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Elite privilege isn’t a product of wealth Class shame is woven into the fabric of society

Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty at the Conservative Party’s manifesto launch (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty at the Conservative Party’s manifesto launch (Leon Neal/Getty Images)


June 13, 2024   6 mins

Almost a year ago, in July 2023, Rishi Sunak’s government named and shamed Britain’s most unruly towns. The media, unsurprisingly, lapped it up: places subjected to higher levels of social disadvantage were described as “bad towns” filled with “streets of shame”. All who lived there were tainted.

We rarely think about what it means to assign towns or neighbourhoods to the bottom of our moral geography; but those who live in them often feel ashamed, not because they have committed any wrong but because they know they are seen as lesser beings. They report feeling small and powerless, with their behaviour “painfully scrutinised and negatively evaluated”. Sadness, depression and a sense of isolation can often follow. The effect on the self can be devastating.

Curiously, this kind of humiliation becomes possible only when a society has, in its ideology, transcended ideas of natural difference, and convinced its citizens that they are due equal rights and dignity. For instance, when women and non-white people demanded equal rights and dignity, they rightly began to push back against the everyday slights and humiliations visited on them by dominant groups, who found shaming people on the basis of their gender or race increasingly frowned upon. 

In the great era of post-war social democracy, something similar began to happen in the case of social class. In the most wince-inducing scene of The Remains of the Day, set in the Thirties, the butler — Stevens, whose life goal is to serve his master with complete devotion and professionalism — is humiliated by the patrician friend of Lord Darlington who wants to demonstrate the lower class’s ignorance of global affairs and therefore the error of permitting them to have a vote. Yet, despite our own embarrassment and rising sense of outrage, the butler, played in the film by Anthony Hopkins, did not seem to feel the humiliation — because he accepted implicitly that he was of a lower social order and should not be expected to know these things.

Social shaming is by no means confined to the lower orders, whom today we refer to with terms such as disadvantaged communities and the precariat. In fact, shaming is a general phenomenon of stratified society, although its effect is much more apparent in some.

A survey of Australians we commissioned for our new book, The Privileged Few, found that half of young adults admit to having felt ashamed about where they grew up, the school they attended, or their parents’ employment. Shame is a strong emotion to admit too, even in an anonymised survey. We found that parents in households with children are much more likely to admit to feelings of shame than those in households without children, perhaps because adolescents feel shame more intensely than adults and memories of emotional wounds fade as one grows older. In our follow-up focus groups, some made poignant comments about how, as children, they thought they were normal until someone denigrated their suburb or their school or even their father’s low-status job.

The side effect of this shaming is worryingly that people lower down the hierarchy say they conceal where they live or where they went to school, either by lying or becoming evasive when asked. One of our informants spoke of how “people would cringe when I mentioned the… suburb I came from, so sometimes I’d pick another suburb, so they don’t cringe”. Another said that when he mentioned his state school to a partner at the accounting firm where he works, “he visibly recoiled… He looked at me differently.”

In 2012, Owen Jones published Chavs, a powerful polemic against the demonisation of the working class, or at least the element of it characterised by the media and some politicians as “feckless, criminalised and ignorant”. But the extremes of condescension, scorn and even disgust directed at “chavs” should be understood within a broader distribution of “microaggressions” up and down the social scale and manifesting in feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, resentment, guilt, envy, arrogance and contempt. Unlike debates over the microaggressions of race and gender that have dominated the public domain in recent years, the microaggressions of class are often ignored. Yet they seethe beneath the surface, erupting at times when the privileges enjoyed by elites become too brazen, too egregious — justas they did during the pandemic. 

As the Covid virus spread in the early months of 2020, and London began to shut down, wealthy families fled the city for their sanctuaries in the country. Others took to their yachts or flew to Caribbean islands. Estate agents fielded inquiries from the super-rich for “mansions with bunkers”. Newspaper stories reporting the flight of the rich attracted a torrent of bitter and cynical comments from the public. 

We argue in our book that relations among those up and down the social scale are fraught with emotional effort and inner turmoil. Informants for our study (in “egalitarian” Australia) admitted that they pay more attention and respect to people they believe are wealthy or influential. Some look up to them even though they don’t want to and it goes against the grain of their moral code. One conceded that if someone pointed out a billionaire at a party then “I think you may afford them a bit more respect”. These comments were made bashfully, as if looking up to the rich and powerful went against some inner principle or entailed a small sacrifice of dignity.

At the other end of the spectrum, some from a higher position in the hierarchy may want to be respectful and congenial in their relations with those below, but risk being seen as condescending, disrespectful or unduly familiar. While one spoke of levelling-up by changing the way she speaks and carries herself in the presence of a higher status person, another, who had attended an elite school, commented that the adjustment can work the other way so that “you might come down a notch or two”. But he has also discovered that the gulf between the elites and the rest sometimes takes the form of disdain from below: “You get on really well with somebody and then they ask you that dreaded question ‘Where do you live? What school do you go to?’ And the instant you say it, their face drops.”

We are not suggesting an equivalence between disdain from above and disdain from below. The face drop does not have the social power of the cringe. As Kathryn Abrams observed, “a war of disgusts is one that those less socially privileged are unlikely to win”.

