Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The role of the Yuppie

Newsweek, a major American weekly news magazine published in New York City declared in its December 31st 1984 issue that 1984 was the "Year of the Yuppie"; the young urban professional whose lifestyle and outlook made him/her a synecdoche of Reagan's America. Yuppies were "a new petit bourgeoisie [whose] cultural practices and values . . . have articulated a useful dominant ideological and cultural paradigm" for American society in the 1980s (Fredric Jameson).

I found an article examining the Yuppie significance and role in the 1980's which focused mainly on their political swing and questionable 'unique' identity: Do Yuppies Matter? Competing Explanations of Their Political Distinctiveness, by Michael Delli Carpini and Lee Sigelman, 1986, The American Association for Public Opinion Research. In the article they argue that the mix of the three distinct elements that constitutes someone to be labeled a Yuppie created a distinct "class." That is that their unique confluence of youth, urban residence and professional status -is thought to distinguish yuppies socially and culturally from other young people, from other people living in an urban environment and from other professionals. Stemming from this defined demographic profile are said to be a distinctive set of political attitudes and opinions that made the Yuppie phenomenal so important to the 80's:

"Yuppies are usually (though not always) seen as embodying the "new politics" of the late 1960s and early 1970s (Miller and Levitin, 1976) and the economic conservatism of the a consequence of their distinctive political views, yuppies are considered to be an increasingly significant voting bloc; that is, they are supposed to require special appeals from candidates and parties, and respond to such appeals in much the same way as do blacks, union members, and other groups in American society by supporting the parties and candidates who appeal directly to their group interests.

The tables here (Yuppies political tolerance and opinions on issues) reflects that Yuppies tended to be more liberal, identify less with a political party than average Americans and support the legalization of marijuana much more than non-yuppies, consistent with the idea that drugs were a significant element of Yuppie culture. I have underlined a few significant statistics- they are more likely to support atheists and have a more relaxed attitude about communism potentially due to their age and urban setting, however this study suggested they were not any more dissatisfied with their taxes any more than the average American of the time. The study general shows that Yuppies view points varied significantly from the norm of the time and that they were as young and wealthy people, influential in many ways.

"The yuppie heyday was short-lived; critics gleefully described the stock market crash of October 1987 as the consequence of yuppie folly and the beginning of the yuppie's end. On November 11, 1987, 20,000 attended a "Save the Yuppie" concert held by U2 in San Francisco's financial district. "Yuppie" quickly became a derogatory term, but there can be little doubt that the yuppie phenomenon had a lasting impact due the power that the demographic held both financially and culturally.

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