Class: A Guide Through the American Status System

Class: A Guide Through the American Status System

by Paul Fussell

The bestselling, comprehensive, and carefully researched guide to the ins-and-outs of the American class system with a detailed look at the defining factors of each group, from customs to fashion to housing.Based on careful research and told with grace and wit, Paul Fessell shows how everything people within American society do, say, and own reflects their social status. Detailing the lifestyles of each class, from the way they dress and where they live to their education and hobbies, Class is sure to entertain, enlighten, and occasionally enrage readers as they identify their own place in society and see how the other half lives.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 3.95
  • Pages: 208
  • Publish Date: October 1st 1992 by Touchstone
  • Isbn10: 0671792253
  • Isbn13: 9780671792251

What People Think about "Class: A Guide Through the American Status System"

Fussell hopes that a special caste, Type X, or more 'creative types' will finally be free of class prejudice and aspiration. His descriptions remind me of the 'creative class' which inhabits certain parts of the coastal cities and some college towns in the middle.

The author argues that there is a new class being formed in America, one made of people who are oblivious to their own class but also don't seem to adhere to the rules of any of them. While I agreed with him on this, what diminished the book is the author then egotistically claimed he was part of this "new" class and that the "new" class was better than everyone else.

Read this book to open your eyes to class in America (taking everything with a grain of salt), then watch Social Class in America on PBS (have another grain of salt), then read Working on the chain gang by Walter Mosley, and begin your journey in social consciousness.

Here he expounds on his posit that the dog surpasses the cat as the pet preferred by the upper classes: " Rousseau:'Do you like cats?' Boswell: 'No.' Rousseau: 'I was sure of that. He will do nothing at your order, as other animals do.' Thus the upper orders' fondness for a species they can order about, like their caterers, gardeners, and lawyers, and one that fawns the more its commanded.

Oh, you mean a book written in the early 1980s does not 100% hold up in the 2010s? Judging by the comments for this book on Goodreads there are a lot of lazy and literal readers out there. Fussell's tongue-in-cheek dissection of class in America does, in fact, hold up in many respects.

It's dated, it's hideously white, and it's actually not social scienceit's social criticism without the science part. There could have been no David Brooks, no Blognigger, no Stuff White People Like, without Fussell.

(In fact, thirty-five years later, these observations are just as witty -- and occasionally infuriating -- as ever.) Don't discount the merits of the puckish illustrations that have come with every edition: the middle-class homeowner "confronting a damning impurity" (looks like dandelion or chickweed) on his lawn, architecture-style facial line drawings of the blunt-featured, lower-class man (looking a good deal like Ronald Reagan) versus the upper-class man (think: Quentin Crisp).

One of the few books I have read that is a life-changer.

Paul Fussell proposes nine classes for the United States instead of the obviously simplistic three or sociology's five: Top out-of-sight, Upper, Upper middle, Middle, High proletarian, Mid-proletarian, Low proletarian, Destitute, and Bottom out-of-sight. "It can't be money," one working man says quite correctly, "because nobody ever knows that about you for sure." Style and taste and awareness are as important as money.I would go further, and say that money has little to do with class. He goes on to show that colleges and universities in the United States came to substitute for the European class structures abandoned by democracy.In the absence of a system of hereditary ranks and titles, without a tradition of honors conferred by a monarch, and with no well-known status ladder even of high-class regiments to confer various degrees of cachet, Americans have had to depend for their mechanism of snobbery far more than other peoples on their college and university hierarchy.The most perverse effect of this dependence was that college became a necessity for status, and that everything from dog-grooming services to churches were elevated to institutions of higher education.

Part of the project I'm working on has to do with social class, and for some reason or other, I think a random look at the library bookshelves, I found this 1983 treatise by Paul Fussell, an American literary and social critic. I've since discovered it was quite famous in its day, and even though some of the cultural references are inevitably dated (he laments bookstore tables being filled with Ann Landers and Leon Uris, for instance), his observation rings true when he says Americans pay attention intensely to social class and inevitably have even more markers for it -- in everything from speech to what they buy to what they wear to what sports they follow -- because they are in a democracy than they would if they lived in a more officially stratified nation.

He is best known for his writings about World War I and II.