Quotations about   class

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In short, the contradiction in the old defense of class stratification is that it defends leisure for the leisure class, but not for the underclass. With reference to the underclass, leisure is said to destroy the incentive to work, leads to slothfulness and self-indulgence, and retards cognitive and moral development. When applied to the leisure class, the concept evokes an image of Plato and Aristotle, whose leisure was based on slave labor, creating the intellectual foundations of Western civilization; or patrician slave-owners like Washington and Jefferson laying the foundations of American civilization; or creative aristocrats like Count Leo Tolstoy or Bertrand, Earl Russell; or, even closer to home, of our own sons and daughters (or of ourselves, when we were young adults) being freed from the stultifying tasks of earning a living until well into our adult years so that we could study in expensive universities to gain specialized knowledge and skills.

James Gilligan (b. c. 1936) American psychiatrist and author
Preventing Violence, ch. 5 (2001)
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Added on 16-Aug-22 | Last updated 16-Aug-22
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Some people think they are worth a lot of money just because they have it.

Fannie Hurst (1889-1968) American novelist
(Attributed)

This is sometimes cited to an unknown issue of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 1952, but a search of the site does not turn it up.
Added on 28-Jul-22 | Last updated 28-Jul-22
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Envy iz sutch a constant companyun, that if we find no one abuv us to envy, we will envy thoze below us.

[Envy is such a constant companion, that if we find no one above us to envy, we will envy those below us.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Plum Pits” (1874)
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Added on 28-Dec-21 | Last updated 28-Dec-21
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Imagine my horror at discovering that the United States is more calcified by class than Britain, especially toward the top. The big difference is that most of the people on the highest rung in America are in denial about their privilege. The American myth of meritocracy allows them to attribute their position to their brilliance and diligence, rather than to luck or a rigged system. At least posh people in England have the decency to feel guilty.

Richard V. Reeves (b. 1969) British historian, journalist, political theorist
“Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich,” New York Times (10 Jun 2017)
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Added on 27-May-21 | Last updated 27-May-21
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I don’t long for the good old days when there was no servant problem. Back in those days, I’d have been a servant.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
(Attributed)
Added on 4-Feb-21 | Last updated 4-Feb-21
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There was this about vampires: they could never look scruffy. Instead, they were … what was the word … deshabille. It meant untidy, but with bags and bags of style.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Monstrous Regiment (2003)
Added on 8-Dec-20 | Last updated 8-Dec-20
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Justice is indiscriminately due to all, without regard to numbers, wealth, or rank.

John Jay (1745-1829) American statesman, diplomat, abolitionist, politician, Chief Justice (1789-1795)
Georgia v. Brailsford, 3 US 1 (1794) [unanimous opinion]
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Added on 21-Apr-20 | Last updated 21-Apr-20
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I do not see in religion the mystery of the incarnation, but the mystery of the social order; religion attaches to heaven an idea of equality that stops the rich from being massacred by the poor.

[Quant à moi, je ne vois pas dans la religion le mystère de l’incarnation, mais le mystère de l’ordre social; elle rattache au ciel une idée d’égalité qui empêche que le riche ne soit massacré par le pauvre.]

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) French emperor, military leader
Statement (4 Mar 1806)
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Quoted in Opinions de Napoléon sur divers sujets de politique et d'administration, recueillies par un membre de son conseil d'état (1833).
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Do not only look
For gentlefolk in castles: everywhere,
In humble dwellings and in haylofts, too,
The hearts of men are often kind and true.

[Che non pur per cittadi e per castella,
Ma per tuguri ancora e per fenili
Spesso si trovan gli uomini gentili.]

Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) Italian poet
Orlando Furioso, Canto 14, st. 62 (1532) [tr. Reynolds (1973)]
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Alt. trans.: "For not alone dwells Hospitality / In court and city; but ofttimes we find / In loft and cottage men of gentle kind." [tr. Rose (1831)]
Added on 30-Mar-20 | Last updated 30-Mar-20
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Elegance is the only beauty that never fades.

Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) Belgian-English actress
(Attributed)
Added on 14-Feb-20 | Last updated 14-Feb-20
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So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age — the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing children by physical and spiritual night — are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Preface (1862)
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Added on 18-Sep-19 | Last updated 18-Sep-19
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It is a trite yet urgently true observation that if America is to remain a first-class nation, it cannot have second-class citizens.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“The Rising Tide of Racial Consciousness,” Speech, National Urban League, New York (6 Sep 1960)
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Added on 26-Jul-19 | Last updated 26-Jul-19
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It was crowded in the Curry Gardens on the corner of God Street and Blood Alley, but only with the cream of society — at least, with those people who are found floating on the top and who, therefore, it’s wisest to call the cream.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
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Added on 3-Aug-18 | Last updated 3-Aug-18
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Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind then that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; and while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) American union leader, activist, socialist, politician
Statement to the Court (18 Sep 1918)
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On being convicted of Sedition. Often paraphrased: "As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
Added on 25-May-18 | Last updated 25-May-18
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The Martini is to middle- and upper-class American society what peyote is to the Yaqui Indians: a sacred rite that affirms tribal identity, encourages fanciful thought and —
let’s be honest here — delivers a whoppingly nice high.

Barnaby Conrad III (b. 1952) American author, artist, editor
“Martini Madness,” Cigar Aficionado (Spring 1996)
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Added on 16-Oct-17 | Last updated 16-Oct-17
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Again, it is proper to the magnanimous person to ask for nothing, or hardly anything, but to help eagerly. When he meets people with good fortune or a reputation for worth, he displays his greatness, since superiority over them is difficult and impressive, and there is nothing ignoble in trying to be impressive with them. But when he meets ordinary people, he is moderate, since superiority over them is easy, and an attempt to be impressive among inferiors is as vulgar as a display of strength against the weak.

[μεγαλοψύχου δὲ καὶ τὸ μηδενὸς δεῖσθαι ἢ μόλις, ὑπηρετεῖν δὲ προθύμως, καὶ πρὸς μὲν τοὺς ἐν ἀξιώματι καὶ εὐτυχίαις μέγαν εἶναι, πρὸς δὲ τοὺς μέσους μέτριον: τῶν μὲν γὰρ ὑπερέχειν χαλεπὸν καὶ σεμνόν, τῶν δὲ ῥᾴδιον, καὶ ἐπ᾽ ἐκείνοις μὲν σεμνύνεσθαι οὐκ ἀγεννές, ἐν δὲ τοῖς ταπεινοῖς φορτικόν, ὥσπερ εἰς τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς ἰσχυρίζεσθαι.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 4, ch. 3 (4.3.26) / 1124b.18 (c. 325 BC) [tr. Irwin (1999)]
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The core word Aristotle is using is μεγαλοψυχία (translated variously as high-mindedness, great-mindedness, pride, great-soulness, magnanimity). (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Further, it is characteristic of the Great-minded man to ask favours not at all, or very reluctantly, but to do a service very readily; and to bear himself loftily towards the great or fortunate, but towards people of middle station affably; because to be above the former is difficult and so a grand thing, but to be above the latter is easy; and to be high and mighty towards the former is not ignoble, but to do it towards those of humble station would be low and vulgar; it would be like parading strength against the weak.
[tr. Chase (1847)]

It would seem, too, that the high-minded man asks favours of no one, or, at any rate, asks them with the greatest reluctance, but that he is always eager to do good offices to others; and that towards those in high position and prosperity he bears himself with pride, but towards ordinary men with moderation; for in the former case it is difficult to show superiority, and to do so is a lordly mater; whereas in the latter case it is easy. To be haughty among the great is no proof of bad breeding, but haughtiness among the lowly is as base-born a thing as it is to make trial of great strength upon the weak.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

It is characteristic too of the high-minded man that he never, or hardly ever, asks a favor, that he is ready to do anybody a service, and that, although his bearing is stately towards person of dignity and affluence, it is unassuming toward the middle class; for while it is a difficult and dignified thing to be superior to the former, it is easy enough to be superior to the latter, and while a dignified demeanour in dealing with the former is a mark of nobility, it is a mark of vulgarity ind ealing with the latter, as it like a display of physical strength at the expense of an invalid.
[tr. Welldon (1892), ch. 8]

It is characteristic of the high-minded man, again, never or reluctantly to ask favours, but to be ready to confer them, and to be lofty in his behaviour to those who are high in station and favoured by fortune, but affable to those of the middle ranks; for it is a difficult thing and a dignified thing to assert superiority over the former, but easy to assert it over the latter. A haughty demeanour in dealing with the great is quite consistent with good breeding, but in dealing with those of low estate is brutal, like showing off one’s strength upon a cripple.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

