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Musings on elitism and snobbery

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  • #222213

    Bear
    Participant

    dru wrote so if i were to say Olive Garden is disgusting and banal, i’d rather eat at Basi because it is independent and fresh. someone might declare that statement elitist, as i’ve obviously sided with smaller, original, and slightly more expensive option. but unless someone actually buys into my opinion, am I actually elitist?

    dru wrote okay, but again using the OG vs Basi statement above, does it then matter if one uses first person (I) to make the statement, and never invokes the second person (You), does that make it elitist or snobby?

    it’s not saying nobody should eat there, it’s not saying anyone is wrong for eating there, it’s stating an individual preference that isn’t cast further upon anyone. or would my thoughts on banality automatically accuse the second person?

    This gets at the crux of the third category that I mentioned above, in the original post. There’s a difference between saying “OG is objectively disgusting and banal” and “OG is disgusting and banal in my opinion, but reasonable people might differ.” When all you say is “OG is disgusting and banal,” I for one can’t really tell which you mean, though I tend to assume that you mean the former rather than the latter.

    #222214

    dru
    Participant

    Bear wrote

    dru wrote so if i were to say Olive Garden is disgusting and banal, i’d rather eat at Basi because it is independent and fresh. someone might declare that statement elitist, as i’ve obviously sided with smaller, original, and slightly more expensive option. but unless someone actually buys into my opinion, am I actually elitist?

    dru wrote okay, but again using the OG vs Basi statement above, does it then matter if one uses first person (I) to make the statement, and never invokes the second person (You), does that make it elitist or snobby?

    it’s not saying nobody should eat there, it’s not saying anyone is wrong for eating there, it’s stating an individual preference that isn’t cast further upon anyone. or would my thoughts on banality automatically accuse the second person?

    This gets at the crux of the third category that I mentioned above, in the original post. There’s a difference between saying “OG is objectively disgusting and banal” and “OG is disgusting and banal in my opinion, but reasonable people might differ.” When all you say is “OG is disgusting and banal,” I for one can’t really tell which you mean, though I tend to assume that you mean the former rather than the latter.

    My mom tried her hardest to instill the habit of inserting in my opinion into my daily speech. it didn’t stick at all, and adding an exception for reasonable people draws it out even further. i for one always think that anything that comes out of my mouth, or the mouths of others, is an opinion unless it it is backed up some sort of researched statistic. on the matter of OG’s banality, it is clearly something that is undocumented, and could only be personal opinion.

    #222215

    joev
    Participant

    dru wrote

    joev wrote

    dru wrote can you be elistist without having influence?

    if you look at the wiki definition, or think of terms like political elites, media elites, etc…it usually connotates some sort of sway in opinion.

    so if i were to say Olive Garden is disgusting and banal, i’d rather eat at Basi because it is independent and fresh. someone might declare that statement elitist, as i’ve obviously sided with smaller, original, and slightly more expensive option. but unless someone actually buys into my opinion, am I actually elitist?

    Yes, I think a person who is elitist without being an elite is just called a snob.

    okay, but again using the OG vs Basi statement above, does it then matter if one uses first person (I) to make the statement, and never invokes the second person (You), does that make it elitist or snobby?

    it’s not saying nobody should eat there, it’s not saying anyone is wrong for eating there, it’s stating an individual preference that isn’t cast further upon anyone. or would my thoughts on banality automatically accuse the second person?

    Now if you just said you prefered Basi Italia to Olive Garden, without using any perjoratives, then you’d be a nice person. As Bear said above, the choice of words does reflect an elitist opinion. If you think Olive Garden is disgusting and banal, a reasonable person can infer that you might think a person who likes Olive Garden has disgusting and banal tastes.

    #222216

    dru
    Participant

    joev wrote

    Now if you just said you prefered Basi Italia to Olive Garden, without using any perjoratives, then you’d be a nice person. As Bear said above, the choice of words does reflect an elitist opinion. If you think Olive Garden is disgusting and banal, a reasonable person can infer that you might think a person who likes Olive Garden has disgusting and banal tastes.

    I personally have trouble with this. A person who states:

    “I prefer A to B” without elaborating is “nice,” even though their unspoken motivation could be “because I won’t eat the Tour of Italy with the unwashed masses of Grove City.”

    but, a person who elaborates:

    “I prefer A to B, because I find A very commonplace and would rather go somewhere original.” Is a snobby elite.

