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Re: [mythsoc] Austen, Aristocracy, and Regular Joes

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  • David S. Bratman
    ... And it is this sense which is meant when it is said that America is a classless society. America is in this sense so entirely classless, in fact, that
    Message 1 of 6 , Mar 28 10:44 AM
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      At 10:09 AM 3/28/2003 , Alexei wrote:

      >I think that there's also a fundamental difference in cultural ethos between
      >aristocracy-of-wealth (_haute bourgeoisie_) and artistocracy-of-blood
      >(_noblesse_). America has no examples of the latter, and therefore no
      >manifestation of their particular ethos.

      And it is this sense which is meant when it is said that America is a
      classless society. America is in this sense so entirely classless, in
      fact, that it's hard for many Americans to imagine what such a class system
      would be like; and those who claim that America isn't classless are
      mistaking the privileges of wealth and fame, or those of "old-boy"
      networks, for those of class.

      The haute bourgeoisie is a democratic aristocracy in the sense that anyone
      can rise into it, the same way that anyone can become President. (Whether
      you actually _will_ is of course another question.) The noblesse doesn't
      work that way. One example I remember reading about: the 14th-15th century
      Earls and Dukes of Suffolk were from a rich merchant family that had been
      raised to the nobility, and for generations the rest of the English
      nobility looked down upon them because of their "jumped-up" origins. This
      sort of class system - judging people by who their fathers and grandfathers
      were, not by their own characteristics - is still visible in Jane Austen,
      and it was still apparent in British government power struggles as recently
      as 40 years ago.

      When Tolkien gives Wootton Major's fairy star to plebian children, or makes
      Sam a hero equal to the aristocratic Merry and Pippin; when Lewis packs an
      assortment of varied people, from a professor to an ex-convict, into the
      Fellowship of St. Anne's; when Williams sends a duke, a clergyman, and a
      journalist out to look for the Holy Grail together - they are being
      daringly egalitarian, and really making a point about how all humans are
      equal under God: the same point Thomas Jefferson made when he wrote, "All
      men are created equal."

      - David Bratman
    • Stolzi@aol.com
      In a message dated 3/28/2003 12:22:47 PM Central Standard Time, ... There was a little bit of this in the older Southern culture. I was always taught that it
      Message 2 of 6 , Mar 28 3:41 PM
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        In a message dated 3/28/2003 12:22:47 PM Central Standard Time,
        alexeik@... writes:


        > It is this kind of consciousness that keeps _noblesse_ alive as a
        > sociocultural phenomenon even when its members no longer enjoy political
        > supremacy or even wealth: they continue to have a "special" identity based
        > on
        > the *stories* about their lineage that they inherit through their
        > bloodline.
        >

        There was a little bit of this in the older Southern culture. I was always
        taught that it was not how much money you had which made your family a "good"
        family, but your standards and your heritage. This was natural in a society
        where many white Southerners had lost everything they had in war,
        Reconstruction, and then just when people might be picking themselves up
        again, the Great Depression.

        Though my =own= family were neither white-trash nor white-columns, but rather
        professionals (doctors, engineers) or farmers working their land. I even
        remember thinking that my in-laws were a bit flashy, a bit nouveau-riche -
        they were quite prosperous as a pair of professionals (when working wives
        were not so common) in the rising tide of the 1960's - and they were enjoying
        it!


        Diamond Proudbrook



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • alexeik@aol.com
        In a message dated 3/29/3 12:01:49 AM, Diamond Proudbrook wrote:
        Message 3 of 6 , Mar 29 10:30 AM
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          In a message dated 3/29/3 12:01:49 AM, Diamond Proudbrook wrote:

          <<There was a little bit of this in the older Southern culture. I was always
          taught that it was not how much money you had which made your family a "good"
          family, but your standards and your heritage. >>

          Interesting, as Southerners were the Americans with whom the old-style French
          aristocracy shared enough core values to feel comfortable dealing with them
          as equal partners, to the point of intermarriage. I have American cousins on
          my maternal side, and they're all descended from marriages made by French
          ancestors in the 19th century. And they're all Southerners.
          Alexei
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