In this era of bluster, lies and pretense, could a new study from the UK (and apparenty most concerned with Brits) also be present in the US, that is, why do people of priviledge sometimes talk-down their personal history, shifting their ‘origin stories’ from rich to poor, thus, falsely claiming their current status was due to hard work, an ‘against the odds’ scenario, as opposed to the reality of daddy paying for Harvard (or Oxford).
The research also invoked in explanantion/background this classic Monty Python ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ (1974) sketch about a group of men reflecting on their ascent into Britain’s elite — would/could the act be transfered to America?
America’s elite tend to be assholes, and most-likely wouldn’t need that weird, kind-of creepy psychological boost from lying about growing up well-to-do:
Odd research at an way-odd time, but seemingly a bit on the phony bullshit-side floated by people all over, especially in politics — grass roots home. The study was conducted through the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, the Royal Holloway University of London, and published Jan 17 at Sage Journals.
From the Abstract:
Why do people from privileged class backgrounds often misidentify their origins as working class?
By positioning themselves as ascending from humble origins, we show how these interviewees are able to tell an upward story of career success ‘against the odds’ that simultaneously casts their progression as unusually meritocratically legitimate while erasing the structural privileges that have shaped key moments in their trajectory.
One gem down in the article was a note those folks from well-to-do circumstances don’t believe their own affluence:
One potential explanation for this is that many simply do not see themselves as privileged.
Here it is useful to turn to the literature on class identity.
Sociologists have long argued that the key way that people understand their social position, and attendant privileges and disadvantages, is through their subjective class identity.
We conceptualise class identity as a relational form of ‘position taking’ where one not only claims membership in a particular symbolic community (e.g. the middle class) but also draws a boundary between their own location and other social groupings (e.g. the working class).
When it comes to where people place themselves, it is well known that most (in Western Europe and the USA at least) tend to identify as middle class, even though this often contradicts their ‘objective’ occupational class position.
The dominant explanation for this inability to identify one’s ‘correct’ class position comes from ‘reference group theory’, which contends that people form perceptions of their social position by comparing themselves to others in their immediate social environment or ‘structural neighbourhood.’
This leads to a widespread ‘middling’ of subjective social positions, whereby people see themselves relationally as normal, average and therefore middle class.
Sam Friedman, lead author of the study, and a sociologist at the London School of Economics, and a commissioner at the government’s Social Mobility Commission, wrote an op/ed for the Guardian shortly after the research was published — in way of main take-aways, particularly with notions of privilege:
Our findings indicate that such misidentifications are built on particular origin stories that people reach for when asked about their backgrounds.
These accounts tend to downplay people’s own, fairly privileged upbringings and instead reach back into working-class extended family histories that incorporate grandparents and even great-grandparents.
Here people find stories of the past — of working-class struggle, of upward social mobility, of meritocratic striving – that provide powerful frames for understanding their own experiences and identity.
But should we think of these as misidentifications?
After all, these people correctly identify the socio-economic conditions of their working-class ancestors and simply argue it is the legacy of that history that scaffolds their identity.
In some ways, they’re right.
Research shows that the class position of our grandparents does, on average, have an effect on our own destinations.
However, right now way-too-many Americans are in a delusion, which is a class all its own.
“Not enough lifeboats by half…”
“Not the better helf…”
(Illustration: MC Escher’s engraving, ‘Old Olive Tree,’ found here).