It is a mark of the proud man also to ask for nothing or scarcely anything, but to give help readily, and to be dignified towards people who enjoy high position and good fortune, but unassuming towards those of the middle class; for it is a difficult and lofty thing to be superior to the former, but easy to be so to the latter, and a lofty bearing over the former is no mark of ill-breeding, but among humble people it is as vulgar as a display of strength against the weak.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

It is also characteristic of the great-souled man never to ask help from others, or only with reluctance, but to render aid willingly; and to be haughty towards men of position and fortune, but courteous towards those of moderate station, because it is difficult and distinguished to be superior to the great, but easy to outdo the lowly, and to adopt a high manner with the former is not ill-bred, but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people: it is like putting forth one's strength against the weak.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

It is also characteristic of a great-souled person to ask for nothing or hardly anything but to offer his services eagerly, and to exhibit his greatness to those with a reputation for great worth or those who are enjoying good luck, but to moderate his greatness to those in the middle. For it is a difficult and a dignified thing to show oneself superior to the former, but an easy one to do so to the latter, and, while adopting a dignified manner toward the former is not ill-bred, to do so toward humble people is vulgar, like displaying strength against the weak.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

It is the mark of a high-minded man, too, never, or hardly ever, to ask for help, but to be of help to others readily, and to be dignified with men of high position or of good fortune, but unassuming with those of middle class, for it is difficult and impressive to be superior to the former, but easy to be so to the latter; and whereas being impressive to the former is not a mark of a lowly man, being so to the humble is crude -- it is like using physical force against the physically weak.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

Another mark of the magnanimous man is that he never, or only reluctantly, makes a request, whereas he is eager to help others. He his haughty toward those who are influential and successful, but moderate toward those who have an intermediate position in society, because in the former case to be superior is difficult and impressive, but in the latter it is easy' and to create an impression at the expense of the former is not ill-bred, but to do so among the humble is vulgar.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

It is also characteristic of a great-souled person to ask for nothing, or almost nothing, but to help others readily; and to be dignified in his behavior towards people of distinction or the well-off, but unassuming toward people at the middle level. Superiority over the first group is difficult and impressive, but over the second it is easy, and attempting to impress the first group is not ill-bred, while in the case of humble people it is vulgar, like a show of strength against the weak.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

It belongs to the great-souled also to need nothing, or scarcely anything, but to be eager to be of service, and to be great in the presence of people of worth and good fortune, but measured toward those of a middling rank. For it is a difficult and august thing to be superior among the fortunate, but easy to be that way among the middling sorts; and to exalt oneself among the former is not a lowborn thing, but to do so among the latter is crude, just as is using one's strength against the weak.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

Sometimes paraphrased:

It is not ill-bred to adopt a high manner with the great and the powerful, but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people.

Added on 3-Aug-17 | Last updated 17-May-22
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“I hope that you did not give him anything, Mr Sanderson!”

“Of course I did, ma’am.”

“But he would only spend it on drink! You know what the working classes are!”

“Indeed, ma’am, and why should he not spend it on drink? Would you deprive the poor, whose lives are bad and miserable and comfortless enough, of the solace of a little relief from grinding poverty? A sordid, sodden relief perhaps, but would you be so heartless as to deny the poor even that pleasure in which all of us indulge at your generous expense?”

Kerry Greenwood (b. 1954) Australian author and lawyer
Cocaine Blues (1989)
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As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it — whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.

Harper Lee (1926-2016) American writer [Nellie Harper Lee]
To Kill a Mockingbird, ch. 23 (1960)
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“My lord,” said Lar, falling back upon the single statement that a servant may always rely upon when any other response is fraught with peril.

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
The Lord of Castle Black (2003)
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O let us love our occupations,
Bless the squire and his relations,
Live upon our daily rations,
And always know our proper stations.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
The Chimes, “The Second Quarter” (1844)
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Styles, like everything else, change. Style doesn’t.

Linda Ellerbee (b. 1944) American broadcast journalist
Move On: Adventures in the Real World (1991)
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For de little stealin’ dey gits you in jail soon or late. For de big stealin’ dey makes you Emperor and puts you in de Hall o’ Fame when you croaks.

oneill-dey-makes-you-emperor-wist_info-quote

Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) Irish American playwright, Nobel laureate
The Emperor Jones, 1 (1921)
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I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.

jones-stolen-a-railroad-wist_info-quote

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (1860-1930) American labor leader [a.k.a. Mother Jones]
Speech (1903), in The Autobiography of Mother Jones, ch. 10 (1925)
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To tax the community for the advantage of a class is not protection: it is plunder.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) English politician and author
Speech, House of Commons (14 Mar 1850)
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KING ARTHUR: Shut up!