“The words to parry the microaggressions of class are absent.”

These injuries of social class are often felt most painfully in the schoolyard, among children yet to learn the rules of social inhibition or, indeed, respect for difference. In schools, interactions among students and between students and teachers are beset by the everyday slights and humiliations associated with social and economic difference. Yet the language of class, once a powerful tool serving the interests of equality and dignity, has fallen out of fashion. The words to parry the microaggressions of class are absent.

If you speak to 11-year-olds, they can call out sexism and racism, even ageism, but when it comes to discrimination or vilification on the basis of class or social status they are dumbstruck. Those students who intend to remain in the state system after primary school are often shamed by those whose parents are sending them to elite private schools. Public schools are “shit”, said one. How does an 11-year-old respond? With an explanation of the social benefits of the public education system? Or with an epithet such as “snob”, which has little rhetorical power in the neoliberal area of “choice” and getting ahead by whatever means possible. The absence of a language of class politics — as opposed to a vibrant language of gender and racial politics — means that shaming on the basis of social status or the school one goes to is taken in as personal wound rather than as an expression of social division.

Students at elite private schools in Britain as elsewhere are taught to assume the superiority of their position. As one graduate observed: “I joined Westminster School [in London] for sixth form. On my first day we were given a talk by the headmaster, who told us: “You are the crème de la crème of this country. Sitting around you are future leaders. Don’t you forget it.”

These schools aim to imbue the offspring of the elite with certain higher moral and spiritual qualities, a process known as consecration, sanctifying these students as beyond the ordinary and moulding them into objects of power and influence; in short, elite. They are taught the dispositions of ease, confidence and entitlement appropriate to a world of privilege. 

The uncomfortable conclusion we draw is that elite privilege is best viewed as a set of everyday practices that sorts and reproduces social strata. Studying the alchemy of how privilege is done, whereby elites seek and are granted exclusive benefits, suggests that the privileges bestowed on elites are not a by-product of wealth but an organising principle used to enforce social difference. In the end, it is our collective compliance that makes elite privilege so deeply entrenched and “natural”, even though it is responsible for so many harms: economic harms, civic harms, and psychic harms, not least the everyday system of shaming and humiliation that is characteristic of a society of privilege. 

Still, it’s a dangerous game for the elites because shaming can congeal into resentment, a political anger that can break through in unpredictable ways. A political class that not only lacks an understanding of the problems of class demonisation but actively seeks to participate in it is doomed to face the reckoning of a vengeful electorate.


Clive Hamilton is professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra and the co-author of Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World.

CliveCHamilton

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Paul Ten
Paul Ten
1 month ago

The class snobbery of Remains of the Day is alive and well in the UK, given new form and brought back to the surface by Brexit, especially now that we happen to be in a general election campaign and Nigel Farage is in the public eye again. As a Brexit supporter who knows a lot of Remainers, I am struck by how people react to my opinions (and me personally) not just as a point of disagreement but with contempt, often quite openly.  8 years after the referendum, they are still angry. Surely it can’t just be about passport queues and tariffs on tomatoes. I can only conclude they are angry because they were politically upstaged by a cohort of people they think are inferior. Lord Darlington’s patrician friend still thinks Stevens the Butler is unfit to be given a political voice.

David L
David L
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

Very good point. Just for once, they didn’t get their way. The histrionics that ensued were hilarious.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  David L

So the whole sorry saga that was Brexit was simply about stopping “they”, whoever that is, from getting “their” way? And did the other “they” get what they want or need?

Paul Ten
Paul Ten
1 month ago

That wasn’t my point. I don’t believe class snobbery played any part in the original referendum. But I do think the aftermath of the vote has crystallised, or surfaced, in some people a disdain for the section of the population who support Brexit.  You get it in journalism, of course, but I have been genuinely surprised to hear this attitude stated directly to me by otherwise perfectly calm, reasonable friends and acquaintances. It may be my social circle is atypical, but I have no reason to think so. In the summary from the article, the butler ‘is humiliated by the patrician friend of Lord Darlington who wants to demonstrate the lower class’s ignorance of global affairs and therefore the error of permitting them to have a vote’. It sounds appalling when it’s put like that. But it’s a spot-on summary of what has been said to me numerous times on this topic.
I got what I wanted and needed, thank you for asking.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

Well done for putting “William Edward Henry Appleby” (!!) back in his box, following the particularly inane comment of his.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Err, he didn’t put me back in my box, tbh. And why do you have a problem with my name?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago

The EEC was the creation of a clerisy run by the French Civil servants. The EEC was designed as a Clerisy to prevent the will of the people being implemented. Those who make money from complicated regulations and subsidies , think the EU is superb, those who do not, object to the decline of free will.
The Clerisy ignore that outside the EU countries are developing at a fast rate and regulations induce sclerosis. The EU can only maintain a comfortable lifetsyle if it innovates at a faster rate than the rest of the World. The leading tech companies are American because of the speed which which an idea becomes a service or product which can be bought.

