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Bogans and hipsters: we’re talking the living language of class

Egalitarianism is an article of faith in Australia. While the nation still faces issues of class, Australians tend to be uncomfortable about discussing these or acknowledging their extent. Interestingly…

Australia’s a class-free society? If that were so, many of our most popular movies and TV shows such as Ja'mie: Private School Girl simply wouldn’t make any sense. AAP/Supplied by EckFactor

Egalitarianism is an article of faith in Australia. While the nation still faces issues of class, Australians tend to be uncomfortable about discussing these or acknowledging their extent. Interestingly, it has fallen to Australian authors such as Tim Winton and Christos Tsiolkas – as well as American writer David Simon, creator of the TV series The Wire – to wonder at and question the taboo.

Today The Conversation launches a series, Class in Australia, to identify, illuminate and debate its many manifestations. To begin, Christopher Scanlon observes that terms like bogan and hipster and much of our popular entertainment make no sense without a social awareness of class.


“This is bullshit,” the student muttered under her breath. The tutorial topic assigned for that week was class. I’d kicked things off by asking whether class existed in modern Australia, or whether it was a relic of 19th century Europe.

Struck by the student’s response, I asked her to elaborate. She did:

Look, I went to a private school and my Dad’s a CEO and most of his friends are business people. So I guess that’s supposed to make me upper class? But class has nothing to do with it. Going to a private school was my parents' decision. And my Dad’s friends are just his friends.

I suggested that the choice of school – not to mention the capacity to afford the fees – and her father’s friendship network might have been shaped heavily by their class position. That wasn’t to say there was anything wrong with it, but it did show how our lives are shaped by larger social and economic forces we don’t control.

The student was having none of it. It was clear that she’d encountered the notion of class before and found it singularly unconvincing. In her world, everything was simply a matter of individual choice – choices that were unconstrained.

She didn’t say it, but class seemed to be an excuse for people who made the wrong choices in life. Alternatively, it was a way to unfairly label people like her and her family who’d worked hard for their success, presenting their achievements as little more than the luck of being born into the right family.

Her response isn’t surprising. Many Australians share her view. Part of the reason for this is that class is less visible than it once was.

Ready access to cheap credit has blurred class distinctions. When most people can afford the latest smart phones, wear Prada, get about in four-wheel drives and take overseas holidays, class seems like an irrelevance.

About the only time we hear the word “class” in public debate any more is when someone questions the wisdom of rewarding CEOs with multi-million dollar salary packages. In a culture that has internalised the mantra of “You Can Do Anything”, this apparently constitutes the first salvo in a class war.

The only time we’re happy to discuss class openly is when it can be viewed from the safe distance of the past or another country, as in shows like Downton Abbey. Class in this world is a simple matter of upstairs/downstairs.

It’s about much more than money

But class has always been more complex than this view would suggest. As the late French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argued in his book Distinction, class – and the reproduction of class – has as much to do with your tastes, the way you speak and comport yourself as it has to do with income levels.

Taking this broader view, class is as prevalent as it ever was. It’s just that when we talk about class, we don’t use the “C word”. Instead, we use other less threatening terms – “bogan”, for instance.

One definition of a bogan is someone who fails to conform to middle-class standards of taste, dietary habits, leisure activities, styles of dress and ways of speaking. You don’t have to have read sociology or understand the political economy to notice such distinctions.

When, for example, Channel Ten launched the 2014 season of The Biggest Loser, which centres on the town of Ararat in Victoria’s south-west, a theme running through the audience reaction on Twitter centred on class. Some of the uglier tweets included:

That’s the entertaining thing about #biggestloserau We’re laughing at them cos they’re bogans.

FunFact My cousin used to own a $2 shop in Ararat he did a roaring trade, couldn’t keep up with track suit & thong orders.

Hahahaha no money for your poor town unless you lose weight. No pressure. #biggestloserau

The crime of the contestants — and by extension Ararat — is that the show features people who don’t conform to middle-class standards of health and well-being. Like the worst stereotypes of the working class that have been around since Karl Marx was a boy, they are assumed to be slovenly, poor and poorly educated, and lacking in taste and refinement.

Looking through the biographies of the contestants, you begin to notice that most are working class or lower-middle class. Along with a couple of students, the contestants are supermarket managers, a baker, nurses and what former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich refers to as “in-person service providers”. The few professionals who are on the show tend to be ones that, relative to other professions, are on the lower end of the income scale, such as nursing or teaching.

Of course, the class hatred expressed on Twitter at The Biggest Loser contestants is nothing new. But it’s now wrapped up in messages about health and exercise. Income, occupation, residence and eating and activity habits are all part of what defines people’s class.

At the other end of the spectrum to bogan is the hipster. Whereas bogans fail to conform to the lifestyle norms, values and tastes of the middle classes, a hipster cleaves to them closely to the point that they end up a parody of them. Hipsters trade on authenticity, individuality and a rejection of the mainstream. Sometimes this parody is ironic, while in other cases it is unconscious.

The Bedroom Philosopher: Northcote (So Hungover): Hipsters trading on authenticity and individuality.

I have no doubt that these arguments wouldn’t find much traction with my former student. Imbued with a heightened sense of choice, she would probably regard all this as people just being funny on Twitter about a TV show or, in the case of the hipster, simply a personal matter of style and taste rather than pointing to any deeper social reality.

Popular culture makes no sense without class

The problem with this kind of response is that if class truly does not exist in modern Australia, or has no bearing on shaping – not determining, mind, but shaping – one’s behaviour and life chances, then large swathes of contemporary Australian culture appear completely random and utterly baffling.

Everything from plays (and movies based on the plays) like David Williamson’s Don’s Party and Emerald City, to novels like Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip and Christos Tsiolkas' Loaded and The Slap, to comedies such as Upper Middle Bogan, The Castle, Kath & Kim and Ja'mie: Private School Girl are premised on the social realities of class.

All of these presume their audiences have some experience of social class. Ja’mie’s behaviour is appalling, in large part, because she’s oblivious to the privileged bubble in which she lives. The slap in Tsiolkas’ book of the same name is based on differences in working- and middle-class attitudes to parenting and what constitutes appropriate discipline.

If class were not a lived part of people’s everyday experience, these productions simply would not resonate with audiences in the way they do. They would just appear surreal, completely disconnected from Australian culture.

For those whose choices are more constrained, this is self-evident — a point that was underscored for me by another student in a different tutorial. Unlike the first group, the students in this tutorial had lower ATARs and lived in suburbs with lower incomes.

Once again, I kicked off the tutorial by asking if they thought class existed in modern Australia. They looked at me as if the answer were obvious: of course it did.

I asked one student why he was so certain. He replied simply:

I live in Frankston and work at Woolworths.


See the other instalments of the series Class in Australia here.

Join the conversation

205 Comments sorted by

  1. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    I'm struck by the quote. It's a perfectly formed paragraph. Is it apocryphal?

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  2. Gavin Moodie
    Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Adjunct professor at RMIT University

    Great start to the series.

    Students from low socio economic status backgrounds who commute across town to attend elite schools and universities report that the train is whether they adjust their language, dress, posture and attitude from home to campus, and back again.

    Of course 'latte/chardonnay sippers', 'inner city', 'intellectuals' and 'elites' are pejorative ascriptions of class wielded by the Coalition and its barackers against those who notice the regressive effects of the policies they promote.

    Many, even those disadvantaged by class, apparently have a strong urge to believe in the fairness of society and social and economic positions.

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    1. Alex Njoo

      Architect/academic (ret.)

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Well put. Egalitarianism, like larrikinism that often is translated into heroism during a war, has always been part of our national myth. At heart, a people who elect a government that demonises refugees, are heartless as well as ungenerous. I particularly like the reference to "the regressive effects of (their) policies" on our human condition.

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    2. Christos Raza

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      A fair point.

