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It’s a miserable, dark morning here, and the only real bright side is that it’s reasonably cool.  Reasonably.  I could still use the air conditioner.

I was going to spend the day today talking about Edith Wharton and a character called Undine Spragg, and I’ll get around to it this week, because I’m having a very good time.

But first, I’d like to be clearer about what is meant by the phrase “educated upper middle class,” and then I’d like to recommend another book.

“Educated upper middle class” is not my phrase.  I didn’t make it up.  It’s from sociology, and constitutes one of the “class” categories in the United States when sociologists do studies of class.

There are five or six criteria–and maybe more–but what I remember are the most important ones:

1) a member of the EUMC has a class status dependent on what he does for a living AND

2) what that is must REQUIRE a university degree, and probably a graduate degree or two  AND

3) he must be paid in six figures AND

4) he must have significant control over the work he does and the way he does it.

If I go beyond the sociologists to what I can observe in real life–I mean, I was brought up in Fairfield County, CT, which is practically the EUMC’s home territory–I’d say Anna had hit something very important.

One of the prime attributes of members of the EUMC is the belief that work is more important than personal life,  and if one has to be sacrificed to the other, it’s the personal life that has to go.

EUMC parents expect their children to leave home, often for places far away, and to be too busy to have lots of contact.   If there’s a crisis at home, a family illness, that kind of thing, they expect to handle it on their own and not “burden” the children with it.  Older people are taken care of by professionals, in institutional settings.

It should be obvious, looking at the core criteria, that the poster children for the EUMC are high-end medical professionals, people with “serious” specialties like cardiology and oncology. 

Nobody gets to be a cardiologist without going to medical school and training hard after that.  The education is absolutely necessary to the occupation.

Because one of the other things about the EUMC–at least, in my experience on the ground, so to speak–is that they’ve turned scientism into a high art.   They are desperate to claim that whatever it is they do is “science,” because they see “science” as having the only really legitimate authority in society.

That leaves a fair number of them in a fairly difficult position, because the kinds of jobs that pay the right amount, give you lots of autonomy in the workplace (set your own hours, set your own projects), and are actually scientific are few and far between.  And they require a lot of math.

Still, there’s a lot of fudging going on.  Lawyers (or at least expensive ones) count as EUMC, and they don’t care about the science.  Psychologists and psychiatrists count as EUMC if they have degrees and make enough money. 

If you’ll note, all these people tend towards being in “private practice” and therefore being the boss of themselves. 

But most “therapists” don’t qualify, not least because, in most states, there are no licensing rules at all for who can call himself (or herself) a therapist.  The degrees are not necessary to the work.  And the work often doesn’t pay all that much.

There are other people, however, who come close to the ideal here, and get to count:  high-end tenured university professors are a biggie. If the professor is not high-end, he’s not making enough money.  If the professor is not tenured, he doesn’t have much control of  his work environment.  But the Full Professor of Anything at Harvard has all the requirements–he HAS to have the degrees, he has control of his work environment, he makes six figures–although he’s sometimes a little declasse if he doesn’t have the science.

In case you haven’t noticed yet, almost none of these people are government employees.  And the EUMC doesn’t tend to recognize government employees as part of its own–unless the employment you have is Cabinet Secretary, when they’ll take you.

Government employees almost always have their work schedules mapped out for them by their superiors.  They’re told what time to get into work and what time to leave, when they can have vacations, what projects they have to work on. 

A fully fledged member of the EUMC gets to decide all that thing for himself, although the decision may be driven by the reality of the market.

And being an elected official won’t get you into the EUMC, either.  There are no educational requirements for holding public office in the US, with the exception of a few specific state offices (like state Attorney General) that have had requirements tacked onto them.

You can run for President of the US, or for Congressman from your district, or for Senator from your state, without ever having attended the first grade.

Of course, some elected officials do start out as members of the EUMC, since a lot of them start out as lawyers.  And we tend to like to elect members of the EUMC.  That, I’m not sure of the reason for.

I would like to point out, however, that there is a class of people who are in fact over the EUMC, and over the elected officials and hired guns at the tops of institutions. 

They consist of the men and women–well, okay, mostly men–who can ignore all the rules the EUMC and their attempted look-alikes in public agencies erect. 

For instance:  when a member of the EUMC has a son and wants that son to go to Harvard, he works very hard to get the kid into great private high schools and to SAT prep courses and everything else necessary to make it in.  He does that because he has to.  If the kid has grades in the toilet and terrible board scores, he gets rejected.

If Bill Gates has a kid who wants to go to Harvard, he’ll just go–nobody will turn him down.  And if Gates has a kid who doesn’t want to go to school at all, he’ll still get almost any job he wants.

