Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412939584 | Print ISBN: 9780761930877 | Online ISBN: 9781412939584| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
David B. Bills
Americans hold ambivalent feelings about social class. On the one hand, the large and in recent decades growing disparities of material well-being cannot be denied. Poverty in the United States has always existed alongside the nearly unimaginable wealth of a more fortunate few. On the other hand, extreme inequality has never prevented a long tradition of Americans from seeing their society as a classless one, and as demonstrably unlike the aristocracies and inheritance of privilege that many believe characterizes the rest of the world. Resolving the apparent conflict between great material inequality and the denial of the existence of social class has historically drawn on the myth of The American Dream. That is, for many Americans, the prospect of upward social and economic mobility is enough to negate the existence of class as a binding and limiting social reality. In American culture, as long a class is not hereditary, its ...