Class Reproduction, Cultural Capital, Etc.

Sometimes I forget how bold-faced and unsubtle class can be. Sometimes, the world isn’t very nuanced. Another way of putting it, sometimes I forget how much of sociology I have absorbed (especially on topics not central to my own work). For example, take this NYT interview with Delta CEO Richard Anderson. When asked about what he asks job candidates in interviews (for top positions), Anderson responds:

You want to know about their family. Where they grew up. What their parents did. Where they went to high school. What their avocations were. How many kids they had in their family. You know, what their whole background and history is.

I learned that from a C.E.O. I worked for. The C.E.O. wouldn’t really spend that much time on the résumé, but spent most of the time wanting to know everything about the person’s life, family, what they liked, where they liked to go on vacation, what their kids were like. And it gave you a really good perspective about who they were as people.

You spend more of your waking time with your colleagues at the office than you do with your family and when you bring someone into that family — we have 50 senior leaders at our company and 70,000 employees — you need to make sure that they’re a fit to the culture. And that they’re going to be part of that group of people in a healthy functioning way.

Nothing that interesting, I know, but I was just surprised by how upfront it was. Lengthier posts to follow the end of the term today, odds are.

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1 Comment

  1. Peter

     /  May 9, 2009

    Karen Ho has a really good discussion of this in Liquidated, her ethnography of Wall St. investment banks. She describes a system that draws students in from elite universities – predominantly Princeton and Harvard – simply on the basis of the idea that they must be the smartest, hardest working people around. The interesting thing is her argument that they’re valued not really as individuals, but as status markers. That is, having a Harvard grad on the team is important, but any specific Harvard grad can be replaced at the drop of a hat – and often is.