Utter
Utter
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

There is of course another explanation available – that many remainers see Brexit as an act of predicatable, substantial national self-harm – powered by incohate rage about poor governance which was channelled by demagogues into scapegoating the foreign. An enormous extra bureacratic load has been created, which will last a decade, with end results being generally less favourable (immigration, economy, international power) for the UK than what we had already.

Paul Ten
Paul Ten
1 month ago
Reply to  Utter

Thank you for perfectly illustrating my point. You come across as pretty angry. And you portray the opposing view as inchoate rage, driven by demagogues and scapegoating the foreign. Does it occur to you that people might form an intelligent view on this, even if you disagree? That it is possible to articulate a rationale for Brexit? That we’re not driven to a frenzy by what politicians say? That it isn’t inherently xenophobic? That other people might have different experiences, interests, priorities, values and desires for the country that lead them to think differently? Or do you just think that we’re inferior?

Utter
Utter
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

…or you mine: projecting rage and class snobbery onto politics, as if there’s no other explanation for why someone is angry about a political decision than class snobbery! I am angry, yes, for the reasons I spelled out in my commment. Class/status inferiority does not come into it (as my other post pointed out, the demographics show that it is hardly a class issue – and I certainly don’t see it as such, with the likes of BJ (Eton, Oxford), Rees-Mogg (Eton, Oxford, Dominic Cummmings (Durham, Oxford), Fargage (Dulwich College, The City), Paul Dacre (University College School) leading the charge.

To me, the snobbery accusation looks very much like an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of a political position by smearing it as classist – similar to SJWs slinging accusations of bigotry at any person or movement they don’t like the look of.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago
Reply to  Utter

In the countryside one can find an aristocrat drinking with a labourer who was dry stone waller and bare knuckle boxer; both wearing well worn clothes. Their ancestors have known each others family and fought alongside each other for generations. Look at the memorials in the local church from the wars: those names mentioned still live in the village.
If the local landowner was a coward the whole counry would know. If the landowner’s ancestor was knighted at Crecy, then six hundred years of gallant service would be undone by one act of cowardice.
Aristocrat and labourer treat the nouveau riche down from london with amusement at best , if not contempt.
The landowners were privileged which they acknowledged and they accepted as a consequence, they had a duty to die fro the country. As Orwell said the greatest duty of the public scholl boy was to die for the country. 27% of Harrovians who fought in WW1 died.
Now we have a wealthy privileged nouveau riche urban class who have no sense of duty to the country or the people and think it absurd to die for it. Often they consider their wealth privileges them from dying for the country.

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

Or do you just think that we’re inferior?
.
Yes, he does. I’ve encountered this in my life. If you belong to a certain, usually intellectually privileged stratum, you are obliged to share all its opinions, regardless of how correct or stupid these opinions are.
My advice is extremely simple – don’t argue with them, don’t present your arguments, don’t try to convince them of anything. At best you will be barked at, at worst you will be bitten. I wouldn’t name that snobbery. Understand they react like members of a pack; the mind is not involved in this process.
.
I prefer to have a discussion with an older plumber if I want to check my sanity. This test works.

Utter
Utter
1 month ago
Reply to  El Uro

Don’t engage with the arguments, just sling accusations and insults (which is it?). Instead, restore your sense of calm by discussin the matter with an elderly person who is likely to have little relevant specialist, professional or amateur knowledge in the area. Got it.

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago
Reply to  Utter

Relax, I gave advice to him, not to you

Utter
Utter
1 month ago
Reply to  El Uro

“Or do you just think that we’re inferior?
. Yes, he does.”

Who is ‘he’?

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago
Reply to  Utter

You, but don’t be nervous

Utter
Utter
1 month ago
Reply to  El Uro

Relax, I gave advice to him, not to you

Not nervous – you are not that fearsome – just calling out what seems to be a patronising attempt at gaslighting.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago
Reply to  Utter

Read Orwell’s essays, end of V 1 , V2 , V3 and beginning of V4.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  Utter

If one is happy to see UK manufacturing and farming destroyed by cheap imports, then I can see the logic in removing all trade barriers, post Brexit. I’m not sure that’s what leavers had in mind though, would you agree? In fact I’m not sure what the average leaver had in mind at all, tbh. Perhaps there were some with some deep, technical arguments of the effect of EU membership on our constitution (such that it is), but I rather fear many of them felt it was the answer to all their day to day problems (hint: it isn’t).

Utter
Utter
1 month ago

Agreed. As you say, there are/were, of course, coherent arguments for leaving/criticising the EU – but overall the position was weak, idealistic, contained a lot of assumptions, emotional reasoning, and showed strong indications of nationalist arrogance. One major example was blaming EU membership for high immigration – superficially ‘obvious’ due to all the Polish builders, Romanian beggars, and Albanian crime gangs. In truth there were several measures UK govts could have taken to restrict immigration, particularly the bad bits, whilst still remaining in the EU – that remained unrealised. They allowed demagogues to blame the foreigners/EU, presumably because they did not want to admit that, ‘we could have done something about that but failed to”.

