It would seem according to Bourdieu that my taste can be attributed to my social status. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of where I am placed in terms of class, working or middle class;
these terms are used in social science to define the occupation of the population. Middle class – those in white-collar and lower managerial occupations and working class as people involved in manual occupation. Their jobs are usually unskilled, poorly paid and provide few benefits or job security.
It would seem from this that I am just inside middle class, my husband has a small business and is a qualified tradesman and I too am a qualified Beauty Therapist and have taught in an HE college. My parents were both qualified in their occupations too. We had a house built for us and as a child I remember my mum always loved the best carpets and fabrics for upholstery that she could afford, she also loved art and had a beautifully framed Lowry – I realise now this was a print but did my mum love this picture because she was a Lancashire lass, or because he depicted the working class people or because the Queen Mum bought one? From what I know of my mum it would be because she loved it as a piece of art. I went to a Grammar School which meant taking the 11 plus so I suppose these are all pointers to a middle class upbringing. My mum must have been very proud of her home as anytime we had visitors she loved to show everyone around her home and I always took that for granted, that it was something everyone did.
Although not quite on the same level and she was definitely not a lady of leisure, this reminds me of Veblen (1899) who spoke of the wealthy and upper class showing their status by extravagant and wasteful expenditure – conspicuous consumption. These wealthy upper classes had a life of leisure and bought goods and services from those who did work to show the world just how wealthy they were, the more they bought and accumulated the higher their status. They accumulated country estates with gardens featuring fountains, follies and waterfalls. The interiors were even more grand showing goods bought from all over the world with extravagant drapes and furniture and parties were thrown to show off their wealth. Fashion was of a style where no work could possibly be carried out whilst being worn, e.g. a birds nest hats!
Simmel 1904, also looked at social status stating that “Society is merely the name for a number of individuals, connected by interation”. His thoughts were that we buy goods to fit in and that the groups we belong to influence what we wear or what we buy for our home and these are all down to our status. This was tried out in an experiment in one of our lectures where it seemed all the graphic students wore hoodies and all the textiles students wore scarves, I usually wear a hoody but not on that particular day!
In 2004 Richard Benson and Alex Bilmes talked of different types of middle class, those who earn around £30,000 and those who earn up to £200,000. Their article in the Guardian led me to explore further the 1950’s social grade system, which put people into catorgories depending on their qualifications, income and responsibilities. This was fascinating reading and quite an eye opener, it also led me to “the underclass” (what a horrible term) given to those in long term unemployement, single parent families, elderly pensioners and those dependant on state benefits. It would seem that Tony Blairs’ wish in 1999 that the class war is over is far from the truth and has just got more and more compliciated.
Benson, R., Bilmes, A., 2004. Middle Class? Yes, but which part are you? (online) available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/oct/03/britishidentity.richardbenson (Accessed 30th January 2011)
Geser, H., 1977. The Significance of Simmels Work, (online) available at http://socio.ch/sim/work.htm (Accessed 30th January 2011)