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The Economic OtherInequality in the American Political Imagination$
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Meghan Condon and Amber Wichowsky

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226691732

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226691909.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

The Advantaged Other

The Advantaged Other

(p.67) Chapter 5 The Advantaged Other
The Economic Other

Meghan Condon

Amber Wichowsky

University of Chicago Press

This chapter investigates what Americans think about when they imagine the rich. Drawing on public opinion surveys and qualitative data from open-ended responses to an experimental prompt in which subjects are asked to compare up with the wealthy elite, the authors show that Americans are deeply ambivalent about those at the top of the socioeconomic hierarchy. No one image dominates Americans’ political imaginations: some think about government bureaucrats; others focus on greedy CEOs. Upward social comparison sparks a wide range of emotional reactions. While some direct clear anger and resentment at the wealthy elite, others admire those at the top and seek their approval; many express feelings of anxiety, inferiority, and voicelessness. These findings illustrate the seeds of social protest among some Americans, but also suggest that upward social comparison may produce political quiescence.

Keywords:   qualitative data, public opinion, wealthy, elite, upward comparison, social comparison, anger, resentment, anxiety, inferiority

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