronunciation; the ability to discriminate between the elevated and the profane; the proclivity to collect art or patronise artistic individuals or institutions; the acquisition of some intellectual, scholarly or artistic accomplishment (typically, at certain educational institutions only). Social capital refers to membership in or the command of a social network that is wide enough and diverse enough to include other holders of capital and decision-makers, hence the membership in exclusive gentlemen's or country clubs; the affiliation with various political parties or causes; the positions on various committees, boards, and charitable organisations. Political capital, briefly, concerns the command of a position in the senior level of a hierarchy that allows its holders to make mostly unfettered decisions; here, one would typically have to simply state existing precedents, such as senior cleric (from bishop upwards), high-ranking officer (from major upwards), senior academic (vice-chancellor/president/rector, of a top-ranking university), senior executive (from executive officer upwards, of a top-ranking company), outstanding professional (senior partner at top-ranking law firm or finance house). The lists are, by no means, exhaustive and subject to the caveats that various jurisdictions have upper classes that are more broadly defined (such as the UK) or more narrowly defined (such as Chile).

With these considerations, one can now address the issue of membership of the upper class. It will be noted that the combination of the various forms of capital in the hands of a single individual or family - and the upper classes are historically most likely to favour the latter - will give said family the attribute of power; that is, the ability to enforce their own decisions in the face of resistance (here, it must be noted that power is not necessarily about brute strength, as the semantics may imply; persuasion by an influential statesman or the allure of a glamorous person are both forms of power that lower resistance). Hence, an upper-class family has the various forms of capital in sufficient quantities (outside of the reach of a middle-class family, who may have them, but of a lesser magnitude), which capital then translates into power. With this analysis in mind, then, one can revert to the issue of why certain individuals amongst les nouveaux riches may or may not be considered upper class: what will be of import is their command, in sufficient magnitude, of all forms of capital combined. — Preceding unsigned comment added by SebastianChatov (talkcontribs) 09:56, 14 January 2014 (UTC)

Upper class in France[edit]

How are the upper class in France depicted? Angie Y. 14:30, 6 April 2007 (UTC)

Good question. Unfortunately I do not know enough about French socio-economic stratificaion in order to go beyond the generic western-society theories. Signaturebrendel 17:00, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

UK section is out of date[edit]

As I found it, the UK section appeared to have been written by someone under the impression that British society has not changed since Nancy Mitford wrote Noblesse Oblige, but that was over 50 years ago now. I have added an introductory paragraph setting out some core ideas on the status of the upper class, but the whole thing needs a lot more work. Dominictimms 15:40, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

Infact, that section is not out-of-date at all. Aside from drawing on both general and intimate knowledge, the section cites the updated version of U and Non-U, written less than 30 years ago, Debrett's, written around 10 years ago, and the even more recent 'Watching the English', whch was written not less than 5 years ago by Kate Fox. I'm afraid the new opening paragraph missed many of the lesser-known facts about and idosyncracies of the upper classes. Entry is supremely difficult for anyone not born into (or at least raised in) it. See the rest of the article for examples of what cannot be easily acquired, including accent. Buying a country manor will do nothing to foster links in society - and by the time one has sufficient wealth - i.e. middle-age or older, is far, far too late to attempt to integrate oneself. Gunray

I must agree with gunray. Anyone who thinks David Beckam is a member of the upper class is sadly mistaken. The opposite can also be true. Most impoverished noble families couldnt be seen as anything other than upper class. Integration is extremely difficult. One has to be brought up in certain ways....or book a load of elocution lessons! --Camaeron 11:59, 2 October 2007 (UTC)

Alan Greenspan[edit]

To describe Alan Greenspan as a social scientist is, well, new to me. Anyone have a good citation for this? Is there another Alan G? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:51, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

Do we really need to compare the British and American upper classes' respective senses of social responsibility?[edit]

I'm sorry, but I don't think this article is the appropriate place to comment on how much more socially responsible and compassionate the British upper classes are than their American counterparts. This feels very weasely. Having read Ms. Fox's excellent book (which I, infuriatingly, can't locate at present), I doubt she would make such a general statement without nuance and wonder if this statement is being taken out of context. In any case, wealthy Americans, if that is indeed all it takes to be 'upper class' there, are at least as well known as upper class Brits for their philanthropy.

Whether or not you agree with me, I think the article would be better off without the comparison. If this is unacceptable, then something should be put in about the unmatched (in nominal terms) generosity of American wealth in philanthropy. But then the whole thing degenerates into silliness, which is why I think we should take it out altogether.

