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A word, obviously coined as the antonym of underclass, which sprang into prominence in the US in 1995 but which has only just reached Britain, and in which it is unlikely to become common because of differing social structures. The overclass, it is argued, comprises a small homogeneous elite group of individuals who run American institutions, who form what Michael Lind, in Harper’s Magazine, called a “guild oligarchy”, separate from and superior to the traditional middle classes. One of the defining characteristics of members of the overclass is their tendency towards isolation, using their resources to exclude themselves voluntarily from society, as the antithesis of the underclass, which is excluded by its poverty.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.

Page created 21 Sep 1996