      Similarly, terms like 'bogan', 'denier' or 'racist' are pejorative ascriptions of class wielded by Greens and left Labor supporters against those who notice the regressive effects of the policies that THEY promote.

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    3. Christos Raza

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      So lattes would never brand someone a racist for disagreeing with them over say, immigration policy, good to know.

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    4. Tim Hansen

      Environmental Lawyer / Job Seeker at Hills Yoga School

      In reply to Joe Gartner

      This myth is a nuanced phenomenon: inner city lattes do not 'drink'. They 'sip', because they get the work/life balance thing, and treasure the spiritual refreshment of a longer linger.

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    5. Troy Howard

      Mechanic at -

      In reply to Joe Gartner

      I love my Latte and yes I'm one of those luvvie lefties that likes people more than money.
      My parents must wonder where it all went wrong.

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    6. Chaitanya Shettigara

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Christos Raza

      They might brand someone a racist if they thought their immigration policy was based on racism...

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    7. Chaitanya Shettigara

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Christos Raza

      Bogan, yobbo, derro, smacky-no-teeth= all class based pejoratives. Denier and racist have nothing to do with class. I mean "Lord" Monckton is a denier, don't get much more upper class than that.

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    8. Optional Option Optional

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Christos Raza

      I think its very insulting Christos to associate working class people with climate change denialism or racism.

      Voting intention and class are in fact strongly related with wealthier votes leaning conservative and poorer folks (but also generally academics and media workers) leaning labor. Conservatism has always been the ideology of the ruling classes. This isn't really controversial, it was identified right back in the 1800s and holds true today.

      AND

      Theres a strong correlation between…

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    9. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Christos Raza

      Whatever happened to redneck , country bumpkin , egg-head, squattocracy ? All old-fashioned now?

      ABC radio talk -back on the Hazelwood fire. One person rang in explaining they were using their house insurance policy to fund living elsewhere for a year, and would get the furnishings and all wall and ceiling cavities cleaned out - as offerecd by the insurance assessor. She added that's ok for us but what about other people?

      An eager beaver (anothet old -fashioned word) rang in to say well everyone should have their house properly insured -implying failure to do this is just fecklessness. The host did mention that many people in the Latrobe Valley belonged to the-poorest in Aus ( quite a few are resettled migrants, refugees ). He didn't mention that detail or the large percentage of public housing available . Another example of the author's point, not from a tutorial.

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    10. Daniel Verberne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Joe Gartner

      Lets not forget that if you ignore the actual CBD itself, most inner suburbs aren't filled with "lefties" but with leafy suburbs with seven-figure house values and strong Liberal party association.

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    11. Joe Gartner

      Eating Cake

      In reply to Daniel Verberne

      That's a very good point - if you ignore the more *ahem* gritty suburbs like brunswick and newtown, you will find inner-city suburbs like cottesloe, claremont, rose bay and toorak; where I 'm sure that latte sipping is indeed the norm and the demographic is right-of-centre..

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    12. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Joe Gartner

      Mine's an espresso, thanks Joe. As for anyone disagreeing with my POV, Christos, I don't bother with 'racist', I just cut to the chase and call them [comment removed by moderator], [comment removed by moderator] or [comment removed by moderator]. I'm a bogan coffee-Nazi.

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  3. Mat Hardy

    Lecturer in Middle East Studies at Deakin University

    "Unlike the first group, the students in this tutorial had lower ATARs and lived in suburbs with lower incomes."

    So you divide your tutes up according to class? ;-)

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    1. John Crest

      logged in via email @live.com.au

      In reply to Mat Hardy

      Hahaha - well called out.

      But I did think this was a good article.

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    2. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Mat Hardy

      Actually, I find tutes divide themselves into class. Th prime tutes, those around lectures, are full of the middle class while the tutes at 7pm Monday are full of working class. This despite new technology.

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    3. Christos Raza

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Uh it's probably because the working class have to work while the middle class ones do not. No amount of new technology is going to fix that.

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    4. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Christos Raza

      This would work Christos and may account for some but the tute at 9 am Friday is also full of working class. The issue I think is this; middle class people, as a result of their experiences, believe and act in a way that they have control over their lives. The working class, in contrast, are more passive and respond to the world.

      These final tutes are often filled only after a prod from the coordinator. The middle class believe they have control over their lives because they do. If a middle class…

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    5. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Mat Hardy

      "So you divide your tutes up according to class?"
      The data I have seen show that Melbourne's universities are very much divided by class, with each catering to a different class.

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  4. Allan Gardiner

    Dr

    Christopher, you may like to enquire further of your student, the one who told you that he works at Woolworths, if he does in fact live in Frankston, or just resides there, as your asking this of him could very well liven things up a bit in class.

    Everything is conditioned nowadays, whether it be skin, hair, or the air inside our cars and buildings, and class can only continue to exist if it's forever fed a blatant blast of social conditioning. Even when you purchase things conditions always apply. The worst type of conditioning in any community will be soon seen as being spent, and thus promptly put paid to, by everyone simply not buying into this thing called class.

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    1. Michael Rogers

      Retired

      In reply to Allan Gardiner

      "everyone simply not buying into this thing called class."
      Forty years ago in Frankston, it was very clear that there was a distinction between those who lived on Olivers Hill (bay views) and those who lived in the Pines (housing commission). Had those on the hill simply 'worked harder' for their position that those in the fibro-cement (asbestos) boxes down on the flats? How would "not buying into" the concept of 'class" further understanding how unequal shares of wealth, power and privilege are…

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    2. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Allan Gardiner

      If you really buy into this Allen then you are saying that class is just cognitive, it is just a state of mind. This would be harmonious with the cognitive turn over the last 40 years but I think class is economic in terms of relationships of production. The cultural element layers on over the top. It may be psychological in terms of enabling them to live. A slave morality it you like but it is rooted (in all kinds of ways) in the relationships of capitalist production. We can't think it into denial like an Oprah episode.

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    3. Allan Gardiner

      Dr

      In reply to Michael Rogers

      Michael, I do get the gist of what you're saying but I hope you realise that you are in fact allowed to wrap-up your comment by intentionally classifying it as having been an "officially 'classless' society ...."

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  5. John Clark

    Manager

    An interesting perspective, but the reliance on TV shows is somewhat tenuous. J'aime is an outrageous send up, and not intended to be taken as representative. Class is similar to racism in that it can be used a weapon to achieve a purpose, without being quantified. Neither can be denied, since they cannot be defined, ie, class and racism must exist, since no one can rule the out absolutely.

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    1. Michael Bartlett

      PhD Candidate at ANU

      In reply to John Clark

      Ja'mie is parodying the sense of class exhibited by private school students, that's the whole point of the show. It's even more obvious in Summer Heights High where Ja'mie views herself as some kind of aspirational model for her classmates in a public school, by sheer virtue of her privileged background.

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    2. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to John Clark

      Interestingly that the Jai'me creators also avoid some of the "class" issue by having her parents come from South Africa - "importing" her class perception, if you like.

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    3. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to John Perry

      John, that's a pretty tawdry racist stereotype.

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    4. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Yeah, Andy: apartheid never happened. Did you watch the show?

      And the point I was trying to make is that it is within the bounds of FICTION - Lilley's FICTIONAL character could have had Australian-born parents so that the writers and the audience would have to deal with the sorts of class issues the writer is talking about. However, by having them come from South Africa is almost "easier" for them to explain Ja'mie's class prejudice as part of her back story: at one point her dad talks about being used to black people, having grown up in South Africa, and says they are "good people ... good workers." A killer line.

      I hope that makes it clearer as to what I meant. If you're not sure of a comment I make, I would appreciate you ask for clarification rather than jump to conclusions and label my comments as "tawdry". I have pointed out to you in the past that you appear to be wanting to start fights rather than engage in intelligent discussion. Please desist.