After initial disappointment, I accepted the reality of the vote, and hoped that I was wrong, and that the Brexiteers plan would work. Unfortunately it is increasingly clear that this is not the case – and for reasons that are and were predictable and predicted by the people involved (business, politics, academia, science. There is a Confucian saying that we learn through three methods – imitation, reflection, and experience, which is the bitterest. In my view, Brexiteers didn’t do due diligence on the reflection part, and now the country as a whole has to swallow the bitter lesson. And some wonder why there is anger!

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

My reply was to David L though, not you.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago

“So the whole sorry saga that was Brexit was simply about stopping “they”, whoever that is, from getting “their” way?”

No of course not, and only an extremely stupid person could read the thread up to this point and conclude that this is what Leave voters were in it for.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

I always respond by asking questions. In eight years I haven’t encountered a remainer able to answer the most elementary question about the EU, the treaties, institutions or machinery. With a little probing you can sometimes even get them to admit that their attitudes are driven largely by snobbery.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Can you find many leavers who can explain our own legislature?

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago

Around about the same percentage of Remainers who can, i would imagine. However, to do that, one needs an imagination.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

So, none of Brexit was really about any understanding of EU law, or its relationship to UK law, whether you voted leave or remain?

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

Perhaps you’re viewed as a ‘class traitor’?

Utter
Utter
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

47% of the upper/middle (AB) class voted for Brexit, and it seems that this figure increases to a majority when you look at richer, older UMCs –
https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/study-finds-wealthy-more-likely-to-have-voted-for-brexit

So snobbery is unlikely to be a general explanation- maybe it’s the people you hang out with; or maybe you’re misreading political disdain for class disdain.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

Of course it could be that Brexit has turned out to be the economic and social nightmare it was predicted to be, with no definable serious benefits apparent or in prospect. I have yet to meet a Brexiteer who does not regret their vote – or maybe that’s just living in the South-West where fishing and farming have been royally shafted by the whole sorry affair.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago
Reply to  Tony Price

So either you’re an unbiased citizen reporter just meticulously logging conversations with local farmers and fisherman. Or you’re a Socialist that makes antidotal observations and starts from the proposition that you’re on the Right Side of History and concludes that you’re on the Right Side of History.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  T Bone

You could always try and find some positive stories about post-Brexit farming, fishing or industry to try and counter his argument.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago

No explanation was provided for how Brexit actually harmed these industries. I’m tired of Leftists speaking in entirely abstract language. Describe in simple words, a post-brexit policy that had negative consequences on fishing and farming.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  T Bone

Yes, I tire of “Leftists” too. You are being disingenuous though if you’re saying you can’t find links to reports about the (negative) effects of Brexit on our economy, both in monetary and practical terms.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago

The burden of proof rests on the person making or defending the statement not the person responding to it. You’re defending the position that Brexit caused economic harm to British fisheries and farming.

I’m certain there are thousands of articles complaining about the economics of Brexit. That’s what biased partisans do. I also read articles all the time that blame “climate change” and “rising hate” on Conservatives.

What I’m asking for is an unbiased show of correlation between a policy and outcome. For example, I can show that when a government prints too much money, it reduces the value of existing currency and makes prices rise because more people compete for the same level of supply. This price increase makes a high percentage of working people poorer than they were.

What is the specific policy that you correlate with harm?

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  T Bone

What is the point of posting links to, for example, the reduction in fish and seafood exports to the EU from the UK, because of post Brexit barriers to trade in such items, if you are already referring to “biased partisans”? It’s such an immature and somewhat paranoid stance that I don’t know where to start, tbh. Even your cause-and-effect sentence regarding the money supply and inflation is naieve and simplistic; there are so many other factors in play, that you would have to hold them all constant to see the direct effects you’re talking about.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago

Ok so a reduction in exports. There we go. That’s all I was asking for. I don’t understand why its so difficult to be specific. You’re getting all huffy when I’m just trying to educate myself by getting clarification. I’m an American. Although I understand the logistics of Brexit, I’m not familiar with the industry-wide outcomes.

I think the reduction of exports is a valid concern. It’s probably also a problem that can be remediated by new trade deals if that hasn’t happened already. I would also have to assume Post-Brexit that British vessels have less competition for instance off coastal waters in the English channel, No?

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  T Bone

The problem is, we in the UK don’t like eating the fish that is native to our waters, by and large. But there was a good trade in exporting it to the continent where it is popular. Post Brexit, we can fish more of it, but trade barriers make it much more expensive to export. New trade deals, negotiated bilaterally, have not been as good as the free trade we enjoyed when inside the EU. Imagine California ceding from the USA and consider the hit to its economy when it had to negotiate tariffs and non-tariff barriers to export its goods to the rest of the USA – a somewhat simplistic analogy, but nonetheless illustrative.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago

I’m generally a State’s rights advocate but I’m not a protectionist so I do see the merit in this particular gripe but it seems like decoupling always presents tradeoffs.

I guess my question would be if you see any long term benefits in wrestling back autonomy from Brussels especially as they plowed toward mass immigration and net zero energy policies? I know that Britain has its own push for Net Zero but it seems that regaining autonomy allows greater flexibility in the future.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  T Bone

Yes, there are always tradeoffs in these relationships. We still have lots of immigration to the UK, even though we’re not in the EU, and it’s now mainly immigration from outside the EU. There were controls and levers that could have slowed immigration even when inside the EU but the Government didn’t use them.

