Redneck neighbor

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There is a proverb which says that “birds of a feather flock together”. For quite a long time people chose their target social group according to the level of intellectual development of its members, but today, as John Seabrook argue in Nobrow: The Marketing of Culture and the Culture of Marketing, the world we live in no longer easily fits into intellectual classes, instead it now fits into consumption communities.

The author of the website about the redneck neighbor is, presumably a typical representative of the American upper-middle class, as he owes a house in the “brand new neighborhood with new houses”. When this man moved in his brand new house n a brand new neighborhood he was expecting to find that his neighbors will belong to the same social group as he does, the Fussell’s “category X people,” their unity to be based not on material consumption but on a shared taste for the better life.

When his neighbor began to do the unusual for most of his surroundings things, those, who owed the houses near his, eliminated him from their group and the process of stigmatization took place. They called him “the redneck neighbor”. The world redneck stigmatizes the notorious neighbor as a person who is of lower cultural level than the other people in that neighborhood.

The fact that the stigmatization occurred because of the differences in behavior and social norms confirms Fussell’s hypothesis about the shared taste for the better life the “category X people” have.

Even though the belonging to the defined social group is measured by the level of income, the phenomena Veblen wrote about takes place in this clause. Veblen’s words were that: “As wealth accumulates, the leisure class develops further in function and structure, and there arises a differentiation within the class. There is a more less elaborate system of ranks and grades”. The “redneck neighbors” without doubt belongs to the same social class as his neighbors do, as he owes a house in their neighborhood, drives “VERY nice new cars” etc. But, as his behavior differs much from the one they expect from the member of their class, he is, using Veblen’s terminology, standing on the lower rank within his class.

The “redneck neighbor”, JD8, is breaking all the possible rules and norms, both social and legitimized. He builds the additional buildings in his yard he is not allowed to built, keeps the birds and animals that aren’t intended to be kept in the city area. He also disturbs his neighbors with loud music and noise, entrenching their rights for the healthy sleep and rest. Hi building attempts disfigure the sight of the neighborhood and empoison the life of his neighbors.

After reading the through the website the conclusion can be made that the author is not even upset or displeased about the sight from his windows or the loud music in the middle of night. The most prominent emotion he experiences and expresses is astonishment and indignation on the fact that the neighbor allows himself to break the existing norms and not be ashamed or feel guilty about it. Those norms and rules are deeply inserted in the mind of every representative of his social group, and their ignorance calls the storm of negative emotions from the side of those who are taught from the early childhood to follow them closely.

The author’s neighbor, JD8, is not trying intentionally to provoke others with his behavior. It is quite possible that he has increased his social status recently, and than the social level of his parents’ family was much lower than the one he has now. Thus this kid was raised in a family of the other social class, maybe even in the country, where the behavior he is demonstrating, is considered to be appropriate.

The author writes that the JD8 and his friends were surprised when he came to his neighbor’s house for to ask him to shut the music, they were astonished when finally the police arrived, and they apologized for all the inconveniences they caused. As the JD8 has a job that allows him to drive nice new cars and buy a new house in the new neighborhood it is obvious that he is actualized in the society, thus he doesn’t need to provoke his neighbors.

One more explanation of the behavior of the “redneck neighbor” and other people from his neighbor hood exists which is that, as Veblen noted: ” in order to avoid stultification he must also cultivate his tastes, for it now becomes incumbent on him to discriminate with some nicety between the noble and the ignoble [undistinguished] in consumer goods”.

In order to prove themselves and their surrounding that they actually belong to their targeted social group, the dwellers of this neighborhood had to find the one that doesn’t belong there for sure regardless of the high income, to prove themselves that the group identification demands not only the brand markers and attributes, but also a certain level of cultural development and following a certain code of the defined social norms appropriate for the members of this social group.

We can also presume that the behavior of JD8 is partly called by the phenomena of the secondary stigmatization, when the person begins to behave himself or herself according to the stigmatizing labels the surrounding put on him/her. The notorious neighbor should have noted for sure that after some of his actions the other dwellers of his neighborhood began to treat him somehow different, showing him that he is not accepted into their special “club”. When he understood that he is laughed at and that his neighbors don’t consider him to be equal to them he may have decided he would do their life as uncomfortable as possible, in order to take the change out of them.

The problem with the JD8’s behavior may also lie in his early years. It sometimes happens when the parents love their kid “too much”, the child is used to getting anything he/she wants to get, and he/she is allowed to do anything he/she wants to do, despite of the convenience of the other people and the parents themselves. Such kids usually grow up egocentric, they do not care about the feelings of the others, but not because they don’t like the people that surround them, it is that they often aren’t’ able to get the idea that those who live around them are capable of having any feelings at all, and that their actions may cause inconvenience or affliction for someone else. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the JD8 was surprised that the loud music greeting from the windows of his house in the middle of night cam cause any inconvenience to the people who possess the houses near the place he dwells in.

The chronicle represented on the researched website displays the process of developing an elaborate system of ranks and grades in the given neighborhood. By stigmatizing the chosen person as “redneck” the other dwellers of this neighborhood develop the feeling of group identity and solidarity.

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  1. Veblen, T. Conspicuous Consumption. The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions. New York: Macmillan, 1902, pp. 68-101.
  2. Seabrook, J. NoBrow : The Culture of Marketing – the Marketing of Culture. Knopf, 2000
  3. Fussell, p. Class : A Guide Through the American Status System. Touchstone, 1992
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