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  6. Amanda Barnes
    Amanda Barnes is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Voter

    It would be interesting to revisit this discussion in 3 years time when many of this Federal governments policies are put in train. A single, low tax rate for all. A PAYG system for services once provided by governments such as health, education, roads etc. A corporatocracy facilitated by the TPPA & ISDS clause. The class divide may well be more distinct & many, many more of those who smugly deny that Australia has class system may well be sitting on the lower end of that divide.

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    1. Amanda Barnes
      Amanda Barnes is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Voter

      In reply to John Crest

      Considering the level of secrecy with which this government conducts it's deals I think you are being overly optimistic. The TPPA is almost finalised. Possibly has been finalised? Does anyone know? The process of the TPP negotiations has been shrouded in secrecy and the full text of drafts of the proposed agreement has never been publicly released. The unions are about to be undermined. Work Choices will erode job security & bring down wages & conditions. A restructuring of the tax system is being prioritised by the LNP & their preferred model involves one low tax for all. As is a small, discrete government with few social obligations. The Senate may be able to mitigate some of the impact of these changes but life as we have known it is about to change without a doubt & it won't be for the good of the majority of Australians.

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    2. John Crest

      logged in via email @live.com.au

      In reply to Amanda Barnes

      I think you are being overly pessimistic.

      Let's discuss again in 3 years (your timeframe) and see what's changed.

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    3. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, a female friend of mine - a solicitor who works on family law - thinks the government should implement a "No Baby Bonus". That certain women - particularly "at risk" teenagers - should be paid NOT to get pregnant.

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    4. Phil Gorman

      Mendicant - retired teacher and mariner at - quite good company

      In reply to Amanda Barnes

      I think you're right on the money Amanda. The TPPA is going to be one of the primary instruments of corporate hegemony in our region.

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    5. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to John Crest

      lets hope there is a handy "re-wind" button, you know, like they want for carbon tax, mrrt etc

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    6. Allan Gardiner

      Dr

      In reply to Amanda Barnes

      I hope you'll forgive me Amanda but your apostrophised error with "it's" [its] in concert with the word "deals" made me think that you could've perhaps written it as:

      "Considering the level of secrecy with which this government conducts its steals..."

      I have a sneaking feeling that this secretive government has quite a [Common]wealth of steal_th...the creeps that they are.

      If anyone was ever on thin ground it'd have to be Tony Abbott as he seems to be forever under the misapprehension that if he can just maintain his turning a blind eye for long enough to keep every needy Australian in the poorhouse then they won't be able to keep paying out on him hand over f_ist'hmus.

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    7. Amanda Barnes
      Amanda Barnes is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Voter

      In reply to Allan Gardiner

      Ha! A vast improvement on the original! Thanks Doc Allan. A wordsmith worthy of the bard. I am sure you, among others, will have a field day with the material that this stranger than fiction government is providing us. That is of course, as long as freedom of speech does not go the way of our other democratic rights.

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  7. David R. Marshall

    Principal Fellow at University of Melbourne

    There are two classes in Australia: bogans and lattes (rather than hipsters). Lattes tend to be nervous about abusing bogans because part of their class attitude is not to be racist or classist. Bogans have no such restraint when it comes to abusing lattes. Underpinning this abuse is a strong sense of resentment. This resentment is not simply economic, and it is at its most intense when lattes are being disinterested: that is, when they propose matters for the common good of both lattes and bogans…

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    1. Christos Raza

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David R. Marshall

      And yet the lattes overwhelmingly live in wealthier, better serviced areas than the 'bogans'.

      And now that I think about it, which of these two areas is more likely to receive say....the asylum seekers for which the lattes show much compassion?

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    2. John Crest

      logged in via email @live.com.au

      In reply to Christos Raza

      Well pointed out.

      ... or bear the cost of the social changes the latte wants for "the common good"?

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    3. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to David R. Marshall

      In Queensland, I've never really heard the term 'hipsters' applied in class terms. I have teenage daughters which keep me a little in the loop and they still use the term 'posh'. 'Hipsters' refers to someone who is excessively interested in fashion. It maybe even has the sense of someone who is a 'try hard'. Indeed, 'up here', I think the truly middle class orientation has been normalized to such a degree that it is bogans (maybe the odd 'beven' still) vs what we all aspire to be!

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    4. John Crest

      logged in via email @live.com.au

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      This article (due to its use of the hipster archetype) is best understood by Melburnians.

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    5. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to David R. Marshall

      I was so with you, David, until this statement:

      'This resentment [of lattes] is not simply economic, and it is at its most intense when lattes are being disinterested: that is, when they propose matters for the common good of both lattes and bogans, which is the foundation of egalitarianism.

      I think what they resent is snobbery.

      Lattes look down on the tastes of the hoi polloi - where they live (in McMansions in soulless suburbs), how they spend their free time (pokies), what they eat (McDonald's).

      What's especially annoying is lattes couch this disdain in terms of 'concern for the disadvantaged'.

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    6. David R. Marshall

      Principal Fellow at University of Melbourne

      In reply to James Jenkin

      That is exactly my point. It is not possible to argue in favour of a disinterested good for the whole of society because it is conceived by 'bogans' as 'lattes' patronising them. And 'bogans' (including Tony Abbot) have no concept of society as a common unit to which we all belong, only individual self-interest, so it is not as if they will take up this particular baton. And it is perhaps bogan defensiveness that assumes lattes look down on their lifestyle. In latte-land such matters are personal style choices.

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    7. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to David R. Marshall

      'And 'bogans' (including Tony Abbot) have no concept of society as a common unit to which we all belong,'

      David, are you not being a tad unfair to 'bogans' when you lump Abbott in with them?

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    8. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to David R. Marshall

      This categorisation of "class" as just a cognate to "race" is part of the whole problem.

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    9. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to James Jenkin

      My brother did his HSC, then went to TAFE to become a master electrician. He now owns his own business, lives in McMansionland, and recently put his kids in a cheap private school. He looks down his nose at people who do not own their own business, who work for other people - especially public servants!

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    10. Lorraine Muller

      PhD - eternal student

      In reply to David R. Marshall

      There are more than 2 classes in Australia. Suggesting that there are either 'bogan' or 'lattes' is simplistic.

      Class is less well defined in Australia and perhaps more permeable, than what I believe is the case in places like Britain. There is the academic class, that pretends it is hidden from view, who protect and promote their own where possible - keeping outsiders at arms length.

      Then you have the uppity classes that anger at any mention of class structure in Aus because they like the…

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  8. Jonathan Coghill

    Journalist

    Mr Scanlon,

    A beautifully written and well argued piece.

    You rightly arguewe use the term 'bogan' to define those who don't live up to the standards of our own class. Ironically, bogans use the term 'bogan' in the same way, which begs me to question my own class before using it regularly.

    And even though there are many different classes in Australian society, bogan characteristics that infiltrate them all.

    For instance, tattoos aren't reserved for Bundy-rum-drinkers at the local surfy, our own royal couple Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch proudly don bogan-style tough stickers.

    Also, The inability to talk about anything but footy pervades all classes of men.

    I'm sure I've only scratched the surface were these characteristic are concerned.

    Keep the articles coming.

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    1. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to Jonathan Coghill

      I agree with Jonathon. This is a very complex issue in today’s society, largely because, unlike a century, or even fifty years ago, economic status is not the primary determinant of class perceptions. Nor is family history.
      I would suggest that the most significant factor is, not even education per se, but attitudes to education. I can observe this in my own extended family and friends. I have relatives with incomes many, many times mine who take great pride in their racism, anti social self possession…

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    2. alfred venison

      records manager (public sector)

      In reply to Tony Dickson

      " I would tentatively suggest that a commercial media with a business model of attracting the biggest market for the shiny things its clients sell, will always pitch for the lowest common denominator " - all that, but i would also would tentatively suggest considering the effect on society, of a national commercial media & client business model, of attracting the biggest market for shiny things, by means of t.v. advertising campaigns that never ever show non-white people with the products. -a.v.

