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Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence de…
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Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence (edició 2017)

de Rachel Sherman (Autor)

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634321,734 (3.61)No n'hi ha cap
A surprising and revealing look at how today's elite view their own wealth and place in society From TV's "real housewives" to The Wolf of Wall Street, our popular culture portrays the wealthy as materialistic and entitled. But what do we really know about those who live on "easy street"? In this penetrating book, Rachel Sherman draws on rare in-depth interviews that she conducted with fifty affluent New Yorkers--including hedge fund financiers and corporate lawyers, professors and artists, and stay-at-home mothers--to examine their lifestyle choices and their understanding of privilege. Sherman upends images of wealthy people as invested only in accruing and displaying social advantages for themselves and their children. Instead, these liberal elites, who believe in diversity and meritocracy, feel conflicted about their position in a highly unequal society. They wish to be "normal," describing their consumption as reasonable and basic and comparing themselves to those who have more than they do rather than those with less. These New Yorkers also want to see themselves as hard workers who give back and raise children with good values, and they avoid talking about money. Although their experiences differ depending on a range of factors, including whether their wealth was earned or inherited, these elites generally depict themselves as productive and prudent, and therefore morally worthy, while the undeserving rich are lazy, ostentatious, and snobbish. Sherman argues that this ethical distinction between "good" and "bad" wealthy people characterizes American culture more broadly, and that it perpetuates rather than challenges economic inequality. As the distance between rich and poor widens, Uneasy Street not only explores the real lives of those at the top but also sheds light on how extreme inequality comes to seem ordinary and acceptable to the rest of us.… (més)

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Es mostren totes 4
I guess reading about rich folks anxieties does not make me feel better about the massive amount of income inequality that exists in the United States. Reading about mostly straight (there were like two token gay couples in the mix) people with kids who live in New York City's anxieties? Ugh.

(Related: I was not thrilled that the author stated: "I also decided to look for people in their thirties and forties who had children, as I believed that such people would be especially likely to be making important lifestyle decisions such as buying homes and choosing schools." I mean, do people without kids leave selfish lives of reckless abandon? Do people without children make unimportant decisions? Are our lives really that trivial? Do we not matter?)

I mean, the book was exactly about what it said it was going to be about. And the conclusion does have a little bit of hand-wringing about how these wealthy people are maintaining the system of inequality that exists without looking at mechanisms to help dismantle it. And I did appreciate the insights that the book did offer (upward-looking, downward-looking, etc).... I guess I'm just left with a sour taste in my mouth after reading about people with such privilege who feel OK with how things are because at least they're aware of their wealth and feel bad about it. ( )
  lemontwist | Feb 23, 2021 |
Totally fascinating and important
  HeatherWhitney | Apr 25, 2019 |
I found out about this book both through an article in the Guardian and from an organization named Resource Generation. It's an ethnographic study of young progressive wealthy New Yorker's.

The subjects of her study find themselves in a paradox. On the one hand, they’re socially progressive, and aware of the ills of wealth inequality. On the other hand, they’re beneficiaries of this inequity, and don’t feel empowered to do anything about it. This leaves them feeling conflicted about having access to financial capital. Instead of the gaudy displays some associate with the rich, this class wants to stay out of the limelight and instead appear as “middle class,” even though they are technically part of the 1%.

Some might find Sherman’s text tedious at times. She goes into great detail to describe a variety of aspects of these people’s lives: their home renovations, their children’s lives, their perspectives on morality. I found it fascinating. I too am distraught by the lack of transparency surrounding class in American culture, and share Sherman’s concerns that “class blindness” contributes to inequity rather than alleviating the problem.

Many of the subjects in her interviews feel as though there are “good” rich people and “bad” rich people. They can be “deserving” by being hardworking and respectful of others, or they can be “undeserving” by being lazy or opulent. What’s interesting about this analysis is that the underlying assumption doesn’t challenge the ethics of inequality. Instead, it qualifies inequality, assuming that some people simple deserve to be at the top of the ladders while most others are at the bottom.

Not only this, but many feel they must prove their worth by working hard. There’s an implicit assumption that the injury and sacrifice sustained through hard work builds up some kind of social debt that justifies their wealth, almost like insurance. And yet this worldview is easily dispelled by looking at working-class individuals who regularly work two or three jobs just to buy enough to eat.

As Charles Eisenstein would say, these kinds of comparisons—both to others and to abstract principles—are generally unhealthy and unproductive. They result in either self-doubt or self-righteousness, neither of which are useful.

