Today’s upper middle class maintains the fiction of a meritocratic society, just as the Victorians did. This story allows them to shore up their economic position behind the backs of workers, who are taught that their health problems and dismal career prospects represent individual faults, not systemic dysfunction.
Of course, exercising, eating organic food, and pushing children to use their spare time usefully are not inherently bad things. However, they become markers of bourgeois values when they are marshaled to assert one class’s moral superiority over another and to justify social inequality. It was just as obnoxious in the nineteenth century as it is today.
We should care about health, food, and education. But instead of seeing them as ways to prop up class dominance, we should improve them for everyone. Imagine if all of the energy used to get mediocre, upper-class children into prestigious colleges was redirected into making higher education more accessible and affordable across the board. Imagine if access to healthy food for all was prioritized over attaining status through buying the most virtuous products. Imagine, in short, what our world would look like if socialist values — not Victorian ones — dominated.
This is SUCH a good read, you guys.