    Person A might have more manners, but it hardly makes them less elite or snobby.

    I should add, I think I’ve used the word banal more times in this thread than in the past 3-years.

    #222217

    joev
    Participant

    dru wrote

    joev wrote

    Now if you just said you prefered Basi Italia to Olive Garden, without using any perjoratives, then you’d be a nice person. As Bear said above, the choice of words does reflect an elitist opinion. If you think Olive Garden is disgusting and banal, a reasonable person can infer that you might think a person who likes Olive Garden has disgusting and banal tastes.

    I personally have trouble with this. A person who states:

    “I prefer A to B” with elaborating is “nice,” even though their unspoken motivation could be “because I won’t eat the Tour of Italy with the unwashed masses of Grove City.”

    but, a person who elaborates:

    “I prefer A to B, because I find A very commonplace and would rather go somewhere original.” Is a snobby elite.

    Person A might have more manners, but it hardly makes them less elite or snobby.

    Yes it does. Everyone has an opinion. I hate eating eggs. I think they stink and taste bad. But I don’t choke down bile every time I hear someone talking about a great omelet they had.

    The nice person wouldn’t be thinking anything about “unwashed masses in Grove City” because they wouldn’t think to imply that people eating at Olive Garden in Grove City were beneath them in any way.

    If it got down to a debate on whether to go to Basi Italia or Olive Garden, I’d side with you and pick Basi. But I would talk about the positives of the place I wanted to go rather than the negatives of the place I didn’t want to go. A person on the other side of the debate might talk about the positives of Olive Garden (more seating and lower prices.)

    #222218

    dru
    Participant

    joev wrote

    The nice person wouldn’t be thinking anything about “unwashed masses in Grove City” because they wouldn’t think to imply that people eating at Olive Garden in Grove City were beneath them in any way.

    Sure, the truly nice person wouldn’t cast aspersions on the fine people of Grove City, either verbally or mentally. But you’re statement automatically equated non-elaboration with nicety. I think some of the worst offenders of elitism and snobbery keep it held very closely to their vest, which makes their opinion radiate further than it would otherwise.

    #222219

    joev
    Participant

    dru wrote

    joev wrote

    The nice person wouldn’t be thinking anything about “unwashed masses in Grove City” because they wouldn’t think to imply that people eating at Olive Garden in Grove City were beneath them in any way.

    Sure, the truly nice person wouldn’t cast aspersions on the fine people of Grove City, either verbally or mentally. But you’re statement automatically equated non-elaboration with nicety. I think some of the worst offenders of elitism and snobbery keep it held very closely to their vest, which makes their opinion radiate further than it would otherwise.

    Quite so.

    #222220

    Bear
    Participant

    dru wrote i for one always think that anything that comes out of my mouth, or the mouths of others, is an opinion unless it it is backed up some sort of researched statistic. on the matter of OG’s banality, it is clearly something that is undocumented, and could only be personal opinion.

    Interesting.

    It seems to me that you have a much higher standard for declaring something an “objective truth” than would most people. Many listeners who don’t know you might be unaware of that fact. If you’re unaware of the fact that they’re unaware of that fact, misunderstandings are a near-certainty.

    I do get that statements like “Olive Garden is banal” are often shorthand for “I think Olive Garden is banal” — but (a) it’s not too much work to add the “I think” and (b) many people are willing to make that claim objectively without reams of evidence, so it often isn’t shorthand. The hapless listener can only speculate.

    I tend to assume that people mean precisely what they say. Often they don’t, which gets me into trouble. But when you say “Olive Garden is banal,” you’re equating the two things — the restaurant and the concept of banality — without explicitly introducing your opinion into the statement. I realize (as I did one post back) that it could be taken either way, but because of my literal nature I lean toward believing that people are expressing an opinion only when they explicitly tell me that they are expressing an opinion.

    #222221

    Andrew Hall
    Member

    The use of terms like ‘elitist’ and ‘snob’ say more about the speaker than the subject.

    Bear wrote Which worries me… because reifying a collective, knowledge- and expertise-based preference for one thing over another as a proxy for objectivity tends to lead sooner or later to formulations like Bourdieu’s, in which all expressions of taste become instruments of class power. Which makes me want to puke.

