Guide to Class, Caste & Hierarchies
This book is probably filled with great ideas, but
good luck finding them. Like Seabrook, I believe that class (known today
as the more-PC inequality) is one of the largest hidden patterns of the
world, explaining a majority of conflicts today, from poverty to terrorism
to corporate scandals. But it’s a horrible shame that the book
is so poorly written.
I’ve also read the History of the World book from this No-Nonsense series,
which was excellent. It lived up to its name as both the shortest overview
of its topic possible, and “no-nonsense,” incorporating normally
excluded viewpoints, such as histories of women and oppressed colonies.
But Seabrook’s book was difficult, unnecessarily verbose, vague,
The first surprise was that the book was British, focusing most of its
examinations on class in Britain since its industrial revolution. This
would be fine, since that’s a great place to examine class, and
the American history is also paralleled. But the second surprise was
the worst – it’s really poorly written. The chapters must
be mixed up. The easiest points that I was able to grasp are repeated
often, while complicated theories are introduced and not explained. His
terminology is not well-defined and fluctuates. The writing is pretentious
and long-winded, which is to be expected in academic texts, but should
be eschewed in any introductory books.
On the bright side, the opening chapter and last three chapters of the
book are the best. The middle is supremely confusing. The only truly
redeeming part of the book was chapter 8, Class and Caste, which
is an excellent short description and history of India’s caste
system, and how it still thrives and horrifies today, even though ostensibly
illegal. Read that chapter in the bookstore, then put this book back
on the shelf.