firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
[personal profile] firecat
http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/06/21/the-new-elite-attributing-privilege-to-class-vs-merit/ (emphasis in the original)
sociologist Shamus Khan...argues that new social mandates to diversify elite education may have some pernicious negative effects. A generation ago, when most students who attended the high school came from rich backgrounds, St. Paul’s students knew that they were there because they were members of the privileged class. Today about 1/3rd of students do not pay full tuition. Students, then — both those on scholarships and those who aren’t — learn to think of themselves as individuals who have worked hard to get where they are.

The problem, as Khan articulates it, is that identifying as a member of a class acknowledges that privileged individuals are lucky and may owe some gratitude to a society that has boosted them up. Thinking of oneself as a uniquely talented individual, in contrast, encourages a person to attribute all of their privilege to their own merits, so they not only feel no gratitude to society, but also fail to notice that our social institutions play a part in disadvantaging the disadvantaged.
The first comment is really insightful (emphasis mine):
EXACTLY! This process is alive and well in many institutions of higher learning. In law school, the same process is at play. Class privilege brought many of the young lawyers to law school, but the 3 years of hard work (which is fetishized) transforms that class privilege into something 'earned' - something that the individuals have to hide.

It is a way of laundering class privilege. And just like money laundering - turning the ill-gotten proceeds of crime into legitimate business ventures - the appearance is fundamentally altered. Instead of rich brats who had everything handed to them; they become bright, hard-working, intellectual go-getters who earned everything they have. Brilliant.
I'm not sure I like the implication that scholarships are responsible for the loss of understanding of class privilege. (Because then it's too easy to say "Let's do away with scholarships.") But the "laundering class privilege" metaphor strikes me as very powerful.

Date: 25 Jun 2012 01:44 am (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
Sometimes I see this as expiation for the "sin" of being born privileged; it's what a lot of rich kids use a year doing aid relief work in Africa for.

Date: 25 Jun 2012 05:39 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
It sounds good in theory (I was a scholarship kid at a private school!) but it doesn't explain why those very same privileged people have been behaving in exactly the same way all along. I tend to think there's been a bigger social difference since the start of universal suffrage which is now narrowing because of the kind of education and connections needed to be in politics in most countries, no matter which side of Parliament you're on. The current Premier of my state, for example, is a conservative, very wealthy man from an old, wealthy family, who attended the best schools. It's not a surprise that he is cutting money to our equivalent of community colleges and child protection workers. However, the two *left-wing* Premiers before that *also* went to the same very expensive schools, had law degrees, and were definitely not as left as previous Premiers from that party.

Date: 25 Jun 2012 07:31 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
Well, I disagree with that part - there's always been scholarship kids and kids from middle-class backgrounds, if not from working-class backgrounds - but I also disagree with the writer's implication that if you *know* you're a member of the privileged class, you are more socially aware about the rest of society. Wealth buys insularity, and the story of the self-made man (who just happened to have an awful lot of societal support) is hardly new.

But I do like the comment about laundering privilege - largely the same people have the privilege but are using the stories of the few others they let in to make them feel like they earned it.

laundering privilege

Date: 26 Jun 2012 12:16 pm (UTC)
bibliofile: Fan & papers in a stack (from my own photo) (Default)
From: [personal profile] bibliofile
Yes! The phrase works on so many levels: using the stories of the few, tokenism, insularity, etc.

Date: 25 Jun 2012 03:22 pm (UTC)
outlier_lynn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] outlier_lynn
If you listen to John Boehner talk about his life, or Mitt Romney speak of his working hard in college, to see the class laundering in action. Both of them REALLY BELIEVE that they are self made men. And both are convinced that the difference between rich and poor is simply the difference between those who work hard and those who do not.

This is not to say that they didn't work to get where they are, but they, and many other members of their party have a deep abiding faith in the ridiculously simplistic 1950's American Dream propaganda.

It is easy, though, to leap to the incorrect conclusion that the laundering is purposeful. And that is where the metaphor breaks down. Money laundering is a purposeful, directed system to hide the crime. Class laundering isn't cynically based, intentional manipulation of human beings. This is the reason legislation is so poor at "leveling the playing field."

Date: 26 Jun 2012 07:35 pm (UTC)
nitoda: sparkly running deer, one of which has exploded into stars (Default)
From: [personal profile] nitoda
I find it amusing that my first thought, reading the headline, was that the ;post discussed privilege that belonged to the "laundering class" and pondering what that phrase meant - those who do the laundering for others, those who are able to launder their own clothes (as opposed to people who are not in a position to do so)? I totally get the post now that I've read it all though. Privilege is a slippery concept sometimes - it's too easy for one's own to become invisible.

Date: 25 Jun 2012 01:17 am (UTC)
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (pinko pie)
From: [personal profile] sabotabby
Yeah. It's one of those things where the analysis strikes me as spot-on but all possible short-term solutions are even more problematic.

Date: 25 Jun 2012 10:02 am (UTC)
treecat: (Default)
From: [personal profile] treecat
Interesting concept, even though I see in the other comments (incl on dw) that you guys are questioning some of his details.

From the other side of it, Having these people who get brought in - it still maybe that their admissions were merit-based, but still also luck-based. They can be then held up to the rest of us as both a carrot and stick. "Look people who are smart enough and dedicated and worthy enough can break through so it's not all rigged to cut you out." So does that mean that if you don't get into such programs, if you don't even ever know how one would do that... that you aren't actually as smart and worthy as all that?

And this isn't new, though it sounds like there are more people getting in this way now? Any sense of needing to launder the privilege is possibly newer just in that it was more acceptable a few generations past to just say that breeding counts and higher status could be a birthright.

The comment on the other site about the 'left' politicians from the fancy school being less 'left' makes total sense and is part of why it's in the interest to have these other students come in. Having them there is a chance to inculcate them with the idea that its not so broken - see you got in - and also infect them with the idea that they too are special and more worthy than the people who didn't get selected.

Interestingly one of the downfalls of communism in Eastern Europe was that they really did educate everyone a lot better than most of us were. Even before we have the private prison business hoping for a steady supply of customers.

Okay I've rambled into too many subject changes, I should go to sleep.

Date: 25 Jun 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
treecat: (Default)
From: [personal profile] treecat
That guy is such an asshole. Absolutely no clue.

Date: 27 Jun 2012 07:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hitchhiker.livejournal.com
that's a pretty fascinating way of looking at it.

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