Wagemark Resources and News

Poor doors and the end of middlebrow

It appears that, in an age of inequality, even inclusionary zoning is fair game for Dickensian snags.

Last week, a New York luxury condominium developer won approval to install a second, back-facing door for its rent-control tenants in addition to the main, street-side entrance its market-rate residents would enjoy. As the comedian Stephen Colbert’s Comedy Central alter ego aptly put it this Monday: “Now, poor doors are just the latest in a trend that helps us haves not have to see the have-nots.”

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Friends of Wagemark, The Equality Trust, have updated their website to include new figures on the state of inequality in the UK. With this revised data, the organization has included a helpful breakdown of the metrics by which inequality is assessed and explanations of how inequality has changed over the course of the past century. It can be accessed here.

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Finally, the New York Times’ A.O. Scott wonders whether today’s much-discussed squeeze on the middle class might soon ring the death knell of the middlebrow—that is, that occasionally derided but ultimately ambitious streak in popular culture which has more or less defined American taste since the Second World War.

Scott writes:

It is hard to look back at the middlebrow era without being dazzled by its scale, complexity and size, and without also, perhaps, feeling a stab of nostalgia. More does not always mean better, but the years after World War II were a grand era of more. In Pikettian terms, the rate of growth exceeded the rate of return on capital, and the result was a culture as well as a society that became less stratified and more egalitarian.

The implication here is that with increased stratification, a society risks smothering the dissemination of ideas across social spheres and, in turn, stifling cultural production. To paraphrase Scott, this bodes poorly for the creation of future masterpieces.

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