Constructing Belonging: Class, Race, and Harlem's Professional Workers

By Sabiyha | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX

Ideology, Consumption, and Lifestyle

THE IMPACT OF SOCIOECONOMIC STRATIFICATION EXTENDS BEYOND ITS most salient components such as employment, income, wealth, and access to strategic resources. Less tangible factors like belief systems, social practices, and personal tastes are also outgrowths of economic differentiation, albeit more difficult ones to systematically characterize when compared with the material and the structural.

Scholars looking at a variety of regions and periods note that the ways in which socioeconomic status affects lifestyle are determined by the specifics of place and time. An ethno-historical study of middle class life and history in Sweden (1880-1980), for example, discussed how the middle classes disseminated the idea that discipline and cleanliness made “their kind” superior to peasants and the industrial working class (Frykman and Lofgren 1987). Their kind were imbued with a stronger moral authority and this virtuosity was evidenced by keeping houses free from the smell of animals or human wastes and avoiding discussions of such “disquieting” topics as love, death, bodily functions or human frailties.

A more contemporary examination of stratification in urban Brazil points to the centrality of the consumption of international goods to the construction and maintenance of middle class lifestyle and identity (O’Dougherty 1996). The acquisition and display of consumer items is a practice of the well off that exists across geographic boundaries.


RACISM AND IDEOLOGY

In the African American experience, both the formation of socioeconomic hierarchies and ideas about this type of inequality evolved amid persistent exposure to racial subordination and socioeconomic change. Euro-American material and psychological supremacy is a specific influence on

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