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    3. Tony Dickson

      Farmer at Farm Forestry and ecological services

      In reply to alfred venison

      Indeed. Token representation notwithstanding, I agree. I suspect we are of one mind.

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    4. alfred venison

      records manager (public secotr)

      In reply to Tony Dickson

      well, tony Dickson, if i notice it & you notice it we certanly are of one mind on this one. thanks for taking the time to reply. -a.v.

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  9. Vesper Tjukonai

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Thanks Christopher Scanlon for naming the monster too many Australians claim doesn't exist. Does the reality of class warfare disturb their mate-ship myth or national pride? It should.

    Australia's classed society is ugly, snide and home-delivered. Too many Australians are only comfortable when they've worked out whether you are one of them. Or not. At best, I am invisible, ignored. At worst, I am target practice, punished with verbal abuse and property damage by those who think I am different from them.

    An egalitarian society is a worthy humanitarian aim that many Australians have worked, continue to work, tirelessly towards. But to claim the country has achieved this goal smacks of willful blindness. And spawns indifference to the very real needs of the marginalised deemed not to matter.

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  10. Edwina Laginestra
    Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Jack of all trades

    Great article thanks Christopher.
    However I am struggling with some aspects of this and what is coming out in the comments. I think it is about the definition of class. It would seem easy but I think it differs so some talk about money or education access or even accent, but it is perhaps that we are tribal so any differences could be seen by some to be a class difference. But could also encompass observations of (for example) elements of racism - which I might see as racism and nothing to do with "class". Therefore where one student sees no class but poor choices, another sees class based on lack of money. Probably not expressed well but there is something that I have to think further on - therefore showing that this is a great thought-provoking article. Cheers.

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  11. Notta Mehere

    logged in via Facebook

    the upper crust is just a lot of crumbs sticking together...

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  12. Ben Shah

    Brain Surgeon

    Cultural studies has a lot to answer for. Identity politics are not class politics.

    The blurring of these lines has allowed for the shifting social attitudes toward wages and conditions. Just read the comments in any of the papers on how deserving or not manufacturing workers are. All of these comments written by people that presumably collect a wage or salary.

    Class should be about the distribution of resources, not how you dress or present yourself. Do you work to further the interests of capital, or do you labour? But the problem with this is that distinction would sit far to uncomfortable for a number of the 'middle class' who could then be seen to be acting against their 'class' interests. And here begins the role of cultural studies departments the world over. Universities are not about knowledge, but about normalising existing 'class' conditions.

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    1. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Ben Shah

      I agree Ben. Going off a number of comments, yours about the best, there really needs to be two discussions. One about cultural exclusion which is grounded in economic exclusion and the other about economic exclusion which has cultural expression. The latter would be the more interesting and revealing. Identity politics does, at times, get in the way. The emergence of identity politics coincides with the concerted attack on the working class. Interesting.

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    2. John Dions

      Teacher

      In reply to Ben Shah

      Cultural studies is mostly an intellectual form of political correctness. There is a reason that it hasn't been as widely accepted outside the Anglosphere.

      The last thing anyone needs is an insecure WASP lecturer telling them that Madonna is as artistically significant as Mahler.

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    3. Jane Bringolf

      Liveable Communities Project Manager

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Scrolling through the comments I was waiting to see one that was actually about class rather than labels. The question is, where will such labelling disguised as class warfare take us politically? In a so-called egalitarian society we need to discuss issues such as what does equal treatment of unequals really mean? Do we mean equity when we say equality? What does equity cost, and who pays? What is the cost of in-equity? One answer to the last question has been addressed by the Productivity Commission…

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  13. Jay Wulf

    Digerati at nomeonastiq.com

    "everything was simply a matter of individual choice – choices that were unconstrained."

    That is the cognitive bias of the privileged, that you make choices that were unconstrained. and if something went wrong in your life, clearly you are a bad person (at least in making choices about your life) and you deserve all the bad things that happen to you, there is even a name for it; 'Just-World-Hypothesis' (1).

    Anyone that actually believes that Australia is an 'egalitarian' country is either…

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jay Wulf

      Socialism never took root in America because of slavery.

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    2. Troy Howard

      Mechanic at -

      In reply to Jay Wulf

      "'Egalitarian Society', Bah! My red baboon arse it is!"
      very erudite.
      Thank you I am now grinning ear to ear.

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  14. Terry Reynolds

    Financial and political strategist

    Defining a bogan is like trying to define a hippopotamus, difficult to define by you know one when you meet one.

    The laxity of many people when it comes to speech, dress, personal hygiene, dress, maintenance of their living arrangements, conduct in public, defines a bogan from an ordinary Australian.

    In my view you are either an ordinary Australian or a bogan. It is the bogan who chooses and acts to be lower class. The ordinary Australia merely is well aware of them but tends to stay away from them.

    I have been in banking and the professional world for over 50 years and dealt with people from all walks of life and incomes and my experience has been there is no conscious class factor in Australia except by the lax and those that think they are not good enough.

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    1. Bronwyn OBrien

      Admin Assistant

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      First of all, even though I don't consider myself a 'bogan' I certainly feel lower class. When others talk about the cars they are buying their children, the private school fees and their next overseas holiday while I am worrying how the hell I'm going to live for the next week after paying out the electricity bill, I feel very very different indeed. I certainly do not feel like an 'ordinary Australian"
      My lifestyle is not my choice. it's just that the less you have the less you gain.
      You say you have worked with people from all walks of life but I'd be interested to know how many unemployed or underemployed people you have worked with who have no savings or assets at all.

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    2. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      A friends daughter is a 'mature age teacher', graduated at the end of last year.

      Private school educated, from a solid middle class family, if based upon income.

      Almost a parody of a BOGAN. If I had kids and found that she was to 'teach' them, they would be in some other school so fast!

      This woman cannot speak anything approaching English, and the country that she says she comes from you would not, could not recognise.

      Yet this young woman is going to be teaching high school kids English ---- if anybody employs her.

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    3. Lorraine Muller

      PhD - eternal student

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      I am genuinely curious Terry, about who, or how, you would define 'ordinary Australians'.

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    4. Terry Reynolds

      Financial and political strategist

      In reply to Lorraine Muller

      Lorraine, ordinary Australians to me and I say this from someone who has lived in cosmopolitan Melbourne all his life with about 160 nationalities living in almost blissful harmony and in the most advanced society on earth, I would regard most Melbournians as ordinary Australians whether they live in Toorak or anywhere else across this city of 4.5m people.

      They love living in Melbourne, invariably they passionately follow an AFL football team, they get involved in Melbourne's endless activities…

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    5. Tony Georgeson

      logged in via email @iinet.net.au

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      Sorry Terry but a common misconception is the intent of the word Fair' in Advance Australia Fair. Ironically, ‘Fair’ relates the utilisation of resources for the common good?

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    6. Lorraine Muller

      PhD - eternal student

      In reply to Terry Reynolds

      Thank you Terry.

      Your response is useful to my current project and I find ordinary (or mainstream) Australians often find it hard to identify what that means.

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  15. Luke Weston

    Physicist / electronic engineer

    Being low in income doesn't make you a bogan.

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    1. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Luke Weston

      I agree Luke. I think there needs to be some conceptual clarification here even if it is just for those who are far removed from the smelly masses. As a lower working class kid we looked down on 'westies'. I came from Liverpool and we thought that those out at 'Seven Hills' were westies or what the southerners would call 'bogan'. We were, therefore, low income but not westies. Westies demanded a certain style of dress, music, culture that I viewed as 'rough'. Now those on the North Shore would surly…

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    2. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

    3. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      I came from Liverpool and we thought that those out at 'Seven Hills' were westies or what the southerners would call 'bogan'
      Jeff, you were deluded. The REST of Sydney lumped you in with the Seven Hills types - you were ALL Westies.

