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Without trying to come up with a technical, bulletproof definition of “class,” let me rephrase this vague but (I hope) helpful insight by saying that while “race” is about who your ancestors were, “class” is about who your descendents are likely to marry. Does that help?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Class, Definitions, Race 
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Readers have reacted with a well thought-out lack of enthusiasm for my attempt to define “class” as “a group of potential in-laws, people who might turn out to be ancestors of mutual descendents.”

While there’s a clever insight in focusing on the marriage market as central to issues of class, self-congratulation got the best of me. There appear to be at least two problems.

First, it extends the purview of class beyond any previous definition. Most notably, religion has traditionally had much to do with who-marries-whom, but to redefine religions as classes reeks of Humpty Dumptyism:

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

Similarly, region plays a banally obvious role in who marries whom (people from South Carolina are more likely to marry other people from South Carolina than people from Oregon). It doesn’t help much to define, say, a South Carolina factory worker family as a different class from an Oregon factory worker family just because, say, the odds of their intermarrying is lower than the odds of the South Carolina farm family intermarrying with a South Carolina factory-owner family.

(Of course, region can overlap with class. Midwesterners are notorious for po-mouthing their origins — I’m just a boy from a town in the Midwest so small you probably have never heard of it, Kenilworth, Illinois For example, the rich characters in The Great Gatsby feel slightly oppressed knowing they are from the Midwest. Texans, in contrast, seldom publicly admit feelings of class inferiority due to being from Texas.)

Second, “class” as typically used implies levels of hierarchy about which there exists something of a consensus within a society about which classes are lower and which are higher (and thus which are preferable to marry into). Traditionally, these judgments are based on a complicated combination of wealth, bloodline, moral merit, job, education and so forth, so there is much room for disagreement, but much interest in ranking people on this dimension (see Jane Austen’s novels).

Still, it makes sense to visualize a particular class as spreading horizontally across the social map, while other factors that affect who marries whom like region and religion are more vertical, and thus intersect class. Thus, say, an wealthy ultra-Orthodox Jewish family and a wealthy Parsi family might belong to the same class, but aren’t likely to have common descendents within the next few generations because they both insist upon endogamy.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Definitions 
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One of my long term projects is to provide robust, useful definitions of common terms. Thus, I’ve argued in the past that:

- A racial group is a partly inbred extended biological family.

- An ethnic groups is defined by shared traits that are often passed down within biological families — e.g., language, surname, religion, cuisine, accent, self-identification, historical or mythological heroes, musical styles, etc. — but that don’t have to be. (Thus, you can be adopted into an ethnic group, but not into a racial group.)

Now, I’d like to toss out a half-finished definition of class intended to complement the first two definitions:

- A class is a group of potential in-laws, people who might turn out to be ancestors of mutual descendents. Contra Marx, one’s class is less a function of one’s segment in the economic market than of the marriage market.

In other words, from a genealogical perspective, a class is the mirror image of a race, looking forward into the future of your family tree rather than backward into the past.

Clearly, we don’t know what the future will bring, all we can do is make informed guesses about probabilities, so class is rather hazy under this definition, but few would argue that it’s all that crisply delineated real life.

This marriage market definition of class is clearly displayed in Jane Austen’s novels, whose young heroines’ romantic lives are full of interest because they are precariously perched somewhere in the middle and could thus marry up or down (or not at all), with dramatic consequences for themselves and their descendents.

My race and ethnicity definitions are designed to make sense of how the U.S. Census Bureau uses the two terms. the government specifically insists that Hispanic is an ethnicity, not a race, since Hispanics can be of any race. The Census Bureau doesn’t ask people their class, so there is no official standard to match.

My definition doesn’t match the classic Marxist usage of the term well, but I see that as a feature, not a bug. Marx thought of class in terms of control over the means of production. Marx’s perspective implied that classes were transnational, while my definition suggests that classes are primarily limited to the nation or to a group of nations all speaking the same language, with only the very highest class, royalty, being traditionally transnational. Our conflicting definitions of class were put to the test in August 1914, when, to the surprise of Marxist theorists, all the Socialist parties of all the European legislatures voted to go to war shoulder to shoulder with their nations’ bourgeoisies and aristocracies.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Definitions 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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