Is "Old Money" the same as 'upper class'? I thought money doesn't = class

Ok, a very often heard phrase is ‘old money’, (although my sense is that the ‘no money’ people are the only ones who use it), but according to my magical sources in the English class system, (citeless stuff I vaguely heard)** money does not equal class. **

BUT, if not, why does it matter if there is old money?

*Nouveau Riche *is considered vulgar, but why is Ancien Riche classed? Is class money or not? Why would holding onto money long enough make one classed? If a welfare queen wins the powerball lottery, and somehow her grandchildren still have some of the money, why do I somehow think they will not be granted an audience with [some kind of royal head of state?] Isn’t class culture?

I don’t get it

Class, strictly speaking, is not money. But they’re so closely linked that it’s absurd to not associate them. (People do try, though. Paul Fussell, in his very odd book Class makes this claim, but it’s not at all convincing.) If you think they aren’t, try convincing Old Money people that you’re part of their social network without any.

I don’t believe the class system in England works the same as the class system in the U.S. We never really had a heriditary aristocracy, thanks to the courage and intelligence of our Founding Fathers.

Social class is more complicated that simply having money. A lot of it is lifestyle and attitude.

Ideally you should have inherited your money, preferably in the form of broad landed acres. Going out and making your money is vulgar (although winning your money by random chance is even more vulgar). You will not really be accepted into upper class society, regardless of what titles or gongs you may have picked up along the way. Your children probably will be, when you are gone, and their children certainly will be.

You only have to look at the Beverly Hillbillies to find this out.

It was established early on the Mrs Drysdale came from the back bay society of Boston. She had the social class but not the money. She tells her son Sonny, that it was wrong of her to marry a common ordinary everyday millionaire but that she wanted to give Sonny the best.

So Mrs Drysdale has some money and was from society. In fact her family came over on the Mayflower.

In another episode it was established that while Mrs Drysdale’s family came over on the Mayflower, Jed’s family, the Clampetts, came over earlier.

Of course Jed being humble lies about his great gandfather so he won’t get the attention of being among the first families of America.

Class is culture. If you win the lottery you might have as much cash as someone who grew up wealthy, but you won’t know all the little ins and outs of upper-class culture. You’ll constantly make all sorts of little telling mistakes that mark you as an outsider. And it cuts both ways. If you grow up wealthy you’ll have a hard time knowing how to behave in a working class setting.

Eventually you can learn the etiquette and habits of another class, but it takes time. And you’ll probably never be fully fluent. It’s a lot like moving to a foreign country. First-generation immigrants rarely integrate fully with their adoptive culture. It’s their kids and grandkids that make the leap completely.

If class is culture, why is it so connected with money? Why “old money”? Couldn’t a dirt poor younger brother of the younger son of the Earl of Sandwitch emmigrate to the U.S., and then outclass the average Lexus-driving yuppie?

Also, is being descended from the *Mayflower *high class? It strikes me that is really means “I am descended from dissenters who did not have landed estates in England”, which to me is actually inferior to Anglo-Americans who came later but were Anglicans or of higher station.

You can say the US has a different class system, but that could also be like saying prison has a different class system, and the lifers are on top. So be it, but is that really class? Can we really just decide socially that because of Grade-school thanksgiving reenactments, the Mayflower is the equivalent of US nobility?

So once again, I don’t get it.

Because money segregates people. Rich people live in different neighborhoods, go to different schools, work at different jobs (if they work at all). It’s hard to pick up someone’s culture if you rarely interact with it.

What do you mean by “outclass”? The poor nobleman will certainly *act *differently than the yuppie, and those cultural differences may read as “high-class” to the yuppie. Or they may just seem foreign.

It can be used as code to mean “My family has been important here for a long time.” It has currency within certain segments of east-coast society. In other parts of the country, not so much.

You can only ‘outclass’ the Lexus driver if enough people agree that you do. In America, where you came from or who you descended from matters less than how successful you are, in the main.

From Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (originally published 1983), by Paul Fussell:

Or, put another way: I recall a flashback from Catch-22 where Nately’s mother tells him: “Remember, you are not a Vanderbilt, mucking about in railroads and shipping. You are not a Peabody, working with dirty coal mines. And you are certainly not an Astor, whose family I believe still rents rooms. You are a Nately, and the Natelys have never done anything for their money.”

