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May 06, 2011



This is a recurrent issue. The sociologist Peter Townsend did a fantastic study of poverty in the 60s & 70s that approached the subject taking both self-perception & perception by non-poor seriously. He attempted, and largely succeeded, in establishing that the definition of poverty, and government action, be based on a combination of their aspirations (e.g. "would love to afford a holiday twice a year for family") and objective measures ("how many holidays did they actually take?"). Its in this way that one can reduce bias caused by the understandable fact that poorer people want to avoid social classification as poor because that, in practice, reduces their life chances even more.

gastro george

The obverse of this is that many people believe that they are middle class, even though they're not. They don't see that they're getting shafted by the economic consensus. It's even worse in the US.

The poor also bash "scroungers", largely on the basis that "we" are the deserving poor but "they" aren't. And a steady stream of scrounger lies from the Tory press.

Salis Grano

And the poor can presumably attempt to cast off the image by maxing out their credit cards.

On the other side of the coin, there are many people/households who style themselves as middle income when they are in upper 9th and 10th deciles.

Maybe we all want to seem to be average.


This is all very true. I would add that use of terms like 'the squeezed middle' suggests that some Social Democrats are aware of these issues and trying to come up with labels that people are happy with. The overlap between the concept of 'class' and value-laden ideas like 'caste' is a big issue imo (and part of the reason why discussion of class is frowned on in places like the UK). One of the successes of the old workers movement was to bring about a collective self-awareness that inverted the conventional value-hierarchy.

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