Econocentric

I coined a term today that I think I will find lots of uses for in the future. So I figured I would formally define it here:

e·con·o·cen·tric     adjective     \ˌe-con-ō-ˈsen-trik\

  1. a tendency to view other economic classes from the perspective of one’s own.
  2. characterized by or based on the attitude that one’s own economic class is superior.

The econocentric biases of mainstream reporters allows them to think that their reporting is objective.

e·con·o·cen·tric·i·ty     noun
e·con·o·cen·trism     noun

0 thoughts on “Econocentric

  1. This is stone brilliant. Please use it again, and again, and maybe someday it will become part of the lexicon. It deserves to be.

    I was riding the bus home tonight and thinking precisely how my "econocentrism" has changed over the years. I had no concept of class status as a public-housing kid until I got a scholarship to a swank Oregon high school. I didn’t internalize all its values (assholes were assholes, even if they were the richest kids), but I internalized quite a few.

    A major one was that life is better, more worth living, if you associate yourself with the proper people. They don’t have to be stinking rich, but they should be witty, charming — they should certainly not be the sort that wants to talk about hardships.

    As my life decisions moved me further from the world of witty, charming, hardship-free people, I began to see the poor as a commentary on my own failure. Just being around them meant I’d screwed the pooch; quality people don’t have to deal with unpleasant trash like that.

    This was reinforced by my fellow rich-school alumni. Of course, a few years after graduation, I only associated with my fellow losers (the winners were, as soon as five years after graduation, unattainably far above us even though we knew their phone numbers and their parents and where they lived and worked.) One-by-one, the losers I knew straightened their lives out, got the appropriate degrees and internships, anything rather than bear the shame of squandering that golden ticket.

    Well, mine was squandered. And while I’m poor today, 20 years of political education makes me quite glad I never got the appropriate degrees and internships — that is a "yuck" world, and I’d rather not be part of it. (Wouldn’t mind the money, but, otherwise, yuck.)

    Today I watch poor people on the bus and I see stories. A woman is trying to accomplish this, a man is trying to deal with that. Some are stories where I root for the characters, some are stories where I want them to fail, like Shakespearean villains. They’re all people, no more or less interesting than anyone else just because they happen to be poor.

    When I felt ashamed of my economic status, when I surrounded myself with people who felt ashamed of theirs (oh, we all had big plans to get back in the game), I saw the poor as nothing. As an oil stain on my clothing. And if you go to the right kind of institutions, this is exactly how you’re trained to look at anyone below your social class level.

    Ridiculous? Sure. But it’s what I felt, and, more interestingly, what every other poor-background friend or relative I had felt. It wasn’t until I left them all behind and moved far away that I met people who respected teachers and caregivers and social workers more than the rich. It took me many years to realize that my new associates weren’t faking; it really IS possible for people to value others on moral grounds rather than elitist ones.

    I imagine that as a former libertarian and anthropologist immersed in drug culture, you can see signs and signals unique to those worlds which outsiders cannot. I can see the happiness with which people granted access to the privileged world, people who weren’t born to it, exude constantly. It’s a happiness born of fear that losing that golden ticket will diminish their lives beyond repair (and this is certifiably not true.) I hear it in the voices of people waiting in line for swank restaurants, people talking on their smartphones, newspaper interviews with insecure self-made successes.

    What’s most ridiculous about this is that the world of the rich is not a particularly stimulating one. They are quite well-groomed and accordingly sexy, but they are not especially bright or pleasant to be around (no more than anyone else, and, I’d submit, less so than politically interesting teachers or social workers.) They are fairly immune to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and when you’ve lived your life in fear of bad luck, that comparative immunity can seem magical, like it did to my Saint Paul’s own, talented, immeasurably shallow F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    Anyhoo (I could go on, and am tempted to, but I won’t), keep using "econocentric." I think it’s an outstanding new word. It’s extremely precise, and has almost innumerable connotations at the same time. Well done.

  2. econocentrism not a new concept. a good one to be aware of and to purvey but… oh just check out the writings of Alvin Toffler. ("Future Shock" i first read the term in a compilation edited by toffler called "the futurists")

  3. @JMF – I think a bigger issue is the disintegration of community. It is not possible to have a community of 7 billion. It creates winner-take-all markets and even aside from the bad economic effects of this, it destroys social cohesion and provides people with little chance to find meaningful places for themselves.

    @Alex – Indeed. Even the word is not new, but it is used quite differently in the economics profession. I’ve read [i]Future Shock[/i], but it isn’t so much what I’m talking about. I’ve coined the term explicitly to describe the problem of getting our information from the journalistic elites who without exception are in the upper class. Conservatives are half right: the mainstream media does have a liberal bias on [i]social[/i] issues. It isn’t a big bias, but it is definitely there. On economic issues, the mainstream media has an enormous bias on economic issues, but because of their econocentrism, they aren’t aware of it. They think their highly biased beliefs in "free" trade agreements are neutral. And so on.

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