Also, we haven't yet defined "working class" and probably simply can't in any meaningful, consistenlty useful way.So here's my first attempt at a definition of class. This isn't Quaker-specific, so I'll be inviting bloggers outside of the Quaker blogosphere to participate in the discussion. I welcome everyone's insights, additions, subtractions, criticisms, and praise.
I've been thinking about Pam's comment and wondering if I can't at least try to define class in a way that makes sense.
I have come to understand gender to exist on several continuum along several axes: sex (the physical sex with which you were born or assigned at birth or discovered at puberty), gender identity (the gender with which you identify internally, or you internally experience), gender expression (the gender with which you present to the world at large), and sexual orientation.
What if class were also expressed along continuum on several axes? What would the axes be? Can they be as simple as the gender model?
Off the top of my head, I thought of several continuum:
Education, income, cultural values & norms, and family of origin class status
Then I began to wonder how these things should be weighted. Certainly the first three would definitely be impacted by your family of origin's class status. So then should family of origin class status even be included or should it just inform the other three? Should income have equal weight with education and cultural values, or is there another measure by which we can judge economic class status (like spending, for instance, which was written about in a recent New York Times article)? Some have suggested that education shouldn't have as much weight as income because a high income can get you an education but an education doesn't automatically confer high income on a degree recipient. What about cultural values & norms being more highly valued than income because social capital can get you things (like jobs and material items) that money can't?
Part of the problem with using the gender model is that while each of the four continuum inform the others, I don't think that's true for gender to the extent my categories inform each other.
I think the three axes could be weighted equally. I also like the idea that one axis is based on consumer spending and ownership rather than income. I would add savings, investments and retirement to that value. So, for instance, you might go up a notch if you own your home outright, but down a little if you have less than 50% equity. You would go up a notch for each car you *could* afford to own (here I'm thinking of people like my partner and I who choose to share a car rather than own two). And "could" afford would assume a full-time income at your income-earning potential(because, again, I'm thinking of people who choose to live below the poverty line in order to protest war taxes). We could prioritize spending. For instance, you get more upward movement by spending money on dental care or a computer than say buying a pop-up tent you can hitch to your car.
I also like the spending model because it's what so many people talked about when they took the "What Privilege Do You Have" meme. Some said, Yes, I went to summer camp but it was sponsored by the Y and my parents didn't have to pay anything, or Yes, I went to private school but I went on scholarship because I was raised by my single dad who worked two jobs to keep a roof over our head. It became about how much parents paid for those things, rather than the things themselves and the privilege they conferred.
So what do you think?