January 23, 2010
Clash of the Classes: Middle vs. High Proles
What was once categorized by the rich and the poor, it is undoubted that society today cannot be so easily defined. In the words of Jennifer Steinhauer, “One thing modernity brought with it was all kinds of identities, the ability for people to choose who you want to be, how you want to decorate yourself, what kind of lifestyle you want.” With this vast amount of “identities” comes the need for a more structured class designation as well as a process for de-blurring the lines between them. While Paul Fussell has recognized nine classes in this country, the focus of this analysis will rely on two of them: Middle and High Proletarian, or High Proles. The researched differences between these groups will be examined and then related to the real-world example of Redneck Neighbor. Marketing practices and how they can be applied to this situation will also be referenced.
As noted, Fussel recognizes nine classes and has them separated into three segments: high brow, middle brow, and low brow. At the top of the high brow segment lays Middle class and then High Proles just below it. While the two classes may be adjacent to one another, the fact that Middle is just one class away from the high brows says enough for them to have a completely different set of distinguishable attributes. It is this “so close, but not close enough” mentality of the Middle class that explains their desires and state of mind. According to Fussel, the Middle class is the most insecure class and practically obsessed with doing the right thing. Not only do they try to keep up with the high brows in what they consume, but also by how they consume it. Thorstein Veblen says it best with “Closely related to the requirement that the gentleman must consume freely and of the right kind of goods, there is the requirement that he must know how to consume them in a seemly manner.” The Middle class is constantly...