Social Classes

In any large group, people divide out into smaller groups from distinctions between values they believe.

Even though they share certain values across their group, specific smaller values arise from differences in status, power, purpose, and appearance.

No matter how much anyone tries to equalize the power, it’s uneven because people will always have uneven purposes directed toward different things, meaning they’ll always subordinate themselves to others and form into an informal hierarchy toward the purpose they want, with the leadership appearing to the majority to be the most competent at those purposes.

In a perfect society, this hierarchy would be motivated by love that promoted good purposes and valued effective interaction beyond the familiar culture of the local group. But, throughout history people near the top tend to abuse the hierarchy to exert even more power on their group, and any attempts to relate across groups is often met by hostility, typically from unforgiveness over something that happened that probably should be forgiven.

People find shared interest over relatively unimportant things. It protects them from cultural “outsiders” who could threaten their power, but also operates as the beginning of meaning inside a group.

We often inherit our social class from our family. While we didn’t earn it, we can certainly change it with our decisions.

Divisions

Social classes always arise through how much power each person sees compared to those around them, even when there’s zero discrimination about race, gender, attitude, or anything else. Most of this expresses through the availability of money, but can also arise through military force.

Depending on the definition of each class and economic freedoms of the group, there’s a “soft” statistical range of three major classes:

  1. Underclass – 40-94%
  2. Middle class – 5-50%
  3. Upper class – usually <1%, but can sometimes be up to 10-15%

Underclass

There’s always a class with very little power to do much. They could be poor, young, unimportant, or simply new to the group.

As they encounter power, they have very little experience and/or wisdom in managing it. Thus, they quickly waste it instead of stockpiling it. Most of the time, the power they have is proportionally close to or less than the power they need merely to keep surviving.

Generally, in a very large group, the lower class is too preoccupied with surviving to concern themselves with the other groups. However, they do imagine it’s not particularly fair that they don’t have as much power as the other groups.

Parents of the lower class tend to raise their children to not ask questions that could get them in trouble, as well as teaching them how to avoid suffering the worst of the rules that would absolutely decimate them.

Thus, barring a virtuous belief against it or the unlikely person willing to take on risks to change the situation, they have a vague desire for equality and for the rest of the group to meet their needs.

Middle Class

While the middle class uses their power as they create it, they have the means to stockpile some of it. Thus, they can survive a particularly difficult season, but wouldn’t be able to survive indefinitely.

Most of the middle class concerns itself with climbing into the upper class or maintaining their way of life (e.g., suburban living), and many of them stockpile their power to those desired ends. While very few will attain the upper class, many will try.

Parents of the middle class tend to raise their children to out-succeed them and potentially climb to the upper class if at all possible (often for self-interested reasons), especially if that parent came from a lower class.

With the exception of love for other people, they’re not that concerned with the lower class, and many of them are too busy conforming to the cultural requirements for climbing the social ladder to care about too much else.

Upper Class

At any time, the upper class only uses a small fraction of the power they possess to meet their needs. The rest is managed, conserved, and magnified by middle-class people.

The upper class has three major concerns:

  1. They worry about losing their influence within their small group.
  2. They’re concerned with losing power from any other upper-class people who are trying to compete for the position.
  3. They must maintain a public image of virtue to prevent the lower and middle classes growing too dissatisfied with the situation.

The upper class never has to worry about what they require. Often, they’ll spend absurd amounts of money to show their power. This lifestyle is an intentional insurance policy to scare anyone from considering attacking them.

While they may appear to live a life of comfort and sophistication, they’re in a constant battle via other people to keep their power. They work hard to tweak their image, so their titles and forms of power maintenance constantly change (e.g., aristocracy, executive class, political beltway).

Parents of the upper class have the most varied approach of the three. Many of them train their children to honor the culture and avoid shaming their public image, but some will raise their children to inherit their power while others will try to prevent competition against their offspring.

Morality is weakest among the upper class, since they’re more able to draw from money or influence to avoid or mitigate direct consequences for what they do.

For this reason, the upper class isn’t too concerned with the lower and middle class until there’s a coup or revolution.

Migrating

Because of how people use power in each class, migrating back-and-forth across them often requires changes to habits. The culture propagates itself across generations as well: most parents of lower classes teach their children to not ask questions (since they might get in trouble), and most parents of higher classes give them an unnaturally privileged education.

Beyond the standard cultural adaptations like specific language and rituals, there are a few others.

Generally, higher classes have an attitude problem when they’re demoted, and lower classes have a self-respect problem when promoted. The way the person imagines their social status often expresses itself in how people react to it.

Moving out of the lower class requires tons of discipline and restraint, as well as some luck and connections with others. The person must make wise decisions that give long-term benefits, then discover an opportunity they can seize with what they’ve been preparing.

When people move upwards in a social class, they must trust more power to others who will more reliably specialize in handling things like their assets, legal situation, and insurance. Unlike the cleverness required to subsist with little in a lower class, higher class people must be proficient with their social skills and make more friends.

Because of the difficulty of transitioning upward in social classes, most people don’t succeed at it. They often hit a “glass ceiling” at the top of their class. Sometimes, if they’re willing to take social risks that backfire tremendously, they’ll go down a social class!

Most people moving down a social class are permanent outsiders because they don’t have the intuition and creativity the lower classes had to develop to survive.

Unless someone is a cross-cultural missionary or raised in a different culture than their family, almost nobody ever voluntarily goes down a social class, but people always seem to want to climb that ladder.

Conflicts

Often, someone in the upper class will try to overthrow someone else in the upper class. To do this, they will engage in a large-scale conflict.

To recruit people for their purposes, upper-class people employ various methods:

  • They’ll make agreements with other upper-class people to form an alliance.
  • They’ll promise the middle class will become the upper class.
  • They’ll promise that the lower class will have a more fair system, often with a leftist angle.

Generally, they’ll also appeal to specific political values that are most fashionable among the public.

At the end of the conflict, though, nothing really changes except that a few upper-class people have changed roles. Often, if the new leadership was more evil, everyone loses some of their freedoms.


Application

We only make decisions as part of a social class as far as we identify with our situation. We can often appear as a different class, and appearing lower-class than we are may often be a wise decision.

There’s no reason to feel shame from being in a particular social class, despite any insistence to the contrary. The only shame is if we’re immoral or unloving toward others we encounter.

There will always be poor people, and there will always be rich people. Those groups don’t really think about each other until it becomes political or they have something to gain from them. While it may feel unfair, the cultural distinctions between poor and wealthy create the best possible social solutions.

The effort connected to the social classes depend heavily on how much wealth a society has. In poor societies, the people who work hardest are the lower class because they need every bit they have to survive and the wealthy can splurge on luxuries. In wealthy societies, the people who work hardest are the upper class because they need every edge they can to outpace others’ wealth and the poor have the means to buy dumb things.

The poor need an attainable means to survive. But, beyond that, getting the poor more motivated to become middle-class on their own is far more effective at fixing their mindset (and builds far more meaning) than simply giving more things to the poor than they need.

A huge component of how fast and effectively civilization develops comes through how well the upper class treats the underclass. In a society where the underclass is all specialized with a low-entry role (e.g., rice farming), the upper class is more likely to treat them with some degree of respect, which means their ideas (and, by association, social risks) have a higher chance of equal treatment.