    If class power is one’s Manganese, then everything is an instrument of class power. That sums up Bourdieu and coming from the historically class-oriented French society is to be expected.

    That one’s social background plays a role in one’s taste is trivially true. That any particular class has a unified taste is sheer fantasy though especially in a society like ours where capital is fluid as are the entry barriers to large amounts of taste-oriented experiences. Something like wine being an exception where the barriers to increasing levels of excellence and experience have exponentially increasing costs. With something like that, the abilities of a sommelier like Chris @ Rosendale’s are exceptionally noteworthy for being able to translate objective elements and rankings into a multi-level consumer-friendly pattern.

    But you are reading too much into it by assuming their is a proxy of objectivity in some strong fashion. I won’t claim to have this fleshed into academic rigour, but I think of more as a consensual ground that maximizes utility in the conversation. Extreme subjectivity where all opinions are equal is just useless.

    As an aside, the Olive Garden/Basi dichotomy nicely captures an important point: You have 4 sets of people. 1) Had both, prefer Basi 2) Had both, prefer OG 3) Had only OG 4) Had only Basi

    Given the scale, #3 is the most populated set. But their opinion is fundamentally useless. (As is #4, but perhaps less so.)

    I strongly suspect that the population of #1 >>> #2. That tells us something, I would submit. Not definitive, obviously. But enough to make a reasonable and useful assessment.

    A.

    #222222

    HeySquare
    Participant

    Bear wrote Which worries me… because reifying a collective, knowledge- and expertise-based preference for one thing over another as a proxy for objectivity tends to lead sooner or later to formulations like Bourdieu’s, in which all expressions of taste become instruments of class power. Which makes me want to puke.

    Bear, if you are interested in this subject, you may want to read The Tastemakers by Russell Lynes (I think that’s how you spell his last name.) He wrote a cultural history of American taste which addresses this issue, and I think the book is fascinating. I actually had a class in undergrad about Class in America, and we particularly addressed the idea of taste and how it fundamentally intersects with class. Elitism and snobbery, to me, are the by-products of taste and class.

    Lynes puts forward an argument that “good taste” has a “trickle down” effect. Rich people and learned people typically have a symbiotic relationship. The rich depend on the learned to define for them what is rare, or special, or “in good taste.” The learned folk, who I like to refer to as the Intelligentsia (love those German) are not necessarily the folk with money, but typically are accepted by those with money, who sanction the tastefulness of the product. The product becomes popularized, because it has been invested with a value by people with money. Once a product has become popular, “the masses” (i.e. the middle class) typically strive to obtain the product, or products of similar nature. Often that popular (i.e. middle class) taste will trickle down in a subsequent time period to the “proletariat” because it is popular, and so those who are less exposed, either due to lack of money or lack of study, may still find the opportunity to appreciate the product. At that point, it is no longer that rare, and typically becomes rejected by the rich/studied classes. It is interesting to note … Lynes also remarks that things in “bad taste,” often those things that once had value, but became so popular and boring that they lost their style value, may once again become “high style” by revivals of subsequent generations (an example might be Currier and Ives prints, which were middle class in their origination, became so popular that they lost any cultural significance, but have now become a studied and collectible branch of a high-style antiques trade.)

    I think Lynes makes a solid argument. Take, for example, the Impressionists. 40 years ago, it was totally high style to love the Impressionist movement. Monet became so popular, the Met couldn’t keep a water lilies print in stock. Now, it is completely passé, and you see those prints in gas station bathrooms.

    I see the world of antiques going a bit in the same direction. In the 1930’s the DuPonts and Rockefellers created a market by buying old furniture, as guided by scholars who found value in historical items. Since that time, the antiques market has gone from a high style, high price hobby of the rich to Antiques Roadshow. Hoarders from the wilds of Appalachia have opened “antiques” stores in towns all across the country. The phenomena seems to have peaked, and is in the process of losing all pretension to “high style.”

    Style and class are inextricably linked. In America no one wants to admit that a class system exists, but it does. The things that we value, that show our “style” become class markers. Elitism and snobbery are part of how those class markers make their way through the various classes, and how we locate ourselves on the cultural ladder.

