The Anxiety of Single-Digit Millions

In academia, definitions of social class have moved beyond descriptions of traditional, objective locations in the economy to include analysis of the lived, embodied experiences of living out one’s location in the social strata. Evidence of the potency of the latter can be found in this NYT article on “working class millionaires” in the Silicon Valley who feel relatively deprived because even though they live in luxury, they see others around them who have so much more, and thus, continue to feel insecure. They work long hours and strive for yet more.

According to one estate planner,

“People around here, if they have 2 or 3 million dollars, they don’t feel secure.”

One “single-digit millionaire” observes:

“Here, the top 1 percent chases the top one-tenth of 1 percent, and the top one-tenth of 1 percent chases the top one-one-hundredth of 1 percent,” he said.

In the end, social class comes down not only to occupational categories, but by one’s ability to maintain clear distinctions between yourself and others.

While the analysis in this article is interesting, the language is troubling. “Working class” millionaires? When the only thing that you can’t control is how much more the people above you are making?

One thought on “The Anxiety of Single-Digit Millions

  1. Ray August 14, 2007 / 8:21 am

    I think this because class is more metaphorical than political or empirical in the U.S. We are all ‘middle class’ here, after all… So these writers feel free to use the metaphor of class creatively, just as you would any other metaphor. You would not expect actual working class people to read anyway, would you?

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