20 March 2012

The Socially Superior

Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann, 1921, Excerpts

The social set is not a mere economic class, but something which more nearly resembles a biological clan. Each social set has a fairly clear picture of its relative position in the hierarchy of social sets. Between sets at the same level, association is easy, individuals are quickly accepted, and hospitality is normal and unembarrassed. But in contact between sets that are “higher” or “lower,” there is always a reciprocal hesitation, a faint malaise, and a consciousness of difference. The social superior is likely to be imitated by the social inferior; the holder of power is imitated by subordinates, the more successful by the less successful, the rich by the poor, the city by the country.

The highest social set consists of those who embody the leadership of the Great Society. In this Highest Society the big decisions of war and peace, of social strategy and the ultimate distribution of political power, are intimate experiences within a circle of personal acquaintances. The powerful, socially superior, successful, rich, urban social set is fundamentally international throughout the western hemisphere. It counts among its membership the most influential people in the world.

Photograph: Jimmy Sime, 1937

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