Government workers can set standards for things like smoking in private offices, but they can’t keep the company from pulling up stakes and moving the offices overseas.   They can erect EPA rules to keep the company from developing a piece of land next to its main offices, but they can’t keep the company from shutting down US operations wholesale to find a place that will accommodate it.

In the end, the people with the real power in the long term over all of us–and over the EUMC and its wannabe types in government especially–are the people who determine IF we’ll be working next year.

And it’s important to remember that this is something the EUMC people never, never, never forget. 

But the Bill Gateses of the world do forget it.  They forget it all the time.

And that, you see, was how I got to thinking about recommending a book.

The book is called Bobos in Paradise, by David Brooks, and it’s about a specific end of the EUMC. 

The book is short, and sort of funny, and not bad as these things go, but what I remember very strongly about it are a few pages toward the middle where Brooks describes the typical relationship between the “Bobos” (bourgeois bohemians–basically EUMC types who work in “creative” fields like computer software design, or as high-end reporters on high-end newspapers or television) and the people who run things like GM, Google, and Goldman Sachs. 

At any rate, “middle class” is the right designation for both the EUMC and the government-types who staff the agencies, because there is indeed a class above them that can in fact do quite a lot to control them.

It’s just that that class doesn’t have to worry about BEING controlled in the ways that affect the rest of us, and they don’t care.

It’s going to thunder storm.

I’m going to go get some serious work done.

Written by janeh

June 13th, 2011 at 6:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'EUMC'

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  1. I’m beginning to think yet again that the US and Canada have greater cultural differences than I had been aware of.

    I mean, we’ve got 1-3, for sure. But 4? The closest examples I can think of, the medical specialists and the top University academics, don’t have control over their professional lives, perhaps because of the differences in our medical and educational systems. And I’m not at all sure that the status and the money is independent of the family, because the ones have a further subdivision, which might not be entirely visible – some come from families with members ranging from ex-cons (or should have been cons, were truth told) to professionals with 6-figure incomes, and others come from families of professionals with 6-figure incomes. Status is a funny thing, too. Someone I knew was quite shocked when some of these didn’t use their status to jump the line during the H1N1 scare – but most of us peons expected such humble behaviour, even though we don’t always see it.

    And I’ve known working class people who don’t want to ‘burden the children’ with their care, and do want them independent and making their own way in life. Wealthy, educated professionals – eg one recently locally politically prominent person – sometimes go overboard in protecting family members who, well, aren’t noted for being self-supporting, much less independent achievers.

    I know there are groups in society, and it’s just as well to call them classes and be done with it. But I’m not sure that the EUMC are as cohesive or as influential in Canada as they seem to be in the US.

    Certainly, a fairly representative member was trounced at the polls recently.

    Having come from a small town, I was interested in Anna’s comments. I’ve come to term with the people who want, and want for their children, the kind of small town life I escaped. I’d say both groups emphasize family, though – the ones who leave often bring Mom up to live nearby after Dad dies, or don’t quite cut the ties with the old home town, providing financial help and visits, until the last of the old folk die.

    They certainly aren’t deferential to authority any more, although they used to be in my parent’s generation, and maybe even into mine, in some places. That’s all long gone, in the wake of countless protests over closing schools, fish plants, mines etc etc.

    But they’re a dying way of life, and the people who follow it, know it, as do those who work in the cities and have a sentimental attachment to the rural ideal.


    13 Jun 11 at 12:51 pm

  2. OK, but yesterday, class was defined by behavior. Today it’s defined by outcomes. I agree that certain behavior leads to certain outcomes–mostly–but it’s important to keep in mind which defines the group, and which is merely something often associated with them.

    There are, actually, at least two classes “above” if you will. Serious money is more sideways. Doubtless a sufficiently wealthy man could bribe or bully some of the EUMC to violate their own rules in minor ways–but Bill Gates would find it much easier to build a university from scratch than to make a serious change in Harvard’s course catalog or teaching methods. And he’d be better off moving operations overseas than trying to fight Federal laws on employment practices. Indeed, he COULD move overseas only with the consent of the government. I suggest anyone thinking wealthy businessmen are at the top of the food chain review the history of the first half of the 20th Century.

    Because while doubtless a man with a serious income and a respectable rolodex has an easier time influencing it, the government of a modern state answers to no one outside, and admits no limits on its own authority. The university professors and billionaires forget that at their peril.

    And the legitimate government of any state is the one which the men with guns have agreed to obey. In the good times, everyone forgets this. But it never ceases to be true.


    13 Jun 11 at 3:53 pm

  3. Some minor nitpicking of the sociology. 6 figure income is anything from 100,000 to 999,999 and seems very broad.

    Surgeons in Australia may have 6 figure incomes but they do not schedule their own times. The hospitals schedule operations.

    Lawyers may control their time in the office but they can’t control time in court. And I’ve heard that US judges are randomly assigned to cases so they don’t control their time either.


    13 Jun 11 at 5:46 pm

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