26 July 2007

Bourgeois vs bourgeois

Why is the bourgeoisie so hated? And, more curiously, why is it hated particularly by people who are members of it themselves? It's one of the central riddles of capitalist societies, though not one I have seen anyone grapple with. I tried to give a very tentative answer in the Mediocracy book, but even so had to resort to fable to do it. It really is a flaming mystery.

In today's Independent, Joan Smith gives a good illustration of bourgeois anti-bourgeois ranting. She presents a model of "Middle England" which is at least as insulting and remote from reality as anything that would be labelled as racist were it talking about other races.

If anything is loathed by the property-owning middle classes, who are almost Methodist in their approach to other people's enjoyment, it is recreational drugs and gambling. Another of their pet hates is immigrants who come here and break our laws, so the news that foreign rapists are to be shown the door — the home-grown sort is, of course, a different matter, given the terrible tendency of British women to make things up — is calculated to make them tremble with pleasure. ...

Prepped by the right-wing press, Middle England is quite prepared to believe seven impossible things before breakfast about those dark forces usually referred to as "Brussels" or "Europe".
It's a bit like Ms Toynbee's claim that the press is "right-wing": define your terms perversely enough and whatever prejudice you want to believe can be supported. But the version of "Middle England" portrayed here isn't one I recognise.