Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Economic OtherInequality in the American Political Imagination$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

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

Show Summary Details
Page of

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: 19 September 2021

Why Americans Don’t Look Up

Why Americans Don’t Look Up

(p.125) Chapter 8 Why Americans Don’t Look Up
The Economic Other

Meghan Condon

Amber Wichowsky

University of Chicago Press

What kinds of social comparisons are encouraged by an increasingly unequal America? This chapter explores how class segregation and media portrayals of wealth combine to push the American imagination away from contrast-focused upward social comparison with the wealthy elite. As inequality has grown over the last half century, so has economic residential segregation, insulating the majority of Americans from the sort of social experiences that make inequality feel real and meaningful. Exploring media portrayals of the elite, including celebrity culture and reality television, they show that increasingly, Americans’ opportunities for interaction with the rich are not social per se, but parasocial, conducted via imagined relationships and comparisons with celebrities through social and traditional media. Rather than offering opportunities for upward social contrast, these parasocial experiences are deliberately crafted to do the opposite: portraying the rich as morally or intellectually inferior, drawing attention to similarities between the elite and everyday Americans, or making distances seem small to spark economic aspiration and exploit the appeal of the American Dream. Finally, the authors demonstrate how race and class segregation distort white Americans’ perceptions of status, and how media use race and gender strategically to draw attention away from contrast-based thinking about the wealthy.

Keywords:   media, residential segregation, American Dream, economic inequality, social comparison, celebrity culture, reality television, parasocial, race, gender

Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.