(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘upper class

“What is the matter with the poor is Poverty; what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness.”*…

Studying the display of personal wealth across time can help us better understand the history of socioeconomic inequality. Tim Brinkhof explains…

To ask what it was like to be rich in the past is about more than comparing the lifestyles of modern-day billionaires like Elon Musk to Mansa Musa or Marcus Licinius Crassus. When you study the history personal wealth, you are also learning about the history of income inequality, and the economic developments that allowed these upper-class individuals to build their private fortunes.

According to the historian Peter V. Turchin, who relies on mathematical modeling to make sense of the societies past and present, those developments turn out to be cyclical rather than linear, with patterns in the global financial system repeating themselves across centuries. In other words, Musa and Musk may have more in common than you’d think…

A fascinating account: “Here’s what being filthy rich in Europe looked like in 1000 BC, 1 AD, and 1000 AD,” in @bigthink.

* George Bernard Shaw


As we contemplate how the other half lives, we might spare a thought for a chronicler of upper class, Henry James; he died on this date in 1916. Considered by many to be among the greatest novelists in the English language, he was a successful purveyor of ghost stores (most notably, his novella The Turn of the Screw); but he best known for his novels dealing with the social and marital interplay between upper class emigre Americans, the English, and continental Europeans– e.g., The Portrait of a LadyThe Ambassadors, and The Wings of the Dove

His later works were increasingly experimental. In describing the internal states of mind and social dynamics of his characters, James often wrote in a style in which ambiguous or contradictory motives and impressions were overlaid or juxtaposed in the discussion of a character’s psyche. (Perhaps not coincidentally, his brother was psychologist and philosopher William James.) For their unique ambiguity and other aspects of their composition, his late works have been compared to impressionist painting– and he is considered by many a key transitional figure between literary realism and literary modernism.

John Singer Sargent’s portrait of James, 1913 (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 28, 2023 at 1:00 am

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