I’ve just finished reading the Simon Price Manics biog, and now I’ve gone all A-level Sociology and am thinking about class and how we define it and stuff. Because I’m fascinated by how we make aesthetic judgements, I’ve been thinking about how class is tied up with art, and how snobbishness can come in many different forms.
At uni we’ve learnt all about Pierre Boudieu and his concept of ‘cultural capital’; how the shared tastes of the dominant social class mean their position is retained, and how that ties in with financial reward.
In the Manics biog, Simon Price talks about how each of the band members are millionaires and “prole scum” at the same time.
I could draw a pretty decent flow-chart of my class. From an entirely subjective POV of course. (If this was a Sociology essay I would use the word ‘identity’ somewhere here.) I am a maximum of two generations away from working class roots and yet I am undeniably middle-class. My Mum was raised as such, with her architect father climbing the ladder via a series of golf club dinners and Masonic handshakes. My Dad was an independent teenager who discovered rock climbing and then my Mum, both pasttimes which took him away from his roots, literally and metaphorically. Other than a general left-liberal stance and belief in equality, neither parent was overtly political. Our home was a meritocracy, and my parents were arts-lovers. Dad: the guitar and mandolin, The Doors, the value of wide open spaces. Mum: Carole King, William Morris, pen and ink drawings. When I was growing up, we didn’t look down on our neighbours because they were working class, we looked down on them because they watched ITV.
I brought up the subject of class with my housemates a while ago and it backfired horribly. I can’t even remember what point I was trying to make, but it was about post-uni employment expectations or something. I have one housemate who was raised in an affluent village outside Cambridge, who genuinely believes that “most people, after they’ve been working for a while” can expect an invitation to a Royal garden party. I have another housemate, raised by the children of miners who, and I mean this with no disrespect, listens to commercial radio. The class system is evident in our house all the time. It’s unavoidable, and yet when it’s acknowledged it causes a fucking shitstorm. “Don’t forget that I can’t possibly want to buy this bag of salad because I’m working class, isn’t that right Meg?” etc etc until we all die of boredom.
It has dawned on me while reading this Manics book that my upbringing has given me slightly different class signifiers. Occupation and politics have played little part. My Dad has mostly had ‘blue collar’ jobs (hate hate HATE that phrase - it sounds so American) but he’s either been a male nurse, or an English ‘newcomer’ working in Welsh or Scottish forrestries, steel works, salmon farms. Looking after people fresh out of surgery, you can bet that the thing most important to his workplace ‘identity’ now is that he can find a Pink Floyd song appropriate to the condition of every single patient. In the same way, even if I have to go on the dole this summer, I’ll still consider myself middle-class because I’ll spend my days reading rock biographies instead of watching Jeremy Kyle.
Just the fact that I’ve written that sentence says that I judge you on your cultural choices more than anything else. I’m a snob who doesn’t like commercial radio or Jeremy Kyle. I do like the Manic Street Preachers. I value artistic talent over the ability to fix a car engine over the ability to negotiate a corporate merger. I don’t like Alan Sugar. I do like Noel Gallagher (in interview - less so the tunes). I love Jeremy Deller, who we could accuse of being an effeminate bourgeois artist glamorising the lives of a hopeless underclass. I like Brian Sewell because I respect his critical authority, but mostly because he sounds funny.
I don’t really know what my point is. This has been a difficult post to write. One day I will incorporate some of these things into a PhD, and when you all call me Dr Vaughan there shall be no misunderstanding about where I fall in the social order. *safety wink*