The Public Interest

What about the overclass?

Melanie Phillips

Fall 2001

LIKE a number of people, I hate the term “underclass” because it suggests that there is a group of people who are an inferior and frightening breed apart.


Though it would never use the term “underclass,” the current British government has accepted the idea, calling it instead “social exclusion.” It is the same idea, because the government understands that this is about more than pure poverty.  The problem is a life style that is permanently dislocated from the habits and way of life of the majority. At its very heart is the disintegration of the family—high rates of single parenthood and teenage pregnancy, and whole communities where committed fathers are unknown. The lives in these communities are often chaotic. One can find children so unsocialized that they can’t even use a knife and fork; who don’t know what an alarm clock is because they have no sense of an ordered day; who have no idea how to make social relationships and are aggressive, foul-mouthed, or withdrawn. 

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