Sunday, February 26, 2006
Class-based definitions of freedom and choice.
Here's something for my friends who wring their hands about, say, Unitarian Universalism's middle-classness: "As behavioral scientists, we have found that the people who frame freedom in terms of choice are usually the ones who get to make a lot of choices — that is, middle- and upper-class white Americans." Focusing on a four-year college degree as the marker for belonging to the middle class, three contributors to the New York Times Magazine find that Americans who do not have a college degree — most Americans, in fact — identify freedom with being left alone, not with personal choice.
And what a fascinating series of studies they offer as evidence. My favorite:
Another study that compared people in different occupations showed that those employed in middle-class jobs got upset when a friend or neighbor bought the same car as theirs because they felt that the uniqueness of their choice had been undercut. But those in working-class jobs liked it when others chose the same car because it affirmed that they had made a good choice.
Also intriguing: a comparison between rock music's "do what I want" vibe and country music's tragic notion of choice, as in "Now I'm living and dying with the choices I've made."
A not very difficult thought experiment: Apply this article to Unitarian Universalism's DIY-approach to theology, ethics, and religious observance, and tell me whether you notice a class bias in what you find.
("Is Freedom Just Another Word for Many Things to Buy?," Barry Schwartz, Hazel Rose Markus and Alana Conner Snibbe, New York Times Magazine 2.26.06, reg req'd)
Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 26 February 2006 at 5:13 PM