DENNIS: Oh, now we see the violence inherent in the system. Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

KING ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!

DENNIS: Oh, what a giveaway! Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That’s what I’m on about! Did you see him repressing me? You saw him, didn’t you?

Monty Python (contemp.) British comedy troupe
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
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The test of a man or woman’s breeding is how they behave in a quarrel.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
The Philanderer, Act 4 (1893)
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The doctor asserted, “Sure religion is a fine influence — got to have it to keep the lower classes in order — fact, it’s the only thing that appeals to a lot of these fellows and makes ’em respect the rights of property. And I guess this theology is O.K.; lot of wise old coots figured it out, and they knew more about it than we do.” He believed in the Christian religion, and never thought about it; he believed in the church, and seldom went near it; he was shocked by Carol’s lack of faith, and wasn’t quite sure what was the nature of the faith that she lacked.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Main Street (1920)
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At the foundation of our civil liberty lies the principle which denies to government officials an exceptional position before the law and which subjects them to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen.

Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) American lawyer, activist, Supreme Court Justice (1916-39)
Burdeau v. McDowell, 256 U.S. 465, 477 (1921) [dissent]
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It would be hard to name a more certain sign of poor self-esteem than the need to perceive some other group as inferior.

Nathaniel Branden (1930-2014) Canadian-American psychotherapist, writer (b. Nathan Blumenthal)
The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (1994)
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Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed. If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination.

Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) American lawyer, politician, US President (1925-29)
“Speech on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence” (5 Jul 1926)
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America’s greatest enemy is not from without, but from within, and that enemy is hate: hatred of races, peoples, classes and religions. If America ever dies, it will be not through conquest but suicide.

Fulton Sheen (1895-1979) American Catholic archbishop, preacher, televangelist
Preface to Religion (1946)
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It is the wretchedness of being rich that you have to live with rich people.

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946) American-English essayist, editor, anthologist
Afterthoughts, ch. 4 (1931)
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Never trust a country where the rich live behind high walls and tinted windows. That is a place that is not prospering as one country. That is a place where the rich not only say, “I don’t want you to see how I live,” but “I don’t want to see how you live.”

Thomas Friedman (b. 1953) American journalist, columnist, author
“Tinted Windows,” New York Times (23 Jun 1997)
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A new church […] a church which will declare that the difference in the death rate between the classes and the masses is evidence of murder done for money.

Henry Demarest Lloyd
Henry Demarest Lloyd (1847-1903) American political activist and journalist
Man, the Social Creator, ch. 5 (1906)
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Indeed, I know of no country where the love of money occupies as great a place in the hearts of men, or where people are more deeply contemptuous of the theory of permanent equality of wealth.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) French writer, diplomat, politician
Democracy in America, Vol. 1, pt. 1, ch. 3 (1835) [tr. Goldhammer]
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The insolence of wealth will creep out.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (18 Apr 1778)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
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It seems to me that the distinctions separating the social classes are false; in the last analysis they rest on force.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“What I Believe,” Forum and Century (Oct 1930)
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This phrase is not found in the parallel "The World As I See It [Mein Weltbild]" the next year.
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The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
Letter to Mary Gladstone (24 Mar 1881)
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To suppose, as we all suppose, that we could be rich and not behave as the rich behave, is like supposing that we could drink all day and keep absolutely sober

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946) American-English essayist, editor, anthologist
Afterthoughts, “In the World” (1931)
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There is far too much law for those who can afford it and far too little for those who cannot.

Derek Bok (b. 1930) American lawyer, educator
Report to Harvard Board of Overseers (21 Apr 1983)
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Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.

Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) British Prime Minister (1979-90), research chemist, barrister, politician
(Misattributed)

Often attributed to Thatcher, but first coined by Jesse Carr, American labor leader, Newsweek (27 Sep 1976).
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O, when degree is shaked,
Which is the ladder of all high designs,
The enterprise is sick. How could communities,
Degrees in schools and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogeneity and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, scepters, laurels,
But by degree stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And hark what discord follows.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Troilus and Cressida, Act 1, sc. 3, l. 105ff [Ulysses] (1602)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 30-Jun-22
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