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    4. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      I thought I indicated that this would be the case Andy when I wrote, "Now those on the North Shore would surly thought of me as a Westie and thought of me as uncultured." Now, I would agree with you Andy and experienced this with an employer who suggested to me that he usually didn't employ 'Westies' but that I was an exception. This would support your account and my belief. Just the other day, though, I was in Sydney identifying as a Westie when the group I was talking to corrected me and suggested that I was not a Westie at all but that Liverpool was actually in the South. Geographically, though, they were correct but in my day everybody west of Granville was considered a Westie depending on the context (crime moved the border even closer the the CBD). I think Sydney-siders might have a more sophisticated account these days then they did when I lived there. I've not lived in Sydney for 20 years.

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    5. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Well I', a generation younger than you, and "westies" are anybody who lives west of Glebe. :)

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  16. Laurie Strachan

    Writer/photgrapher

    This is a complete misconception of the nature of class. Class is something that pins you down for life, mainly because of the way you speak the language. That doesn't happen in Australia. Or do you think John Singleton's ocker drawl is upper class?
    Australia is a plutocracy but plutocracies not based on class as the British (or really English) system is, are temporary, not fixed. How many of our prime ministers went to Eton? Tony Abbott was a ten quid migrant. How did Paul Keating rise to the top?
    The children of the rich can end up poor quite quickly if they aren't careful and their children even more so.
    No society is ever going to be completely egalitarian, there will always be rich and poor. I agree that the rich are getting richer and there is a danger of a kind of class system arising based on the obscene sums of money the rich (company directors, CEOs, money managers, lawyers etc) are seizing for themselves but that's not the story you're telling here.

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  17. Anthony Nolan

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    An excellent starter article. I do hope, however, that future articles on class will also put forward analysis based on political economy and not confine discussion to the cultural expression of class. The relationship to power, for example, is a critical determinant of class whereas a beard or a coffee are mere markers of perceived class.

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  18. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to account deleted

      Yes, you are right Mike, despite all appearances, despite the reality of the situation, the means of production in Queensland is controlled by society for the benefit of that society. It is the wealthy who have been the big losers.

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    2. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

    3. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

    4. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to account deleted

      True, I agree. Further, sarcasm is just not very nice and I should refrain. I thought the sarcasm would be seen when I wrote "despite the reality of the situation" but fair enough. All the best Mike.

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    5. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Amanda Barnes

      Fantastic comment Amanda, really contributes ; ) (I'm starting to enjoy this!)

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    6. Troy Howard

      Mechanic at -

      In reply to Troy Howard

      What I was going to say was that the sarcasm was heavily camouflaged in that response Jeff

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  19. John Clark

    Manager

    Since the terms used are by nature relative, could the respondents asserting class well entrenched in Australia nominate nations that are classless, and where Australia is positioned on the scale?

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    1. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to John Clark

      No, class is not relative in an economic sense John. Class is simply ones position in the productive process. Now from here it does get difficult but the basic claim is not affected by the complexity of the social features of class which are secondary. The most basic measure is the distribution of wealth. Does the product of working class labour remain theirs or does it get appropriated by the owners of the means of production in the form of profit. Inequality, John, is easily measured. One common measure is the GINI coefficient. Australia is slightly more equal than the U.K but, it might surprise some, that Russia (oligarchs included) is more equal than the U.S. Economic measures only make sense through the lens of equality.

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    2. Joe Gartner

      Eating Cake

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Is that still an adequate definition in today's australia? The way I understand it, class once meant position in social strata, Marx appropriated it into economics. Now the working class may be more affluent than the intellectual class (I'm sure my plumber earns more than me, a humble lecturer B) so economic relativity is no sure measure of class these days in Australia - nor is degree of appropriation as many 'working class' are self employed.
      Fixed measures such as family, education, access to measures of class (such as the arts) are surer signals of one's class than sheer earning power (or degree of appropriation by owners of the means of profit - a production centric measure in a country that produces little).

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    3. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Joe Gartner

      Look Joe, in truth, as you know, class is complex. It famously even stilled Marx's pen. Marx begins a discussion of class in 'Capital Vol III Chapter 52' but, as it says, "[Here the manuscript breaks off.]"

      https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch52.htm

      He fails to elaborate here on class because he became too ill to write. We have a fare idea what he would have written. Class is shaped by the means of production and a persons situation in that productive process. It is NOT simply…

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    4. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff as far as wealth goes, Australia is (I think, or maybe second to tax-haven Switzerland)) the most wealthy nation on earth, with the fifth lowest Gini ( VERY equal).

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    5. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff, 'wealth' and 'income' are conpletely different things.

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    6. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      The thing is, over the past 30 years, our poorest have also been getting quite a lot richer themselves in real terms. So the reality is, the rich are getting richer, so are the poor, just not as fast.

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    7. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

    8. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

    9. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to account deleted

      No sarcasm is possible here mate. Look at the list and you will begin to appreciate how far down the list we are. In relative terms we are bad in absolute terms we are really bad and getting worse quickly. The problem is inequality is growing around the world. Here is a link that indicates more clearly how bad things are:

      http://mattcowgill.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/the-top-1-in-australia/

      There is a very good book on the impacts of inequality called 'The Cost of Inequality'. This is a serious issue that will rip this place apart.

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    10. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to account deleted

      Now you're just being stupid Mike. The rich are making a bucket full and people on welfare are being driven into destitution. Before you post you need to familiarize yourself with the issue a little. No-one is 'growing rich at the moment'. What a joke! Remember next time you have a cheap and ill-informed shot at 'welfare collectors' just remember that our system operates on the basis of around 5% unemployment.

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    11. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      As you should be able to appreciate Andy, this is not easy to claim. Officially, this is not the case. The figures show that the poor are getting poorer, the middle are staying about the same while the rich are getting way richer. There is, as we all know, no trickle down effect. That theory turned out to be a loose bowel. Now if we want to think and not just be passive one needs to consider the changing demands of contemporary society. Is a mobile phone a necessity today? If we recognize changing needs then it is certain that poverty has intensified greatly. Don't fall for the lies Andy or things will never change.

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    12. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff, you are repeating one of the most inane forms of completely bogus mass hysteria in this country. I have been told that "the poor are getting poorer" since I was a child. If that were true, Australians would be eating grass, and living under newspapers, instead of living in houses with airconditioners and ipods. Now,here is the official data, from the OECD showing the change in REAL income in every OECD from the mid 1980s to 2008. They also break it down for the bottom decile and top decile…

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    13. John Dions

      Teacher

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Andy, with all due respect, you are missing the point. Yes wages have increased, so have general living costs. Wages have not kept up with inflation since around the 80's or so. Globalisation has exerted a downward pressure on wages. Even if you don't accept the distribution argument, inflation and living costs have largely eroded 'net gains' in wages.

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    14. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to John Dions

      John, I dealt with this already and very thoroughly in my post, and linked data. That is what REAL income means. Your belief that Australians have been getting poorer since the 1980s is simply stunning.

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    15. John Dions

      Teacher

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Purchasing power is more important than income. Australians have less purchasing power. Seen the prices of houses lately? The expansion of credit has helped paper over the cracks.

      You need to stop thinking in terms of absolutes and look at things comparatively. Wages have fallen relative to inflation and living costs in the last few decades. They have fallen well below property values too. They are far more precise indicators than real wage/income gains.

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    16. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to John Dions

      John, I don't think you are getting what "REAL" income means. It means income AFTER adjusting for inflation. Australians across the entire income spread are MUCH richer in real terms, in both income and wealth than at any time in history, and especially since the 1980s. The data has been presented to you. If you have contrary data, present it.

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    17. Tony Georgeson

      logged in via email @iinet.net.au

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      I just checked and it is not the 29th February but I find myself in complete agreement with Andy Cameron for once!