Fine as to the post a few above this, that class is culture.

But then, what is culture?

(No wikipedia quotes on this one)

The conventions that people adopt when they live together in large groups.

People these days are largely judged on their personal behavior. Look at Brooke Astor, who married into a famous name but was an Army brat, I think. She built for herself an aura of Class by careful support of the fine arts and culture. It all came crashing down on her later when her early neglect of her son resulted in an elder abuse scandal once she became dependent, in turn, upon him. Class is the result of a lifetime of living high values and priorities, not an accumulation of purchases. It is “noblesse oblige.”

There are certainly examples of “Old Money” scions who are not considered to hold high social class. Paris Hilton is the epitome of Old Money without class. A lot, of course, stems from her mother, who has never been particularly tasteful. It’ also important to note the difference between “old” in American parlance and “old” to Europeans. For an American family to be considered old money it is only necessary to go back 100 years or so. In Europe I’d guess it’s more like 500.

Then there are “Old Families” which hold the “Class” while having lost the money. This is considered especially forgiveable if the loss occurred during the Great Depression.

I agree class is not about money, per se. Class in America is very much a product of education and culture, but a particular kind of education and culture. The Ivy league schools are at the top of the pyramid, but the bottom tier is the more important part for creating the class consciousness necessary to be a member. Where you graduated is not as crucial as where you started.

In Britain, it is the public schools. In the US, they are often called ‘country day’ schools. While most offer scholarships, the majority of their students aren’t, and tuition is not cheap, and a pile of money is not enough to guarantee admission. Students are only accepted through applications, and the interview process is focused more on the parents than the student. And there is distinct status based on how many generations have attended them. Figure at least two, if not three, before your family is considered one of them. And scholarships are reserved for those that have promise, and they also recognize too narrow a gene pool is not a good thing.

And if you think about it, it is not easy. Three or more generations of very few scandals, bankruptcies, or other ‘unseemly’ behavior. Many families do date back to the Mayflower, and we are approaching the 400th anniversary. So some of these families have managed to maintain wealth and status longer than many European houses.

If you want to see who the power brokers in your area are, see who is on the board of trustees for these schools. And check how many are legacies. And then note how many are also trustees for other institutions like hospitals, museums and symphonies. There are members of society, and then there are members of Society.

So while money is not the main criteria, it does take a significant amount to run in the proper circles. And much of the socializing is at ‘social’ events like charity fundraisers for the above institutions. And at weddings among their children.

Ironically, while there is strong social cohesiveness, their political beliefs are all over the spectrum.

And they all read the New Yorker. The snobs. :wink:

Let me guess. You’re from Connecticut.

Nope. :slight_smile: Seattle. I did not go to those schools, but know several people who did. (Seattle’s school of choice is Lakeside.)

Politically, I am a socialist. Culturally, I am a socialite. (Or rather minor functionary - I’ve worked with many non-profits and their board members. And I love going to the symphony. And reading the New Yorker.)

When I was younger, I had the ambition of becoming a true socialite but lacked the proper connections. [i.e. I’m not Episcopalian.] And my working class roots started showing. That and other personal issues will always prevent such. But they are good people to work with. They get things done.

FTR, socialites (which I think was actually a neologism of social elite) despise celebrities, and nothing is more gauche* than fallen socialites like Paris Hilton or the Kardashians. You will never, never see the “Real Housewifes of Westport” though. (If we do, the republic is doomed - DOOMED! And non-profit board meetings are actually pretty dull. They would have to spend a year to get an hour’s worth of footage.)

*Why is it that the ‘left’ side, the ‘sinister’ side, gets the reputation for ill-mannered, uncouth behavior? I mean, it’s true. But that is not a bad thing!

Are the Hiltons old money? I thought the hotel chain was built up by an entrepreneur and that was where their money came from.

Yeah, and the Marqués de la Real Defensa inherited his biggest title (not his oldest) and the largest amount of his posessions from a foreparent who loaned money to a King. Eventually, any old money comes from someone with either business acumen or a good eye for pillage.

The Hiltons, Rotschilds or Rockefellers are old money compared to people whose money is being built now or was built by their parents.

There are many different ways of grouping people into classes; there’s no general agreement on any single system. If someone uses the term “upper class”, and it’s not clear from context what they’re referring to, then you’ll have to ask them exactly what they mean by that.