    #222223

    enzo
    Participant

    Everyone is missing the core issue…..EGO…..collective ego

    A collective ego manifests the same characteristics as the personal ego, such as the need for conflict and enemies, the need for more, the need to be right against others who are wrong, and so on. Sooner or later, the collective will come into conflict with other collectives, because it unconsciously seeks conflict and it needs opposition to define its boundary and thus its identity. Its members will then experience the suffering that inevitably comes in the wake of any ego-motivated action. At that point, they may wake up and realize that their collective has a strong element of insanity.

    It can be painful at first to suddenly wake up and realize that the collective you had identified with and worked for is actually insane. Some people at that point become cynical or bitter and henceforth deny all values, all worth. This means that they quickly adopted another belief system when the previous one was recognized as illusory and therefore collapsed. They didn’t face the death of their ego but ran away and reincarnated into a new one.

    A collective ego is usually more unconscious than the individuals that make up that ego. For example, crowds (which are temporary collective egoic entities) are capable of committing atrocities that the individual away from the crowd would not be. Nations not infrequently engage in behavior that would be immediately recognizable as psychopathic in an individual.

    #222224

    Ndcent
    Member

    enzo wrote Everyone is missing the core issue…..EGO…..collective ego

    Uh, no…people are discussing the thread topic.

    #222225

    Bear
    Participant

    Aha… now we’re talkin’….

    Andrew Hall wrote But you are reading too much into it by assuming their is a proxy of objectivity in some strong fashion. I won’t claim to have this fleshed into academic rigour, but I think of more as a consensual ground that maximizes utility in the conversation. Extreme subjectivity where all opinions are equal is just useless.

    Well, let’s flesh the sucker out a little. So we have this consensual model, the idea being that knowledgeable people in a given area will tend to have similar preferences, and that those preferences, aggregated in some manner, are socially useful because… huh. Now there’s an interesting question. Why are they useful? What’s their utility?

    Take wine. We go straight to Parker, your idol (hah). If anything, as I understand it, the consensus that coalesces around Parker is mainly useful to you in oppositional terms — you buy up the wines he hates (for the right reasons) and ignore the ones he raves about. But for most people, experts like Parker serve as a proxy for actual knowledge. They walk into a wine shop and don’t know enough about the wines to choose, so a 90 trumps an 82.

    I’m not completely convinced that extreme subjectivity is useless, btw. I learn a lot from trading subjective opinions with people and triangulating both with experience. It seems to me to be a slower but surer method of building up your own expertise.

    HeySquare wrote Style and class are inextricably linked. In America no one wants to admit that a class system exists, but it does. The things that we value, that show our “style” become class markers. Elitism and snobbery are part of how those class markers make their way through the various classes, and how we locate ourselves on the cultural ladder.

    I don’t doubt that style and class are intimately connected.

    What I wonder, though, is whether they are inherently connected, or whether an aesthetic that celebrates quality without denigrating its absence couldn’t break that connection. I’m not even sure that such an aesthetic is possible, logically speaking, or given the vicissitudes of human nature, but it’s an ideal that I find rather attractive.

    #222226

    HeySquare
    Participant

    I also recommend Paul Fussell’s book Class as an interesting reading. The book reminds me of The Preppy Handbook or more recently that Hipster book referenced in the Adbuster’s thread.

    Fussell basically regards class (in America) as a function of money and birth status. So if my parents are working class, and make a working class salary, I will be working class. And no matter how much money I make, I will likely always be working class. However, if I am working class, but make a cartload of money, my children will likely be born into a higher status class (likely middle or upper middle class.)

    The book fails a bit in my opinion because Fussell allows for an X class… which for me translates into an “intellectual” class which he sees as somehow being outside the class ladder. I think it intersects nicely with Lynes though… where one makes the leap from taste consumer to taste arbiter.

    #222227

    Andrew Hall
    Member

    enzo wrote

    Its members will then experience the suffering that inevitably comes in the wake of any ego-motivated action. At that point, they may wake up and realize that their collective has a strong element of insanity.

    It can be painful at first to suddenly wake up and realize that the collective you had identified with and worked for is actually insane. Some people at that point become cynical or bitter and henceforth deny all values, all worth. This means that they quickly adopted another belief system when the previous one was recognized as illusory and therefore collapsed. They didn’t face the death of their ego but ran away and reincarnated into a new one.

    That type of shit is more arrogant, condescending to any who disagree and elitist than anything I could ever come up with. Just because the writer doesn’t say hoi polloi or unwashed masses but uses psychobabble doesn’t make it any less so.

    A.

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