The Dilemma of Equality from Class: A Guide Through the American Status System by Paul Fussell.

Dennis Brasky

Most Americans resist the idea that they live in a class-based society. But, however fluid, these classes do exist, leaving Americans with a unique challenge in figuring out where they stand in society -- and a unique need to achieve in order to gain respect. And thus "How'm I doin'?" -- former New York Mayor Ed Koch's famous question -- can be viewed as the quintessential American question:

"[When interviewing Americans about the subject of class,] being told that there are no social classes in the place where the interviewee lives is an old experience for sociologists. '"We don't have classes in our town" almost invariably is the first remark recorded by the investigator,' reports Leonard Reissman, author of Class in American Life (1959). 'Once that has been uttered and is out of the way, the class divisions in the town can be recorded with what seems to be an amazing degree of agreement among the good citizens of the community.' The novelist John O'Hara made a whole career out of probing into this touchy subject, to which he was astonishingly sensitive. While still a boy, he was noticing that in the Pennsylvania town where he grew up, 'older people do not treat others as equals.' ...

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