The End of the American Middle Class

The Lonely New Age

We have now entered a new age which will not have a name or a designation until, I think, at least one or two centuries from now: But then, such is the evolution of historical terminology.  Yet we should be able to recognize at least some of its apparent characteristics.  One (to my old-fashioned mind, the most repulsive and dangerous) of these characteristics is the oceanic flood of what is abstract, rather than natural or real, over- and underwhelming the thinking of people: the flood of images not merely being components of realities but accepted as if they were realities themselves.  There are innumerable examples of this tendency.  One example: What are “possessions” now?  What are “assets”?  The President has acclaimed the presence and the ideal of an “ownership society,” when, in reality, the vast majority who inhabit houses are not true owners but debtors: that is, renters.  We are in the presence of an inflation of language, when terms and words not only cease to mean what they meant not so long ago but their usage has become inaccurate if not meaningless.

The definitions of social classes have often been somewhat imprecise, but not meaningless.  Some of their unavoidable imprecisions: An “upper class” has not been necessarily a “ruling class”; “aristocracy” has not been necessarily the same as a “nobility.” ...

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