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Class by Paul Fussell

Class (original 1983; edition 1984)

by Paul Fussell (Author)

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1,023178,298 (3.94)6
Authors:Paul Fussell (Author)
Info:Ballantine Books (1984), Edition: First Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library

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Class: A Guide Through the American Status System by Paul Fussell (1983)

  1. 10
    Class by Jilly Cooper (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: One a guide to the US status sytem, one to the British. Like Fussell, Cooper is often dead-on but her tone is less earnest and her examples more amusing. (In fact Cooper's Class has the most memorable one-liner I've read.) Both are great fun.
  2. 12
    The Official Preppy Handbook by Lisa Birnbach (AfroFogey)
    AfroFogey: Equally funny and infinitely more snarky than the OPHB. Great observations and even quotes the Preppy handbook.

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This book is full of interesting insights about social class in the US. The beginning was very informative, then it turns into a long series of examples of social class, ending with the artificial X group (which was fun to read). Among the interesting tidbits of information is the social status granted by owning a Mercedes-Benz which, remarkably, the author says was very negative in Germany. According to this author (in 1983), Mercedes-Benz was a car

"'which the intelligent young in West Germany regard, quite correctly, as 'a sign of high vulgarity, a car of the kind owned by Beverly Hills dentists or African cabinet ministers.' The worst kind of upper-middle-class types own Mercedes, (…) Speeders are either young non-Anglo-Saxon high-school proles hoping to impress girls of a similar sort, or insecure, status-anxious middle-class men (…) The requirements of class dictate that you drive slowly, steadily, and silently, and as near the middle of the road as possible.'" (91–92)

I am reminded that Mercedes-Benz cars were popular in the 1980’s among rulers such as Ceauşescu, Mugabe, Idi Amin, and Ferdinand Marcos. It was also in a Mercedes-Benz that the president of Deutsche Bank, Alfred Herrhausen, was killed by a bomb which resulted "in a mass of copper being projected toward the car at a speed of nearly two kilometers per second, effectively penetrating the armoured Mercedes.” (Wikipedia) Perhaps, back in 1983, all this made Fussell think Germans did not think highly of owning a Mercedes-Benz car. However, a quick glance through Google does not give me any hint that Fussell’s interpretation of the view that Germans had on Mercedes-Benz is valid today. ( )
  Carlelis | Nov 26, 2016 |
This covers observational class markers from the 1970's and early 1980's, having been published in 1983. It is woefully out of date for the 21st century, as class markers have shifted around. ( )
  emf1123 | Jun 26, 2015 |
Paul Fussell has made a career as a social critic, or as a man with the definitions that really seem to be correct. His book seems to me accurate, and should be read by non-Americans before venturing into the Great Republic. It will help with social success, and be a good guide as to which Americans you may feel comfortable with. I wonder how PF has fared in the age of the tea-party? ( )
1 vote DinadansFriend | Dec 18, 2013 |
Quite dated now, but definitely has some insight into the culture of American class circa 1980, many of which have direct analogues today. ( )
  ehines | Sep 27, 2013 |
"The word 'class' is fraught with unpleasing associations, so that to linger upon it is apt to be interpreted as the symptom of a perverted mind and a jaundiced spirit." —R. H. Tawney

"You reveal a great deal about your social class by the amount of annoyance or fury you feel when the subject is brought up. A tendency to get very anxious suggests that you are middle-class and nervous about slipping down a rung or two. On the other hand, upper-class people love the topic to come up: the more attention paid to the matter the better off they sem to be. Proletarians generally don't mind discussions of the subject because they know they can do little to alter their class identity. Thus the whole class matter is likely to seem like a joke to them—the upper classes fatuous in their empty aristocratic pretentiousness, the middles loathsome in their anxious gentility. It is the middle class that is highly class-sensitive, and sometimes class-scared to death." —Paul Fussell

I loved the opening pages of Class, but I soon got bored. Fussell isn't interested in the underlying workings of class. He's concerned with the markers, the manifestations of class. Since the book is old, the markers are dated. But the book is a grand snapshot of its time, and I'd recommend it to anyone writing about the '70s and early '80s.

Update: I read the 1983 edition. Apparently, the book was updated, so it might also be a useful snapshot of later class markers too. ( )
  willshetterly | Jun 18, 2012 |
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Although most Americans sense that they live within an extremely complicated system of social classes and suspect that much of what is thought and done here is prompted by considerations of status, the subject has remained murky.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671792253, Paperback)

In Class Paul Fussell explodes the sacred American myth of social equality with eagle-eyed irreverence and iconoclastic wit. This bestselling, superbly researched, exquisitely observed guide to the signs, symbols, and customs of the American class system is always outrageously on the mark as Fussell shows us how our status is revealed by everything we do, say, and own. He describes the houses, objects, artifacts, speech, clothing styles, and intellectual proclivities of American classes from the top to the bottom and everybody -- you'll surely recognize yourself -- in between. Class is guaranteed to amuse and infuriate, whether your class is so high it's out of sight (literally) or you are, alas, a sinking victim of prole drift.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:57 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

This book describes the living-room artifacts, clothing styles, and intellectual proclivities of American classes from top to bottom

(summary from another edition)

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