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Passions in Poetry

Social Class, Baudrillard, and Diamonds

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Brad
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since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


0 posted 12-16-2000 07:35 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

By class here I'm referring to the different categories where people are grouped but I found this quote interesting because it effectively shows the more common phrasing associated with the quality of a person rather than his or her economic situation. I don't know if anybody's interested in this but I'll throw it out anyway:

"The orignal structural divisions based on family name, land ownership and relations of production are indigested lumps which the body politic stubbornly refuses to acknowledge or evacuate.  The form of human relationshipps remains dependent on a broad and deep consensus concerning the enduring nature of the hierarchies that were in place at the beginning of the industrial revolution: owner/worker, white/coloured [sic], male/female, gentry/peasant, royalty/commoner.  Even as agreement spreads that these hierarchies are arbitrary, or 'politically incorrect', they remain clearly visible in every utterance and gesture in which fetishized 'taste' divides one person from another.  The middle-class yuppie knows that in order to uphold the class structure s/he must select cubic zirconia or other 'faux diamonds' weighing the same as, or only slightly more than, what they might plausibly afford if the diamonds were real ones.  Working-class consumers, unbound by any false solidarity with the bourgeoisie, freely exercise their rights and abilities to purchase eight- and ten-carat cubic zircons because they are big and beautiful and 'classy'."
Dean MacCannel and Juliet Flower MacCannel, "Social Class and Modernity" in FORGET BAUDRILLARD? ed. by Chris Rojek and Bryan S. Turner, 1993.
jbouder
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since 09-18-99
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Whole Sort Of Genl Mish Mash


1 posted 12-18-2000 12:55 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Brad:

Interesting that you bring this subject up now.  If you get the time, check out:

http://www.foxnews.com/channel/oreilly/novel_factor.sml

I think much of what the author at this link says is in agreement with your quote (and I happen to agree with much of what this author says).  Consumerism, I think, tends to make the traditional "working-class" life look far less desireable than it actually is and, to a large degree, I think the consumerists have succeeded in convincing those in the working/middle classes that they "need" to keep up with the Jones's ... if not in reality, at least in appearance.  And we wonder why the average American familiy spends more money than they earn each year.  

Having grown up in a working-class neighborhood, not having the luxuries of my well-to-do neighbors across town never phased me.  Today, at the very most, I feel a little uncomfortable with clients at an upscale restaurant (who can pronounce all the different wine-names and entrees anyway and who the hell needs three forks!?!) but I deal with it fine (never underestimate the effectiveness of self-effacing humor).

Anyway ... this is an interesting subject.  I suppose what is most important, individually, is that we not confuse economic standing with the quality or value of the person.  Good post.

Jim  
Brad
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since 08-20-99
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2 posted 12-24-2000 06:37 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I read the article and I liked it.  When you mention class these days, you are often smirked at by everyone.

Maybe someday you can explain to me the fascination with brand names. I was listening to a young woman speak the other day about Christmas presents. She could not give a noun without a brand name attached to it. I felt rather ignorant by the way -- I didn't know what she was talking about half the time.

Brad
jbouder
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3 posted 12-29-2000 12:36 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Brad:

Don't you think your MacCannell quote, by extension, explains you question regarding the fascination with brand names?

Jim  
Not A Poet
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since 11-03-1999
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4 posted 12-29-2000 01:24 PM       View Profile for Not A Poet   Email Not A Poet   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Not A Poet's Home Page   View IP for Not A Poet

I really can't understand why people pay extra to get a shirt or jacket with the brand name printed in large letters all over the outside. Seems more like the maker should pay the consumer for the advertising. Well, I guess whatever rings your bell though.

Pete
jbouder
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5 posted 12-29-2000 02:11 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

C'mon, Pete.  I KNOW you are just as guilty.  Which Palm Pilot do you own?  
Craig
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since 06-10-99
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6 posted 12-30-2000 01:06 PM       View Profile for Craig   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Craig

I believe that class distinctions do exist, at least here in the UK, the boundaries that separated them have shifted and in some cases become blurred but they are still evident. Iím a little reluctant to believe, without collaborative evidence, that those class boundaries are exhibited in the type of false diamonds that the stereotypical members of those classes would purchase.  If a case study of say ten thousand purchasers of false/real diamonds was undertaken and the resulting data used to substantiate the claims then Iíd be willing to show a little more interest, but only a little more. The problem is that there is an even more interesting conclusion that can be drawn from such a result:

To simplify the example letís split society into three classes, upper, middle and lower. The upper class would, if we take the above diamond analogy as fact, buy the biggest real diamonds they could afford. The middle class would buy false diamonds but to a size comparative to the size of real diamonds they could afford, the lower class would buy the biggest false diamonds they could afford. This could be used as evidence that the middle class in our example is more deceitful than the upper or lower. The argument would go something like this:

The upper class bought real diamonds at the highest price they could afford.

The lower class bought false diamonds at the highest price they could afford

The middle class bought false diamonds at less than they could afford hoping to deceive people into believing they had bought real diamonds at the highest price they could afford.

I know it's slightly off topic but I was reminded, as I sat writing this reply, of an interview I watched on TV where a statistician was discussing the emphasis placed on DNA evidence given in murder trials. The speaker was remarking on how statistics are presented in differing ways dependent on whether the evidence was to be used for the defense or the prosecution case. The anecdotal example given was of a trial where DNA results from specimens recovered from the murder scene matched the defendant, the prosecution maintaining that only one in one million people would return such a result and despite a total lack of collaborative evidence won the case. The statistician pointed out that in a population of 50 million people the result had only a one in fifty chance of being correct.

I think this highlights the fact that differing and sometimes conflicting conclusions can be drawn from seemingly straightforward information.

Thanks for the chance to read and reply


[This message has been edited by Craig (edited 12-30-2000).]
Brad
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since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


7 posted 12-30-2000 08:48 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Craig,
I don't think should be seen as a statistical argument but as a trope of class in general. Certainly, within each class structure there will be a multitude of different individuals who will do things differently. I would hesitate to try any correlation between what diamonds you buy and what economic status you may have. Rather, what interests me here is how other individuals feel about the diamond trope itself.

Pete and I, for example, are perplexed by the use of brand names as such. Jim thinks certain upper class tendencies in dining are superfluous. This doesn't necessarily define our class standing but it does show that we think about it.

I'm sure, or pretty sure, that the young lady I referred to wasn't particularly comfortable with my puzzled looks -- either because she thought she was being judged by someone beneath her or simply by someone who 'wasn't with it'.  It seemed to me that her response, while civil, indicated a class distinction that she was making -- even if she herself might not characterize it as that.

I'm not criticizing her here because if you look at my comments I did the exact same thing to her -- I characterized her as some type of nouveau riche or 'wanna be' because she flaunted those brand names. The really, really rich keep these things rather muted I suspect.

It is this type of judgement, the reaction of the reader to the description that interests me. In other words,  your description, your reaction to the piece is something I went through as well:

the rich -- whatever

the middle class -- why do they (we?) do such things? Is it that important?

the lower classes -- yeah, I've seen that before

My point is that these are judgements that we makes regardless of our rational ideas about what we should do -- "You shouldn't judge other people"; "people should be treated as individuals"; "I don't care what other people think"; and so forth.

A tremendous about of time in the American media is spent on racial and gender differences (I admit the UK is a different case; class is still, as far as I know, a concept still talked about), and this is a good thing but I don't think we should forget about class differences as well.

America is not a classless society and everybody knows this but few seem to realize how much it effects us.

I'd just like to see a little more discussion than the continuing 'widening gap between the rich and the poor'.

thanks,
Brad

 
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