A topic not even touched upon in this book is the concept of the negative externalities caused by letting their money continue to be held in yielding vehicles. Someone might be hesitant to buy a Ferrari because they’re concerned about the conspicuous consumption. And yet they might simultaneously hold hundreds of thousands of dollars of fossil fuel stocks, which cause magnitudes more emissions and damage (albeit, out of sight of the investor), than the car would.

The book mentions universal healthcare in passing. Many interviewees say they'd be willing to let go of their last $1 million if they knew they would be taken care of in the case of a medical emergency, but as that's not the case, they want to hang onto this money as insurance of sorts. Ironically, if all of these wealth holders put this money into universal healthcare, it would be more than enough to fully fund such a program. So their fears of scarcity of coverage actually bring about such a reality.

I’m reminded of an article in “Current Affairs” that suggests that being rich is unethical. Respondents in the book would counter, “but what can I do about this?” Well, if they were serious about this question, they could give away their wealth to radical causes that further systems change. You might think that no one actually goes this far, but I have friends that give away all of their financial wealth while supporting themselves with a poverty line income. I wouldn’t go too far in idolizing this lifestyle, as poverty-line jobs are the inverse component of an extractive economy. But, as a wealthy person, it’s good to remember that you are not your money, and life and meaning could go on (or vastly improve) even if you lost or gave away your wealth. Many respondents in the book actually said they didn’t fear losing their wealth, or almost wished that it would happen. And yet none of them pro-actively brought such a shift about.

I found myself both feeling more empathetic for people in positions of extreme privilege, and feeling as though I now have a more nuanced view on exactly why financial obscurity and a morality of hard work are damaging. ( )
  willszal | Oct 20, 2017 |
Sherman interviewed a number of wealthy New Yorkers about how they thought about the getting and spending of money. Many were politically liberal, some conservative (at least when it came to taxes), but they all wanted to avoid being seen as “entitled.” Proper attitudes towards money required respect for hard work, avoiding being a showoff (which meant that you didn’t brag about the second home in the Hamptons, not that you didn’t have it), and an attitude of gratitude for the opportunities one had been afforded, whether through inheritance or otherwise. Many of them didn’t like the language of desert, though they also thought they (or someone to whom they were connected) had earned the money. Sherman seems a bit ideologically confused herself; she concludes that these attitudes largely suppress discussion of inequality and make it easier to ignore the ways in which other people work as hard/harder for less, but her big point is that inequality is structural. If all her interviewees gave away all their money, the structures wouldn’t change—though query if the same could be said if they used their money for political donations (they still wouldn’t be able to match the Kochs, though). I also really wonder whether she’d find the same ways of thinking/talking about money among rich people in, say, Oklahoma City—both in terms of what she calls “downward-oriented” people (usually liberal, hyperaware of what they have that others don’t) and “upward-oriented” people (the ones who say they’re not that rich, really, because they still fly first class most of the time, more likely to be conservative). ( )
  rivkat | Oct 11, 2017 |
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Wikipedia en anglès

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A surprising and revealing look at how today's elite view their own wealth and place in society From TV's "real housewives" to The Wolf of Wall Street, our popular culture portrays the wealthy as materialistic and entitled. But what do we really know about those who live on "easy street"? In this penetrating book, Rachel Sherman draws on rare in-depth interviews that she conducted with fifty affluent New Yorkers--including hedge fund financiers and corporate lawyers, professors and artists, and stay-at-home mothers--to examine their lifestyle choices and their understanding of privilege. Sherman upends images of wealthy people as invested only in accruing and displaying social advantages for themselves and their children. Instead, these liberal elites, who believe in diversity and meritocracy, feel conflicted about their position in a highly unequal society. They wish to be "normal," describing their consumption as reasonable and basic and comparing themselves to those who have more than they do rather than those with less. These New Yorkers also want to see themselves as hard workers who give back and raise children with good values, and they avoid talking about money. Although their experiences differ depending on a range of factors, including whether their wealth was earned or inherited, these elites generally depict themselves as productive and prudent, and therefore morally worthy, while the undeserving rich are lazy, ostentatious, and snobbish. Sherman argues that this ethical distinction between "good" and "bad" wealthy people characterizes American culture more broadly, and that it perpetuates rather than challenges economic inequality. As the distance between rich and poor widens, Uneasy Street not only explores the real lives of those at the top but also sheds light on how extreme inequality comes to seem ordinary and acceptable to the rest of us.

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