Objections? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Dflandro (talkcontribs) 23:48, 7 November 2009 (UTC)

They are not equivalent. The British upper class is dominated by an hereditary aristocracy, the average member of which has an inherited if obsolete role in society. Part of that was keeping their particular subjects and especially their supporters happy, safe, and victorious. For the American 'upper class' everything is optional and their philanthropy often results from 1) criticism, and 2) their burning desire to have dependents and supporters like real aristocrats. But it is easy in any case because the average American phony 'aristocrat' is worth many times the average British real one.
That said the Americans rank above that considerable portion of the British aristocracy who got there from nowhere through promotions and genealogical fabrications. The ranks of the Peerages are full of phonies and now useless people, made possible in the bureaucratic monarchies of the later Middle Ages. DinDraithou (talk) 16:00, 31 January 2010 (UTC)

Relevant articles?[edit]


The introductory paragraph to this entry is unreadable. Consider the second to fourth sentences:

Members of an upper class may have great power over the allocation of resources and governmental policy in their area, but only to the extent that the power of the state can intervene in free exchange or distort investment. This expression of class refers to access to power through the state, religious orders and the marketplace. A free market exchange is one potential expression of society, which features spontaneous unfettered exchange between or among individuals of leisure, goods, ideas and the artifacts of culture.

This may have meant something to the writer, but as a piece of prose it is meaningless. It should be removed from this article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:11, 21 November 2010 (UTC)

Agreed. I'm not sure if this is someones idea of a joke, but IMO the introduction needs to be rewritten in a clearer NPOV way. For instance, why has an editor included these irrelevant/nonsensical claims?
"The consumer as always controls to what extent and for how long an unscrupulous operator endures in the marketplace. Consumers are especially empowered with the advent of modern communications to expose fraud. Under systems that allocate the power of decision to the state, the upper class takes on a sinister role as it seeks to allocate rewards and failures, and status, based on special interests and the access to the use of coercion the state)."
However, I am unwilling to rewrite the intro at the moment unless there is some consensus that it needs rewriting as I don't want to spend the time just to see my edits getting reverted.
BTW, looking at the history, it seems that on 11 Sep 2009, IP was responsible for adding all the new material to the intro [1]. The comment for the edit make me suspicious that this was an attempt at humour87.112.173.9 (talk) 15:41, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

Proposed changes to class hierarchy definitions to fit modern society[edit]

Class Hierarchy (All you ever need to know about the subject):

Upper Class: Defining Characteristic - Egalitarianism

Middle Class: The marked differences between upper class and lower class are a continuum, therefore, there is no defining characteristic for the middle class except to say it would be somewhat of a blend between the two.

Lower Class: Defining Characteristic - Pompousness

Note: Class structure has historically been defined by wealth, however, in the current era of high wealth fluctuation and marked differences in personality traits it becomes apparent wealth is a poor indicator of class standing.

It should also be noted ones possessions do not indicate one as upper or lower class, as this is only defined by personality - egalitarian versus pompous. It should never be presumed ones class standing without the individual directly communicating either egalitarian or pompous sentiment through spoken or written language.

Boorish behavior - Usually correlated with the lower class, but not a defining characteristic of the lower class. Hence, one could be boorish and upper class. Explanation - Boorish behavior is situational (could be written off as a medical condition, public flatulence or belching), pompous behavior is less situational and more indicative of the underlying personality.

High Brow vs. Low Brow - Neither would be used as a defining characteristic of the class hierarchy

High Brow - Intellectually Stimulating Low Brow - Intellectually Dampening / Unintellectual — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:54, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

Intro Paragraph Contradiction[edit]

The introductory paragraph suggests that Upper Class usually consists of 1-2% of Americans. It then goes on to say that on a "daily" basis the upper class will likely see their family names on streets, schools, colleges and even monuments. I find this to be a stretch. Not only is this a bit of an exaggeration as to what a person of the upper class may encounter but it implies that all members of the upper class have long lineages of successful people also of the upper class. I was raised in an upper class family but neither of my parents were and I've never seen anything named after my family. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:58, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

Alarming Percentage of "Nope" Detected In Intro Paragraph[edit]

"the upper class views itself ... as members of families that have been long distinguished ... by generations of leadership in public service, education, charity, the military, and the arts"

Two possibilities:

1) The above statement is a hilarious generalization that paints an absurd caricature of everyone in the upper class being throwbacks to Titanic---in which case, someone more knowledgeable than I should rewrite said statement, OR...

2) The above statement is actually true, in which case, dear God man, we need a citation.

Accordingly, I have removed it. Eunomiac (talk) 04:23, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

Upper Class[edit]

Persons who can afford 100$ per day can be considered upper class. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:40, 22 May 2015 (UTC)

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