Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Another Try at Tribes

I wrote a great deal about tribes in 2006-2008, particularly the Arts & Humanities Tribe I grew up in. Along the way I described what I thought were other American tribes, such as Science & Technology or  Government & Union. I think much of this is still useful, but not all of it has worn well.  I do not think I will be updating it, but it will remain in the background of my thought in discussing class and tribes now. Some of you were around then and may recall it. I linked to the whole series when I did my countdown last year, but no need to now. I think it would be distracting to this topic, and you will have plenty of other rabbit holes to go down.

Scott Siskind has thoughts, and links to other attempts to identify attitude clusters, which I just posted about recently. I will include those again, farther down, but wanted to get newer information out first.  Siskind recently encouraged conservatives (he is libertarian, very Gray Tribe) to start speaking in terms of class to improve their electoral appeal. For example, instead of the clumsy formulations of mainstream media, legacy media, elite media, or traditional media, all of which terms have some positive associations no matter how much conservatives rail about how terrible they are, he suggests "upper-class media," as these outlets defend that class and put energy into disparaging other classes.  Makes sense. Upper Class Media.  UCM. It's usually Marxists who come on the scene and declare that all this talk about racism, sexism, and homophobia are just disguises for class, but they have a solid point.  It's just that the class they don't like is the bourgeoisie, which is us, so we don't listen attentively.  (That has modified considerable in the last 100 years, BTW.)

Jonah Goldberg has recent thoughts,  and references the work of others, including Siskind. There are the Pew Surveys that come out periodically which identify statistical clusters of belief. The last one was 2017  That is something I have not linked to before, so you may want to start there.

Charles Murray's belief is that the elite class is able to protect its interests and the flow of information so well that they are toxic to America, even though they are responsible for much of its prosperity.

Commenter Earl Wajenberg had linked in 2015 to his review from 1993 of Paul Fussell's book Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, when it was already 10 years old.  Fussell's framing feels old and unsurprising now, but it wasn't then. So now we are triply encouraged to see how well Fussell's ideas have held up. I will note that Earl's review summarises Fussell, which you may find to be an advantage depending on how long you have been underground and looking for air. Earl doesn't have a comments section, but faithfully answers all emails.

 I don't know that I will be attempting my own new synthesis - the world does not need that, even if I were miraculously spot-on - but I put these out first as possibilities to consider, which we can then discuss. I will be trying to see how the new political framing of Red Tribe, Blue Tribe, Gray Tribe interacts with this.

The previous links, mostly via Slate Star Codex

Summary and Siskind's commentary on Siderea's Staying Class

    The full text of Staying Classy

Siskind's summary of Michael Church's Ladder System of Class, which is good because the original link is now dead

I Can Tolerate anything but the outgroup

He also summarises Mencius Moldbug's  Castes of the United States, but that was short anyway

The New Class Conflict by Joel Kotkin   A longer review of that. (NY Post)

Siskind also linked to a comment from Archdruid report in a thread about Kotkin, which I print in full here because the link is broken

> It so happens that you can determine a huge amount about the economic and social prospects of people in America today by asking one remarkably simple question: how do they get most of their income? Broadly speaking—there are exceptions, which I’ll get to in a moment—it’s from one of four sources: returns on investment, a monthly salary, an hourly wage, or a government welfare check. People who get most of their income from one of those four things have a great many interests in common, so much so that it’s meaningful to speak of the American people as divided into an investment class, a salary class, a wage class, and a welfare class.

An important note on the relative fortunes of the classes:

>Over the last half century or so, how have the four classes fared? The answer, of course, is that three of the four have remained roughly where they were.

> (…)

> And the wage class? Over the last half century, the wage class has been destroyed.

> In 1966 an American family with one breadwinner working full time at an hourly wage could count on having a home, a car, three square meals a day, and the other ordinary necessities of life, with some left over for the occasional luxury. In 2016, an American family with one breadwinner working full time at an hourly wage is as likely as not to end up living on the street, and a vast number of people who would happily work full time even under those conditions can find only part-time or temporary work when they can find any jobs at all. The catastrophic impoverishment and immiseration of the American wage class is one of the most massive political facts of our time—and it’s also one of the most unmentionable. Next to nobody is willing to talk about it, or even admit that it happened.

Finally, his related essay Parable of the Talents, where the atheist decides Jesus had it right about success.

6 comments:

Sam L. said...

I gave up on Jonah in 2015 when he went NEVER TRUMP, and will never again have anything to do with him.

David Foster said...

"you can determine a huge amount about the economic and social prospects of people in America today by asking one remarkably simple question: how do they get most of their income? Broadly speaking—there are exceptions, which I’ll get to in a moment—it’s from one of four sources: returns on investment, a monthly salary, an hourly wage, or a government welfare check."

There are a lot of people who at one point are getting most of their income from a monthly salary but later are getting most of it from returns on investment (either their directly-owned investments or indirectly via a pension) plus a government check in the form of social security (some of which represents their original investment and would be called Return of Capital in normal, nongovernmental accounting)

And there is a smaller but still significant group of people who at one point got most of their income from monthly salary plus stock or stock option grants, and now get most or all of it from returns on investment. That would include a very substantial % of the very wealthy.

Donna B. said...

Does "returns on investments" cover small business owners?

Unknown said...

I'll note that Church's "ladder system of class" exists at the wayback machine;¹ but when I search "ladder system of class" on his site I see that this may be because he intends it to be missing:²

"Eight years ago, I wrote an essay on the three social class ladders that existed in pre-2016 American society. That essay disappeared due to a confluence of factors not really worth getting into, . . . I do have strong thoughts on how that article has aged"

Douglas2







¹ https://web.archive.org/web/20131018015656/http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com:80/2012/09/09/the-3-ladder-system-of-social-class-in-the-u-s

²
https://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2021/01/28/a-reply-to-alex-danco-revisiting-macleod-and-the-three-ladders-in-the-wake-of-trump/

David Foster said...

From the excerpt, I'm not sure he considered small business owners at all. An independent tradesman who is basically selling his time may charge by the hour or by the job, but it would be incorrect to call his income...for which he sets the labor prices himself..a 'wage.' A restaurant owner (remember restaurants?) is probably making a mix of 'salary' income (which he sets himself, subject to tax-law constraints, and which may vary from time to time, plus (again highly-variable) investment income.

David Foster said...

"n 1966 an American family with one breadwinner working full time at an hourly wage could count on having a home, a car, three square meals a day, and the other ordinary necessities of life, with some left over for the occasional luxury. In 2016, an American family with one breadwinner working full time at an hourly wage is as likely as not to end up living on the street, and a vast number of people who would happily work full time even under those conditions can find only part-time or temporary work when they can find any jobs at all."

Trump was certainly willing to talk about it, and to point out the role played by offshoring and specifically by Chinese trade practices.

A big part of the problem can be assigned to the Education establishment...both the excessive reverence for educational credentials, and the very poor transmission of knowledge that actually takes place in so many K-12 schools...and the much higher education-related expenses that many families are paying, either directly so that they can send their kids to private/parochial school or so that they can move into a neighborhood with semi-decent public schools.