the culture of the ‘working rich’

Following on from my previous post, I’m really interested in how this trend shapes how contemporary elites seek to make sense of their actions and circumstances in moral terms. From Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich pg 44:

Forbes classifies 840 of the 1,226 people on its 2012 billionaire ranking as self- made. It’s true that few of today’s plutocrats were born into the sort of abject poverty that can close off opportunity altogether— a strong early education is pretty much a precondition, and it is very useful to have a father who is an affluent professional— but the bulk of their wealth is generally the fruit of hustle, intelligence, and a lot of luck. In a study of the Forbes 400 list of the four hundred richest Americans , economists Steven Kaplan and Joshua Rauh found that over the past three decades, the plutocracy has become more meritocratic: In 1982, 40 percent of the Forbes 400 were the first generation in their family to run their own businesses. By 2011, that figure had risen to 69 percent.

As the author goes on to argue on pg 45:

Being self- made is central to the self- image of today’s global plutocrats. It is how they justify their luxuries, status, and influence. One way to eavesdrop on the way plutocrats talk to each other is to read the glossy limited- edition magazines written just for them. An example is the rather unimaginatively titled Luxos , which calls itself “Your local guide to global luxury” and can be found in the rooms of very fancy European hotels. One recent issue included an interview with Torsten Müller- Ötvös, the CEO of Rolls- Royce. Here is what he had to say about his buyers: “ We have witnessed substantial changes over the last years. The Rolls- Royce generation of today has become much younger. Our youngest Rolls- Royce customer for example is a twenty- eight- year- old entrepreneur from India. We find that many of our customers have earned their success through their own work, and they want to reward themselves with a Rolls- Royce.”

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