How much autonomy does any country have in a globalised economy? We retained our legislature, with some influence from the EU, covering about 20-30% of our legislation; not a bad tradeoff in my opinion given the boost to free trade and the economy at the time. Now we will have to find another path, but that may mean some tough choices. You may not realise, but import and export of goods has become sticky now we’re outside the EU. Our Government had to keep delaying the inevitable checks on goods required post Brexit, to avoid shortages and disruptions, but once you’re out, you’re out, and those barriers will soon bite.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago

I’m sure you’re right about this. I will watch some of the trade data in the future to see if the trade off is worth it. Thanks for the info.

Utter
Utter
1 month ago
Reply to  T Bone

Most of what I’ve read reports Brexit has been bad for fisheries, though some have benefitted from larger quotas. Here’s one –

https://www.westcountryvoices.co.uk/how-fishing-was-gutted-by-brexit/

I know firsthand that the salmon & oyster fisheries nr my mum’s on Argyll coast are far from happy.

Some of this is down to “betrayals” of promises made by the (brexit) government. I don’t know about that, but I do know that a great & much ignored/downplayed challenge to brexit is that winning such a referendum does not negate the real politics of there being 48% of the country who don’t agree, and the demands of the other countries with whom we trade.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 month ago
Reply to  Utter

In the Laches, a rich but somewhat simpleminded man confesses to Socrates that he is “ashamed to be in the same room with my own sons.” The reason is that he does know how to teach his sons what they need to learn most of all, which is virtue. Socrates, who never had two nickels to rub together, but who was never shamed in any discussion with any person, praises the man for admitting what he did. He would not have done so if shame were not the beginning of a a better life.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago

Heath sold out British fishing to join the EEC. The EEC did not have a fishing policy until we joined- read P Shore’s Separate Ways.
Basically the FCO had a nervous break down over Suez and with the decline of British industry, certain diplomats such as Crispon Tickell and politicians such as E Heath were determined to join the EEC at any cost.The decline of British industry was due to strikes started by shop stewards in un and semi skilled unions which resulted in over manning, too high costs, lack of innovation, late delivery and shoddy workmanship. The craft unions such as AEU and EETPU understood industry had to innovate.
The FCO controlled negotiations with the EEC and lacked the knowledge of fishing and farming, hence Britain got a bad deal. The EEC insisted on us cutting all ties with Commonwealth countries when it came to importing food. CAP was a way for the French to take money from well run German industry and give it to poorly run French Farming. The subsidies were affordable until Spain, Portugal and Greece joined the EEC. Much of the EEC farm subsidies has caused pollution- too much fertlisers and pesticides have been used and too much drainage, leading to flooding.
The Concorde plane was a method of sweetening the French. Barnes Wallis said it was the wrong plane. Form a start it needed a 10,000 ft runway . He was correct and British commercial plane manufacturing was destroyed.
Britain was always a net contributor to the EEC/EU so any subsidies came from us , anyway.
Most standard organisations are based in Switzerland, such as defining 304 or 316 stainless steel. What is important are international standards which enables JIT manufacturing.
The problems Britain had after 1945 were our making and have not been solved by joining the EEC. Britain needs an affordable Welfare State and innovate faster than countries outside of the EU.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago
Reply to  Tony Price

T May and the Civil Service have been very effective of preventing benefits developing.
In a nutshell it is belief in the absolute sovereignty of Parliament and Common Law over an institution which was created to prevent the free will of the people by the by Civil Service using laws based upon Napoleonic Code. Peter Shore’s “Separate Ways”, Gaitskill’s comments and A Wedgewood Benn explain the loss of sovereignty and the inability to use the vote to remove those who control the EU.
The Schuman Declaration removes the power of the individual voter which was the intention. The SD creates a clerisy which has ultimate control not the voter which A Wedgewood Benn explained in his debate with Roy Jenkins.
Roy Jenkins and Tony Benn debate : The European Communities membership referendum, 1975 – Panorama (youtube.com)
Schuman Declaration – Wikipedia
Schuman saw that in Europe democracy failed to stop dictatorship whether Nazi, Communist of Fascist which was not the case in the English speaking World.

Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

Progressives -remainers, et al- typically invest their egos in their opinions so tend to experience disagreement as disrespect. It’s a kind of religion for them, a Puritanism shorn of Jesus but with all the intolerance intact. And it kills their sense of humor.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago

This Soft Marxism is entirely too whiny.  All its doing is appropriating Intersectional Theory and medicalising class status as a condition.  I would assume the reason there is no longer a “lower class language” if true; is because too many people have bought into grievance and lost the chip on their shoulder. 

Everybody admires the rough and tumble grinder that comes from humble beginnings and scraps their way up the ladder without complaining.  Whether a high percentage of poor people can actually climb the ladder is less important than the pride that comes from trying.  The Never Quit attitude has always defined communities that overcome obstacles.

