Popular Posts

Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Classic Crime Novels and Cultural Distinction

I'm a great fan of Edmund Crispin and have just finished Buried for Pleasure, which though not one of his greats (I think The Moving Toyshop is his masterpiece) is still very entertaining. Towards the end is a piece of dialogue that should be of interest to sociologists. 

The scene is that Lord Sanford, who is a bit of a socialist,  has just received the news that he has got an Oxford 1st. He is with Diana, a lady friend, down by the lake in his grounds. His butler Houghton (get the joke?) approaches bearing a visiting card on a silver salver:

'And you know, Houghton,' he added, 'there's no need, when you bring a thing like this , to put it on a salver. That's only a relic of the days when the upper classes considered that things were soiled by servants touching them...There's a most interesting book' - Lord Sanford eyed his butler dubiously - 'which tells you all about things like that.'
'Would you by any chance be referring to Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class, my Lord?'
Lord Sanford was somewhat taken aback. 'Well, yes, as a matter of fact I was. Have you read it?'
'Yes my lord. And if I might venture the remark...'
Houghton paused for the requisite permission.
'Of course, Houghton. This is a free country.'
'I had not recently observed that, my lord....But about Veblen's book, what I was going to say was that its assertions, though plausible, are wholly unproved. And in my opinion, the same author's The Engineers and the Price System is a very much more illuminating work.'
'Ah,' said Lord Sanford unhappily. It was evident that he was not acquainted with this essay; he stared, embarrassed, at the visiting-card....

'And Houghton, I've told you before that there's no need to address me as "my lord".'
'No, my lord.'
'If there are to be distinctions in society, they should be based on achievement and not on birth.'
Momentarily forgetting himself, Houghton made a low, longing, inflected sound, which Diana interpreted as 'lotofbloodynonsense'. Then recovering, 'Quite so, my lord,' he observed, bowed obsequiously and departed. Lord Sanford gazed after him in despair.

More insight into the workings of class and status than in 600 pages of Bourdieu?

No comments: