Sloanes, gentry and the ‘problem’ of the super-rich

By Daniel Smith 

 Elites are firmly on the agenda for British sociology. With a special issue of Discover Society dedicated to the super-wealthy and another special issue of BJS dedicated to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, dramatic inequality fuelled by staggering wealth is the central issue and social problem of the day. Yet this ‘elite’ are problematic, difficult to name, internally fractured and culturally heterogeneous. Continue reading

BBC Two’s Posh People? Tatler and other cultural intermediaries

By Daniel Smith

BBC Two have a new series covering the everyday realities of the high-society magazine, Tatler, the periodical which dates back to the 18th century and so chronicles the goings-ons of British ‘upper class’ life. The series is entitled Posh People: Inside Tatler. For some critics, notably Hadley Freeman of The Guardian, the whole idea of the series is tedious; the whole obsession with social class, especially dramatic polarisations of class in British society, is itself an aberration – not the people included in the documentary. Continue reading

The fetishisation of nobility in names

Daniel R. Smith

When setting up this blog, I posted the famous words of Max Weber from ‘Science as a Vocation’, ‘ideas come when they please, not when they please us’. I did this as a sort of encouragement to write when even the strangest ideas please themselves. This post is a case in point.

Walking home yesterday evening, I was listening to the Harry Potter audiobook of The Deathly Hallows. As ever Hermione was explaining something to Ron and Harry. She told them that the Perverell brother’s – those who became the legend for origin of the deathly hallows (elder wand, resurrection stone, cloak of invisibility) – lineage had been ‘dead in the male line for centuries’. “What does that mean?” asked Ron, to which she said obligingly if a little coldly, “It means the name died out years ago.”

Hermione knows something about names being different to lineages and descent groups. Continue reading