There’s alot of “lower class” communities with immense pride.  Maybe unlike their “privileged peers” they can fix a car or build things.  A feisty group of people with pride in building stuff with their hands or one fearlessly pursues goals and ignores the naysayers is the solution.  Not one that constantly worries about the sneers of the privileged class.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  T Bone

Ya. I am very skeptical of this essay. Back in the day, there was pride in growing up on the wrong side of the tracks. It created neighborhood solidarity. You might have a beef with someone inside the neighbourhood, but that beef didn’t exist if challenged by someone from outside the neighbourhood.

And since when is there class interaction in school? Everyone in your school is basically from the same social class. It’s not like rich people and poor people attend the same schools.

Meritocracy was always the big equalizer. If rich guy is a shmuck it doesn’t matter how much money he has – he’s still a schmuck.

The big threat to social stability IMO is the loss of meritocracy. If people in the lower classes no longer believe in the possibility of social mobility, then we have a problem.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Well said. The ideology of human right driven equality embedded in the new Blair/EU State the seeds of economic auto destruction. Wealth creation and enterprise are branded as toxic ideas even in our twisted popular culture…and the detached Big State has a licence to hound, regulate and reduce an enterprise sector they despise (see lockdown). Meritocracy – the lifeblood of a free thriving society – is similarly an outlawed nasty scummy concept. No one is refectling on the shocking link between the collapse of standards in the public sector and 20 years of sustained anti meritocratic positive discriminatory hires. Now look at Starmer’s few ideas – non dom taxation; war on private/elite schools; the promise of wealth taxes, restoration of union power and more regulation. He sees it as positive as thpigh bland and robotic he is an avowed socialist and identitarian ideologue. But his entire manifesto is drenched in nasty class envy and is hostile and negative to our freedoms and the vitality of a brave but battered enterprise sector.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

So your saying Vote Labour.

Matt Woodsmith
Matt Woodsmith
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Agree with most of that, especially working class areas ‘closing ranks’. But there definitely are class interactions in UK schools, even if it isn’t the remnants of the aristocracy and working classes mixing. At my rural school in the 90s, we might not have had the language for it, but we all knew who was upper middle class and who was lower middle class. The narcissism of small differences, maybe, but still very much apparent.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Woodsmith

More in rural areas yes. In the cities schools are pretty much divided by class with the separator being house prices.

Utter
Utter
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Woodsmith

I have a sense that Jim V and T Bone may not be living in UK, so not up to date with class machinations here. Apologies gentlemen if I’m wrong.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  Utter

I am from Canada. Could be completely different I suppose.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

If rich guy is a shmuck it doesn’t matter how much money he has – he’s still a schmuck.

The term you are looking for is LOMBARD. Loads of money but a real d**khead.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 month ago
Reply to  T Bone

The ‘lower class language’ hasn’t entirely disappeared. A wealthy former Australian PM, Malcolm Turnbull, was often referred to in the media as a ‘toff’. I’ve seen one of the current wealthy MPs, Andrew Charlton, referred to as ‘Lord Charlton’.

Ian_S
Ian_S
1 month ago
Reply to  T Bone

It’s a good point about being able to do stuff with your hands — beyond pottery, planting daffodils, or other genteel pursuits — I mean, advanced (rather than dillettante, timid and uninformed) diy on houses and car mechanics. Because that stuff grounds you and makes you think practically. It’s a fairly good correlation in my experience that the ever so progressive wombles of bien-pensant commons lack any sort of trade skills. They rely on a “little man” to do it all for them. Even though they think they’re more Left than thou, they’re basically rich, useless, t*ssers parasiting off other people’s backs.

Simon S
Simon S
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian_S

“stuff with your hands… advanced… diy on houses and car mechanics… that stuff grounds you and makes you think practically” Well said.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
1 month ago

Personally, I think we as a society could stand to do with a bit more shame.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 month ago

Maybe all the shame has become attached to body image – all that cosmetic surgery, teeth whitening, eating disorders … steroids for men, Ozempic for women etc. etc.

Utter
Utter
1 month ago

Reminds me of a sample of a preacher’s sermon from a Tribe Called Quest song:

“This feeling of embarrassment
This shyness, this bashfulness…
If you take that out of the people
Then these people will do whatever they want to do
And that is the very definition of America
A people who have no shame
And therefore, they do whatever they want to do”

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Utter

Thanks for that. Explains why adult Americans have Disneyland tattoos, and feel no shame gorging on food that in a civilised society would be seen as kids food. It’s spreading though.

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
1 month ago

I think we could probably do with a bit more forgiveness.

Sandy Henderson
Sandy Henderson
1 month ago

This is hyperbolic, affect-laden tripe, wilfully conflating cherry-picked subjective perception with reality whilst ignoring the now-mainstream culture of shaming privilege (which doesn’t fit its narrative at all). Yes, social class is still a thing but only in the minds of people to whom it matters. It is not a protected characteristic, after all.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago

Of course class is a ‘thing’. It’s becoming more, not less, important thanks to globalisation and migration which enriches the owners of assets at the expense of wage earners and rent-payers. In fact, within a generation or so if nothing changes, the descendants of today’s metropolitan class will not need to work at all, whilst those not born to asset owners will be forced down into a new, global underclass unable to climb out of poverty at all.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Are you Jeremy Corbyn, posting under a pseudonym?