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    18. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Tony Georgeson

      Thank you Tony. I conduct research and post actual data as a form of charity; noblesse oblige, if you will. I am glad some are not too proud to accept. :)

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    19. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      If only you gave adequate evidence for your claims Andy which I doubt exists. I've not bothered to enter into this shallow debate because there is really too much to teach before the discussion can take place. In short though, 'real' income, as with most of 'economics', is nothing but ideology. Indeed, income is not the issue. It is quality of life. As I've shown you before Andy, if you get free education then it is worth X thousand of direct income. We may get paid more than they do in Nordic countries…

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    20. Allan Gardiner

      Dr

      In reply to Tony Georgeson

      Tony, given that time will always March on, I don't think anyone should have any qualms about your finally being in complete agreement with that braw wee mon[th] Andy Cameron, even so early in the year as this to boot...as long as you don't suddenly go leap_ing to any conclusions.

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  20. David Reid

    logged in via Twitter

    Of course class exists in Australia. However, I would say compared to the UK class boundaries are more fluid. I would also be interested to know more about how the values and aspirations of the classes have changed over time. I think there has been a major shift in what has traditionally been identified as the "working class". In particular many in this class would no longer identify with ideas of class struggle, worker's rights or a critique of capitalism. These values have given way to an acceptance of capitalism and using that to get individual success or benefits.

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    1. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to David Reid

      Social mobility has always been low and continues to be in both Australia and the U.K. Indeed, it is getting worse. The difference is that children do not follow in their parents footsteps. This is largely the result of changing technologies and has nothing to do with mobility.

      Yes, people do not identify with class as much as they used to. It is interesting. Increased exposure to media and a falling class awareness. I'm suggesting that the end of class consciousness is not a reflection of the end of class and it is certainly not the result of increased class mobility but improved propaganda and deliberate saturation of liberal ideology.

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    2. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

    3. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to David Reid

      The main difference is that nowadays, the working class earns a significant amount of income above subsistence, and accumulates wealth. OTOH, we are seeing the growth of an underclass.

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    4. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Also, about 10% of Australians are in the global top 1%, with 75% in the top 10%.

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  21. David O'Halloran

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Want to know what class you are? http://www.ahaprocess.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Social-Class-Hidden-Rules-Quiz.pdf is a quiz from America (you know, that other egalitarian place) but reasonably translatable to Australia.
    Class in Australia exists but I think that it is more descriptive than prescriptive unlike many other countries where the opportunities to change one's situation in life is a tougher road to travel.
    Class might influence things like taste, speech, wealth and so on, but in my experience it seems to be completely unrelated to whether or not someone is a decent person. Good people and arseholes exist in all classes.

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    1. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to David O'Halloran

      I think you need to do some more research David. Class in Australia is entrenched and class mobility extremely limited. It just takes a university degree to be working class now.

      The argument about class is not about 'good people' or 'arseholes' it is about interests. The argument is that Gina Rinehart is who she is because of her position in the productive process. To me she may be an arsehole but in her circle I'm sure she is good enough. The problem is that morality is defined by those with power. Think about the notion of theft. To pay a person less than the wealth that they create is not viewed in our society as immoral but if I walk in a take a chocolate bar from the local shop then I'm a thief. Tony Abbott may be well meaning but he is only functioning in the interests of his class.

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    2. David O'Halloran

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      You are quite correct, class is not about good people etc - which was the point I was making.
      Is class mobility extremely limited in Australia - I didn't know that. In my mind, I was comparing it with mostly Asian countries in our region that I am more familiar with - seems less limited here but perhaps there is some data to suggest otherwise.
      What class is Tony Abbott? He seems like a Bogan to me :)

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    3. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

    4. Ben Shah

      Brain Surgeon

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Spot on Jeff, and going by the way most people approach this debate it is pretty obvious how the debate has been hijacked. When I was doing my undergrad I incensed a tutor in a cultural studies class by suggesting that Gramsci might have been correct and all we were learning in that particular subject simply legitimised capitalist class relations.

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    5. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to David O'Halloran

      David, that American quiz, is cruel. But fair.

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    6. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to account deleted

      Mike, in Puberty Blues those "poor, white trash" parents were scientists, dentists, advertising executives, and teachers.

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    7. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to account deleted

      Mike, actually the Sutherland Shire is not the western suburbs! It is people in the Shire who call westies, "westies"! I must admit when I read the novel as a kid, all I took away from it was 'bogans'. It was only watching the current TV series, that I paid much closer attention to "class" issues.

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    8. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to David O'Halloran

      Tony Abbott is upper middle class. His father was one of Australia's most successful orthodontists. Unlike Malcolm Turnbull thought, Abbott has barely earnt a bean in his life. I don't think he's even paid off his very modest suburban house in Forrestville.

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    9. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Ben Shah

      You are right Ben, Cultural Studies has indeed been a major anti-working-class ideological movement. By reifying gender and race, Cultural Studies academics have conspired in a silence about the actual realities of class dynamics.

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    10. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      "It just takes a university degree to be working class now."
      Really?

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    11. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      Calm down Andy. The main point I'm making here is that we do not do what our parents did because of changing technologies. A second legitimate point might be that there is a requirement to be more educated to do roles than in the past. Being a teacher or nurse now requires a degree whereas in the past they did not. For example, my great grandfather was a bricklayer, my grandfather was a bricklayer, my father was a bricklayer but there just isn't the same demand for bricklayers as once there was. New building technologies require new skills. When I was doing my apprenticeship in bricklaying many thought that bricklaying would be a dead craft. We should not think of the working class as 'unskilled' or even 'blue collar'. Some are, some are not.

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    12. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      "Being a teacher or nurse now requires a degree whereas in the past they did not"
      Now isn't that interesting. Notice how both are by far female occupations (>80%). Whereas, my brother did his HSC (TER about 80.0, including 3 Unit Maths, Physics, Chemistry), and went to TAFE, because that was the only place that offered the appropriate Electrician course. His course was probably more academically taxing than Early Childcare, Nursing, or Journalism. So maybe you ARE right. We've just all been conned that these occupations suddenly need to be taught in universities. My brother own his own business, employs 15 people, and runs projects wiring up whole buildings. He has subsequently gone to uni, completing the first stage of an MBA program for people who do not have a university degree. The irony is that a primary school teacher, journalist, or nurse would not have to do that "bridging" part of the MBA.

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    13. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff, the Dawkins Universities all have degrees in "Construction" nowadays.

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  22. David R. Marshall

    Principal Fellow at University of Melbourne

    Actually the terms here being essayed as class-definition terms have different origins and applicability. According to Wikipedia ‘bogan’ first appeared in Western Melbourne in the 1980s, at first used pejoratively but quickly embraced by those to whom it was thought to apply as a positive term (‘bogan and proud of it’). This signals that it is primarily a visual style term: most art historical style terms (like ‘Baroque’) followed a similar trajectory, from localised term of abuse to being embraced…

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  23. Bronwyn OBrien

    Admin Assistant

    Thank you for a great article.

    There is definitely socioeconomic divisions in Australia. Even if we don’t see it as being ‘class distinction’ there is still, from my own experience, a sense of feeling comfortable around those who have similar budgets as you.

    I am a ‘povo’. I am unemployed and depend on government benefits. I don’t have tattoos nor do I smoke or drink heavily like the stereotypical ‘bogan’ does, but I certainly do feel low class, be it real or imagined, in many situations…

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  24. Stephen McCormick

    Research Fellow (Mathematics) at University of New England

    I was stunned (and even a little bit offended) when I read the story about your student. And I felt this way right to the last line, when I couldn't help but laugh. I too am from Frankston and worked at Woolworths for the duration of my undergrad...

