Snobbery: The American Version

Snobbery- The American VersionJoseph Epstein

Snobbery often entails taking a petty, superficial, or irrelevant distinction and, so to say, running with it.

Epstein’s study of snobbery should be considered a guilty pleasure, replete with snarky little personal stories. His main premise is snobbery is a strangely unique phenomenon created by Americans. Our democracy gives us countless outlets to compare and judge our fellow humans. In past societies there were certainly social stratas filled with their nouveaux and bourgeoisie. But the changes of a parlor maid becoming a Duchess or miller an academic were slim to nil. There were less areas to be snobby about since there wasn’t much social mobility.

The American melting pot stirs us all together and gives us so many options and groups to feel superior to. In addition to the usual, and oft-mocked snobs, like clothes-horses and Society, there are many modern types of snobs. There are academic snobs, sure that the only people who matter have gone to a handful of (arguably) great schools. There are the intellectual snobs who place a premium on “correct” information – knowing the newest painter, names of esoteric wines and avant garde writers. Job snobs look down anyone lower than them on the (correct) ladder of success. They seethe with envy over those higher up.

Of course, there are are the anti-snobs who consider themselves superior and oh-so separate from those judgmental barbarians. I found myself particularly amused at this subsection. In essence, Epstein is re-presenting Stuff White People Like, but in more academic tones. I recommend reading both and having a good laugh at “those” people. You know, the ones WE would never mix with.

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