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

ignoring the now-mainstream culture of shaming privilege

You’re missing an absolutely crucial point. It is largely the privileged doing the privilege shaming. And it sidesteps the real privilege of social class. It’s now entirely possible for a privately educated girl from Oxbridge to ask a white boy from a sink estate to “check his male privilege”.

Indeed, it’s precisely what sets her apart from the “lower classes”.

Su Mac
Su Mac
1 month ago

Is the root of “new” class shame that the working class have no foundational role and have a reduced value in a tech oriented world run by technocratic “virtuals”?

Community pride in a coal mine or shipyard or steel works is not going to be replaced by a call centre or even a biscuit factory.

RA Znayder
RA Znayder
1 month ago

On a side note, it seems to me that social justice in other dimensions than wealth (e.g. race), is popular in late capitalist society because it poses no threat to the oligarchy – who have (re)gained a lot of power since the late 70s.

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
1 month ago

One of the principal health determinants is education. When you receive a decent education (and environment) you can find your spot in society, feel good about it, gain agency, contribute to society and possibly help reducing the discussions in this article to the pages of Hello magazine……. (BTW, this could also help many of the NHS issues….)

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
1 month ago

I’m sure education levels are affected by health, diet, lifestyle, and the quality of meal time conversations. I was thinking of advanced, advanced for the child, Mathematics, and other STEM subjects.

I’ve just been speaking to someone who teaches prisoners, and was told they start with the three Rs, because no one taught them: slipped through the net, when there’s a class of 30. And once that’s happened, it’s mighty difficult to remedy it.

Sophy T
Sophy T
1 month ago

‘Those students who intend to remain in the state system after primary school are often shamed by those whose parents are sending them to elite private schools. Public schools are “shit”, said one.’
The last sentence isn’t clear. Does he/she mean public schools as Eton, Harrow etc and a generally used term for private schools in UK, or public schools as the opposite of private schools – in other words, state schools?

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Sophy T

I know. Where were the editors ? It’s clearly meant to be “state schools”.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  Sophy T

From the context I think it’s “public schools” in the American, not British sense.

philip kern
philip kern
1 month ago
Reply to  Sophy T

I think he is in this instance describing the Australian scene, where upper middle class children often attend the local state school before entering an Anglican or selective high school. The author faces the challenge of one language thought to be shared across three nations. In these sorts of discussions the fault lines become apparent. I would add that a British book (and film) about class like Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner makes little sense to the Americans I’ve spoken with.

James Jenkin
James Jenkin
1 month ago

Why is this not all about wealth? I don’t understand

James Jenkin
James Jenkin
1 month ago
Reply to  James Jenkin

Occam’s razor haha

M To the Tea
M To the Tea
1 month ago
Reply to  James Jenkin

because millions in pesos is not equal to millions in dollar. but yet privilege and class in peso can act the same in dollar.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

Lost me when he started banging on about “micro-aggressions”.
People who succeed from “bad towns” (or whatever less privileged circumstances) should be proud of what they’ve achieved. And should be admired for it.
We need to be self-confident enough to know our own self-worth and not hang on the judgements of others. I wish someone has told me that when I was young.
Instead, we have a range of archaic and contradictory social attitudes that neither make sense nor help society as a whole.
David Beckham is widely admired as a successful footballer and celebrity. Coming from an ordinary/pooor background was no obstacle to this – it may indeed help is a case like this (it’s somehow more relatable and footballers are assumed to come from such backgrounds and not be highly educated).
Put someone from an identical background into an accountancy firm at the age of 22 and the assumptions, biases and judgements would be rather different. I’d probably fall into this trap too. But it’s crazy.
Someone else mentioned that this effect increases as we move further away from meritocracy (it’s arguable that Britain became more meritocractic up to around the 1960s and has been in reverse ever since). Things like positive discrimination only make things worse (in my view). Undermining the meritocratic ideal just tends to devalue the achievements of the chosen groups.

Arkadian Arkadian
Arkadian Arkadian
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

I did pretty much switched off too when I say the “m” word.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

David Beckham is widely admired as a successful footballer and celebrity. 

I think this is called the exception which proves the rule. It’s not that exceptional individuals can’t succeed. It’s that for more average individuals outcome is significantly determined by social class.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

The uncomfortable conclusion we draw is that elite privilege is best viewed as a set of everyday practices that sorts and reproduces social strata.

Really enjoyed the piece, but is the above not just Bourdieu?

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

Yet the language of class, once a powerful tool serving the interests of equality and dignity, has fallen out of fashion. The words to parry the microaggressions of class are absent.

Very astute. I think we (and Blair played a big role in this) have mistaken the disappearance of class consciousness for the disappearance of class. Class is alive and well.

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago

the butler — Stevens, whose life goal is to serve his master with complete devotion and professionalism — is humiliated by the patrician friend of Lord Darlington

Theres a similar, less poignant, scene in Bunuels Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie. More accurate in a way because the class separator is entirely trivial – appreciation of the perfect martini!