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  25. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Great Article, in my experience those who are more well off tend to deny things like class and income inequality where as those less fortunate live it and breathe it

    It ties in well to the studies that show people with money are likely to be more conservative minded and the study that showed the monopoly player who was given extra money, new he had an unfair advantage but still would be telling everyone about why his strategy made him win the game - you had more money, you had an unfair advantage, but they still think it's their inherent talent or smarts that was the decieding factor

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  26. Antonio DeBono

    Freelance Social Media Consultant

    This is nothing new.

    Back in the late 1990s, TISM provided us with a beautifully succinct description of Australian class lines in their track "Whatareya". The only thing that has changed is the labels; "yob" and "wanker" have now been supplanted by "bogan" and "latte".

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  27. Ella McKella

    Teacher

    I think the doubt that the first student expressed is somewhat fed by the blurred lines that you mention (not as clear as upstairs/downstairs anymore.) For example, I went to a state school, my parents work jobs that earn an average income, and I have entered into one of the lower-paid professions you mention. Nothing that particularly suggests class privilege. However, add to those things that the state school that I went to was in an affluent suburb and was very well-resourced, well-staffed etc…

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    1. Ella McKella

      Teacher

      In reply to Ella McKella

      Just to clarify - the last bit was obviously tongue-in-cheek but I am legitimately interested in what conversations about class others think are appropriate and useful to have with my students.
      Also, I am definitely not saying that having children early is in any way a bad thing. Doing so because you haven't been made to feel like you have other options is a bad thing. (Likewise working a low-paying or low-status job.)

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  28. John Dions

    Teacher

    Australia is an anti-intellectual culture that values pragmatism above all else, so I'm not totally convinced that being a person of taste and refinement is what separates the middle class from the 'proles' as the educated middle class regularly engage in the same cultural activities. The main difference is that a certain percentage may attend the occasional film festival or art exhibition but i would question the level of understanding and interest. There is a fine line.

    Hipsters are not into 'high culture'. They are into whatever is hip and trendy in 'alternative circles' and most of is imported from the U.S. It's also not particularly sophisticated, which isn't surprising given where it comes from(the U.S) and who consumes it(uni students, 20 somethings).

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  29. Robert Attila

    Business Analyst

    Hi Chris Scanlon,

    Where do I start dissecting your hypocritical & highly biased left wing fantasy article.?? I would have thought by now the results of Mao & Stalin (80 million dead) or Nth Korea’s starving millions would have encouraged you to put your wacky socialist ideals into the fantasy bin where it belongs. Ah, short memories… My parents were victims of ‘real’ socialism.

    1. People naturally group ‘objects’ & thus people for many practical reasons. Doesn’t automatically make them racist…

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    1. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Robert Attila

      I haven't heard such a rant since my childhood, long before yours, or perhaps the hypocrite Howard, with his blather of family and picket fences, and his mistresses.
      'same price as a 1870's weatherboard in posh Newtown. But she didn’t want her children to grow up with, & be ‘negatively influenced’, by many of the poor & their ‘poor’ attitudes.'

      Newtown, Sydney? Posh in the 60's? A house off the main st of Newtown, could be picked up for $10,000 into the early 70's ---- I owned a Citroen workshop…

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    2. Robert Attila

      Business Analyst

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      No, not Sydney, try Victoria.

      Rant? Yours sounds like a rant, so rather hypocritical of you dont you think??

      For what purpose? So that later generations get a better start to life & dont have to sacrifice so much just to get an education & a home for themselves, to live in safety, etc etc etc. Ultimately though, we dont have to justify to you our choice to pass on assets. Its our property & thus our right.

      It is not for greed that immigrants work so hard, but to get established. But you…

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    3. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Robert Attila

      The reason that I asked, Sydney?

      I am not an Australian, nor was I born in this country.

      I have made great hunks of my living 'fixing' things, physical, but also design, mechanical and in dealing with councils/state governments.

      The remainder I covered in previous comment. You had your life to live, leave the kids to live theirs.

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  30. barry hindess

    emeritus professor, politics

    Whenever i see the word 'class', I cannot help but wonder what people are talking about. is 'class' a code for privilege or inequality? There is certainly much to be said about both of these in contemporary Australia.Or is 'class' used in something like the sense of the old Marxist claim that History is the history of class conflict or even Max Weber's weaker claim that class, status and party are all phenomena of the distribution of power in a society. Many of us who held out for, or against, a…

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    1. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to barry hindess

      I can't see any substance to your concerns Barry. Many of the discussion in The Conversats have been played out before or in other forums but, of course, this does not mean that they cannot be discussed here. The difficulty with 'defining' class is not a problem in contemporary debates. Attempts at universal definitions are a bit 'old school'. If definitional certainty was required then this would not be The Conversation but The Silence. The concept of 'class' will be wielded in different ways to different ends by different people in this series. Some will be insightful and informative some may not be. This is the nature of publications. Would you silence even the discussion about class in contemporary society Barry?

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    2. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to barry hindess

      There really are broadly two approaches to understanding society. One uses class the other does not. Social democracy, socialism and communism all operate on the basis of class. Some social liberals, such Hobhouse, appear to acknowledge class. Classical liberalism does not recognize class because it was articulated before 'class' was conceptualized. Neo-liberalism also does not recognise class but theorizes on the basis of the individual. Conceptual clarity on the 'individual' appears no more developed…

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    3. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

    4. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Actually, class-based social thinking predates Marx by more than 2,000 years. And modern-day Cultural/Gender/Media Studies do not fall into either of your groups. They reify race and gender.

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    5. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Andy Cameron

      I guess it depends how you understand 'class' Andy. Where is your evidence for your claim? Discussion of 'class' in a modern sense do proceed Marx but not by much. He did not invent 'class' but it is deployed by many traditions that are influenced by his work. I would simply say that your latter comment on cultural studies is ill informed.

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    6. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

    7. Robert Attila

      Business Analyst

      In reply to account deleted

      "what growth there is obviously being hijacked by investors as demonstrated in an increase in investor dividend payouts"

      i would disagree with your statement Mike. The company & its dividends belong to its investors, you cant therefore hijack what is yours already.
      cheers

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    8. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Robert Attila

      Mt Isa mines is well worth studying. they built the road, the railway, the town and all its facilities, and they were good, all employees got air tickets to a major city included in their holiday package, and most piled their kids into the vehicle, and took off to a major city. Best traveled kids I ever had the pleasure of running into.

      Anybody in the town who wanted to study anything to do with mining/engineering had their university fees paid.

      That was very early seventies when my partner…

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    9. Robert Attila

      Business Analyst

      In reply to account deleted

      Hi Mike, i was speaking in general terms, obviously i cant list every scenario.There r always if's n but's. I've been an environmentalist & nature lover since childhood so it goes without saying (in my mind) that everyone, incl businesses, have a moral (in not practical) responsibility to preserve a healthy diverse environment, & with respect to all stakeholders, of which the locals are one. But i desire a better lifestyle, which requires some wealth, so i have capitalistic desires as well.

      My…

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  31. Matt Brett

    Manager Higher Education Policy at La Trobe University

    A great article to kick off the series– and great to see the response it has generated through the comments.

    The article promts me to think that:
    * We also distance ourselves from class with formal statistics. Through use of the technocratic measure of socioeconomic status – we make class something that is attributed to others by those with access to information/knowledge/power. Self-identification with socioeconomic status almost non-existent, yet it drives much in education policy.
    * As the…

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    1. In reply to Matt Brett

      Comment removed by moderator.

  32. Robyn Preston

    logged in via Facebook

    I'm going to a conference on Social Equity this week, it's going to be held at the Melbourne Cricket Club members' area. I'm so looking forward to theorizing with a bunch of postgrad inner city hipsters from Fri to Sat...and then going to see Nana out at Hoopers' Crossing (western suburbs, second last train stop) on Sunday. I hope she takes me to the local shopping mall,and gives me some old Take Five magazines... proud of my bogan roots...keeping it real...

