Anu Kantola, Jules Naudet and Bruno Cousin: How the wealthy feel and think about the rest

Klasse- og eliteseminaret har denne gang invitert Anu Kantola (Universitet i Helsinki – Finland), Bruno Cousin (Sciences Po, CEE – Frankrike) and Jules Naudet (CNRS, CEIAS – Frankrike). Gjennom to presentasjoner, får vi lære mer om hva overklassen føler og tenker om de øvrige samfunnslag.

Når: Onsdag 20. januar, kl. 08.15-10.00
Hvor: Zoom

Anu Kantola: The politics of upper-class feelings: How the wealthy feel about the rest

Growing inequalities have prompted research on the beliefs, ideas and ideologies of the upper classes. Yet, upper classes sustain also emotional styles and practices that support their identities and relationships with the rest of the society. Emotions help to shape and maintain social classes and the relations between them. Thus, drawing from qualitative work among the upper classes in Finland, I explore how do the wealthiest classes feel about the rest of the society and suggest that a focus on emotional expression—how the members of the upper classes feel about themselves and the rest of society—is a way to examine the changing class relations in society. In this study I compare two groups: the wealthy belonging to the richest 0.1% in Finland and the upper middle class belonging to the wealthiest 10% in Finland and living in the well-off neighborhoods in Helsinki and Espoo. By comparing the deep stories —the emotionally laden self-justifications suggesting how they feel about other classes— of these two groups, I show how the wealthiest 0.1% develop a gloomy elite style of societal pessimism, while the wealthiest 10% often sustain a more upbeat style of societal optimism, reflecting the egalitarian spirit of society. These differences demonstrate how attention to felt experience can be used to understand the complexity of social and political dynamics in the age of growing disparities.


Bruno Cousin & Jules Naudet: Upper-class neighborhoods and stigmatization of the poor in Paris, São Paulo and Delhi

How do the inhabitants of the most privileged neighborhoods of big metropolises see the urban poor? How do they distance themselves (both physically and symbolically) from them? To answer these questions, our paper will be drawing on 240 in-depth interviews conducted between 2012 and 2014 with upper-class and upper-middle-class residents of the most socially selective areas of Paris, São Paulo and New Delhi (both in the inner-cities and in the suburbs); and builds upon the first comprehensive analysis of this empirical material presented in the 2017 book Ce que les riches pensent des pauvres.

The comparative analysis of the upper-classes’ representations of the poor – through frames, symbolic boundaries, logics of distinction and evaluation, narratives, etc. – reveals a complex meaning-making process of alterization and stigmatization of the poor that draws upon three main dimensions.

First, upper-class families living in exclusive neighborhoods value the preservation and optimization of the local moral order and the advantageous structure of opportunity produced by homophily and social aggregation.

Second, they often consider the poor as an effective or potential threat, in terms of violence and/or hygiene, which motivates and justifies in their eyes an attitude of repulsion, and strategies of avoidance and protection towards them.

Third, our interviewees deploy substantial efforts at justifying the reasons why the poor are poor: opting for ideological repertoires that naturalize poverty or blame the poor, alternating both kinds of sociodicy, or combining them.

If these three dimensions invariably structure the discourses collected in all the metropolises and the neighborhoods we studied, their recurrence, variation, articulation and systematicity vary from one case to another. In our talk, we will explain how and argue that these dimensions are essential to analyze the (apparent) idiosyncrasies of each of the three metropolises we studied.