David Morley
David Morley
1 month ago
Reply to  David Morley
Michael Lipkin
Michael Lipkin
1 month ago

Most people never meet a toff and are reasonably happy as long as the elites are reasonably competent, not too corrupt and restrict their lecturing to how marvelous Mozart/Shakespeare etc are (which can be happily ignored).
Today´s elite are corrupt, incompetent and constantly lecturing about idiocies such as men can become women and if you don´t agree you are an evil bigot.
Economic technocrats think this dislocation can be solved by increasing growth and more jobs, but its not just that – see the USA for an example.

Utter
Utter
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Lipkin

So much wrong in one comment. Most people will in fact meet ‘toffs’ – who are equally likely to like pop music as Mozart, Stephen King as Shakespeare. Today’s elites are not a single entity, but as varied as any other group. Trans-activists and some impressionable teens are the ones who believe ‘men can become women and if you don´t agree you are an evil bigot’ – not elites. ‘Elites’ in medicine, academia, culture, politics may be found to support the trans activists, but people within those groups are also the ones leading the pushback (I think Dr Hilary Cass, Douglas Murray, Bill Maher, JK Rowling qualify as elite).

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
1 month ago

For anyone interested, I wrote a piece about social class in Dublin, with echoes of the sentiments expressed in this article:
Social Class in Dublin: the final taboo – Graham Stull

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
1 month ago

If this essay reflects reality, why does Sir Keir Starmer, Leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Knight of the Realm, former Director of Public Prosecutions, go around saying his dad was a tool maker every 5 minutes?

Utter
Utter
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian McKinney

Inverse snobbery. The only ‘real’ people have calloused hands.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian McKinney

Well, if his dad was a toolmaker, then what’s the problem with saying it? That odious little t*rd, Rishi Sunak, was trying to convince us that his GP & pharmacist parents “deprived” him as a child, by denying him Sky TV.

Howard Ahmanson
Howard Ahmanson
1 month ago

Back in the 1950s I was sometimes shamed for being the son of rich people.

William Braden
William Braden
1 month ago

Some class features are hard to modify, like hereditary position and inherited wealth. But behavior is also important. The Westminster headmaster quoted in the piece was suggesting that his students “live up to” their privileges. I approve of this concept. To the extent that the rewards of higher class status are earned by moral and socially productive behavior, that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, in the real world, it works the other way as well: higher status protects miscreants from the full measure of disapproval or punishment they deserve.
(I’m writing as an American, where hereditary position is less detectable than wealth in comparison to the UK, but I think the general point stands.)

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago
Reply to  William Braden

I think Americans kid themselves about the lack of heriditary wealth, look at the Bush family, been wealthy since 1870.
Orwell states in his essays dating from the 1930s/1940s , the greatest duty of the public school boy was to die for his country and 27 % of Harrovians did so in WW1. What we have now is a plutocracy whose only concern is protecting their wealth aided by a clerisy who run institutions and civil service with a legal system which only the wealthy can afford. Extremely wealthy individuals and coporations whose only concern is protecting their wealth using rules drafted under their guidance without any sense of duty to fellow countrymen and country.
Bodica, Richard the Lionheart, Edward III and Black Prince and Elizabeth I were prepared to die for their county. When Edward III was informed his son, the 17 year old Black Prince was fighting for his life at Crecy and did he want to send assistance he replied ” Let him earn his spurs “.
In the USA the turning point was Vietnam, where as a class, the wealthy decided not to die for their country. Compare the death rate with Britain in WW1 when 20% of the aristocracy was killed.
The USA is similar to Venice, a rich trading nation, run by plutocrats who paid others to fight. The USA is more or less a plutocratic republic or a republican plutocracy.

Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh
1 month ago

In the US, the typical progressivist Democrat -especially in the midwest- is just a guy with a chip on his shoulder and a New Yorker subscription. He lives with perpetual status anxiety and class envy.

M To the Tea
M To the Tea
1 month ago

The word “microaggression” turned off the real lower-level elites in the comments, which is ironic.
The term “microaggression” was coined by Black Americans to describe how the elite subtly keep others from advancing. What “process” do the elite use to maintain their status if not by manipulating certain emotions and behaviors? And how can the collective address that without using language that makes it immediately clear? The irony is obvious!
The Black Americans put a name on a process.
J.D. Vance of Ohio, who rose from rags to privilege, tells his story in a book (not the movie) about these microaggressions and other subtle discriminations faced by his town, his family, and himself while at an Ivy League school. Now, when he doesn’t agree with the elites or support Trump, the elite express exasperation, saying, “We let you in, why are you angry?” They let him in not to support him but to use him, and he is clearly rejecting that “role”.
I believe minorities and women often give us ample time to respond to inequities and corruption through power, but we do not listen until the wound festers and affects those just above one tier on lower class. This is where we are now and why Trump is strong—because he too was not allowed to be in the elites of billionaires at the world economic forum like spaces.
He gets it but the elites do not!

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
29 days ago

If the Westminster School head did make such comment then it shows that intelligence is not immune from stupidity. I imagine though that the context of the quote has been missed, which might have alluded to the responsibility that comes with privilege. Still, the words, if accurately reported, are crass and, I imagine unhelpful to those he was adressing