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  33. John Bowden

    Language Documentarian

    You can be upper class and a bogan. Sam Newman (ex Geelong Grammar) from the footie show would be a prime example

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    1. Andy Cameron

      Care giver

      In reply to John Bowden

      Sam Newman is neither a bogan nor upper class.

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  34. Helen Lambert

    Communications Manager

    I really did enjoy this article and agree that we obviously do have a social awareness of class.

    After reading this I was curious if anyone can be selected to write articles for the conversation.. I found that you need to be affiliated by email to a university and hence potentially hold a degree. The irony amused me... Why are the contributions only limited to such a small cross section of the population?

    It doesn't appear to be a fair selection process at all. Isn't this classest?

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    1. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Helen Lambert

      The Conversation is funded by universities and CSIRO (at great expense). It gains that support by presenting itself to universities and CSIRO as a mechanism for their social engagement, and it attracts readers by presenting itself to them as well written pieces from academic experts 'Academic rigour, journalistic flair'.

      It is ironic that much of the writing on class is by academics who are mostly bourgeouis, and indeed bourgeouis class traitors. This is often observed and further, that revolutions are stared by the middle class and supported by its intelligentsia. Many have sought to resolve this contradiction, but not everything about the class struggle is rational.

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    2. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to account deleted

      It is not that people outside of academia could not contribute useful material Mike. Nor is it the result of funding arrangements. It is an issue of authority. The internet is ruled by reputation. The idea is that academics have a reputation to preserve and are recognised by the university system to have authority on some subject areas. With this system the editor does not have to research the authority or legitimacy of content but trusts the author and the need for the author to maintain a reputation. Restricting contributions is a process of quality control. One consequence of this system is that arguments no longer stand on their own, if they ever did, but we have returned unequivocally to a process of 'authority'. In short, this is a medieval system of publication. To be clear, I'm not criticizing it, I acknowledged its merits, but we should also be aware of its limitations. This practice is not restricted to 'The Conversation' but is web wide.

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    3. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

    4. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to account deleted

      Social mobility does not depend on economic growth: it is possible for an economy to be stable overall but have high social mobility.
      Identifying the conditions for that state is an important task. Conversely, social mobility may fall in an economy that is expanding.

      Many academics study China. But modern scholarship advances by specialisation and for various reasons many academics do not choose to specialise on China.

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    5. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to account deleted

      Reading your material Mike I must say one thing, I know I shouldn't but I can't help myself, but you don't know enough to know how ignorant you are.

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    6. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

    7. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to account deleted

      Sorry Mike. Can I retract? This is just a big discussion which demands a lot. I've studied this stuff for years and, in turn, experienced too much disadvantage. These are emotional issues. I hope you accept my sincere apology.

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    8. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

    9. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to account deleted

      Gavin is patiently trying to say that there is a difference between 'social mobility' and 'improvement in living conditions'. Indeed, this distinction is crucial. Old liberals used a static account of 'needs'. So any growth in society was registered as an overall improvement in living conditions. It was later realized that there is no absolute standard of 'need' but that 'need' changed depending on the technological advancement of the society. Today, it would be reasonable to argue, that if you are…

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    10. In reply to Jeff Payne

      Comment removed by moderator.

  35. Jack Ruffin
    Jack Ruffin is a Friend of The Conversation.

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Thank Chris and thanks to all who commented, read together it shows class is alive and as decisive as ever. Though, then again, rather than divisive, I could look at it as a fundamental institution structuring our interactions and division of resources.
    I go for the divisive take myself. Telling isn't it?

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  36. Graham Coffey

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Freud was close to the mark…."for the major part, humanity is made up of trash"……...

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    1. Tim Hansen

      Environmental Lawyer / Job Seeker at Hills Yoga School

      In reply to Graham Coffey

      Hi Graham. Freud's job and claim to fame, however, arose from his gift for finding the very worst in people. And the foci of his interests down this dark alley were, arguably, disturbingly prurient. Not entirely without merit (maybe), but hardly the go to source for trite epithets on which to hang one's view of life and people.

      It is my experience that it is (barely) possible to find redeeming traits in even the most despicable of humans.

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    2. Graham Coffey

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Tim Hansen

      Tim….I accept the validity/soundness of what you write. Perhaps for my part, with the passage of time, I have lurched a little too far towards the downside of optimism. Regards.

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  37. Gina Dow

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    I don't know how rural Ararat is, but in many country towns the local squattocracy, along with everyone else, work in the service sector or may well work on a road team for the councils, because their farms haven't made them an income for decades and those are the jobs you can get locally. This article's class analysis would be way off the mark in most parts of rural Australia.

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  38. Daniel Verberne

    logged in via Facebook

    My observation about class in Australia is this:

    The wealthy assume that the less wealthy are simply in that situation due to choices and if they only 'worked harder' they would get to the prized position of wealth.

    Of course, sounds very reasonable and hard work is always part of the equation, but it also reflects a misunderstanding of the sheer barriers that starting life well behind the 8 ball does for a person/family/community.

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    1. Robert Attila

      Business Analyst

      In reply to Daniel Verberne

      Daniel, no insult intended, but like many on this forum & many 'left wing' people you misunderstand what it takes to become wealthy.

      DO you think all 'wealthy' people started with a silver spoon?

      The common sense answer is no. Many start out in poverty like my immigrant parents. Hard work + sacrifice + saving + planning + dogged determination to succeed DESPITE the road blocks & failures along the way. Its easy fro some to plead poverty + class discrimination when they watch TV while on welfare…

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    2. Daniel Verberne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Robert Attila

      Hi Robert, happy to take your rebuke.

      However, I also think its simplistic to say that Hard Work + Savings + Planning + Sacrifice = success. It is a highly successful pattern of human activity and bound to reap rewards, but I've personally witnessed the kinds of social disharmony and disadvantage that works its way into some impoverished communities, some of which exist where I grew up in the Latrobe Valley of Victoria.

      I'm talking about people born into households without good parenting or…

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    3. Tim Hansen

      Environmental Lawyer / Job Seeker at Hills Yoga School

      In reply to Daniel Verberne

      Hi Daniel.
      What a lovely, considered and compassionate reply. I wish I had the composure needed to craft responses like that!

      You have that precious ability to put yourself in others' shoes, and understand how their lives are for them. It is a refreshing antidote to the monochromatic filter of self-righteousness that the well-meaning, but less thoughtful, apply with such uncompromising conviction over their perceptions of others.

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    4. Robert Attila

      Business Analyst

      In reply to Daniel Verberne

      Hi Daniel,

      pls dont take it as a rebuke. My discussions r meant to be based on logic + experience+ my natural inclination to 'fix' anything & everything in sight. Not to tell someone off. :)

      Thx for the recognition, again i have no interest in showing off, just used as reallife examples....

      I understand your point about 'awareness' & i agree. That is why i find socialism while well intended (i hope) is nevertheless very insidious & destructive in the long term. it dis-empowers people from…

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  39. Chris Doonan

    logged in via email @me.com

    The problem is the IDEA of some people being superior or inferior to others, you find this in class of course, but the idea that some people are of a higher quality than, or better than, others is the really damaging issue, rather than living from equality as a possibility. Most of us are blind to our own sense of superiority and inferiority to others, but we all have it

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  40. Annie Toller

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Thanks for this - I think it's really important to acknowledge the impacts of class structure in Australia, and how we smuggle classist assumptions into daily language/attitudes. My concern, however is that when we align cultural signifiers with class we actually buy into the same logic according to which students renting in inner city areas who have sleeve tattoos, great taste in music and progressive values but who learn a living waiting tables can be labelled 'elites' by a ruling class of millionaires and professional politicians, who (assuming they have a practical indifference to niche cultural trends) have 'crass' tastes. This leads to a situation where a conservative government that claims to speak for workers subsidises big business whilst sidelining people who rely on the dole or pension payments.

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