Nouveau riche

Nouveau riche

The nouveau riche (French for "new rich", pronounced [nu.vo ʁiʃ]), or new money, comprise those who have acquired considerable wealth within their own generation.[1] The term is generally used to emphasize that the individual was previously part of a lower socioeconomic rank, and that such wealth has provided the means for the acquisition of goods or luxuries that were previously unobtainable. The term can also be used in a derogatory fashion, for the purposes of social class distinction, to describe persons with newfound wealth as vulgar - lacking the experience or value system to utilize wealth in the same manner as old money - persons from families who have been wealthy for multiple generations.


Historical contexts

The idea of nouveau riche and the struggle within the ranks of the affluent is not modern. According to David Gill, animosity between old inherited wealth and the appropriators of new wealth can be traced as far back as ancient Greece.[2] Theognis, a sixth century B.C. aristocratic poet, wrote how “In former days, there was a tribe who knew no laws nor manners…These men are nobles, now, the gentlemen of old are now the trash.”[3] This Greek poet wrote these words during a time in Greece, when money and economic growth in relation to trade gave rise to high class proprietors.

Social status

Social status is often defined in relation to wealth and the power that is acquired through wealth. Throughout time upper ruling classes have legitimized “...their rule with claims of status and honor and moral superiority.”[4] Ruling classes have often made claims to the superiority of inherited wealth through “blood…and the concept of proper breeding.” The Nouveau riche is often juxtaposed against Old Money, or those with trans-generational wealth, in order to highlight the cultural, value system and societal differences between the two groups. Old Family ties, as traditional claims of status, are not found in the nouveaux riches, which challenges and ultimately redefines social traditions and values such as the institution of debutantes and their debut to society. As seen through the rise in the number of debutantes, the social value of the debut has since shifted from the “family’s elite social standing and long family traditions” to “a symbolic value as an element of upper-class life style.”[5] This transition allows for high social standing to be established by the nouveau riche through the institution of the debut.[6] Social integration of these elite sects is extremely slow and sluggish, which prolongs and strengthens stereotypes. This rate of integration makes it more likely that the nouveaux riches will “retain identification with the traditional…group of origin; this is the basis for division between the groups. Furthermore, the isolation that minority nouveaux riches experience within their own class leads them “to prioritize issues of radical justice, civil liberties, and religious tolerance over pure economic self-interest”[7]

Inter-class stereotypes

Often referred to as parvenu, members of the nouveau riche are often discriminated against by the "Old Money" sects of society since they "lack the proper pedigree."[7] These newcomers to economic freedom are subject to even greater scrutiny from their lack of historical prestige as seen through Dye's comments which reference the new rich as "uncouth" and "uncultured." The behavior of the nouveau riche is often satirized by American society by "implying that stereotyped, rather than real, behavior patterns are copied."[8] Many people have made claims to the inferiority of those with new money as compared to those with old money. Many have made claims that nouveaux riches "lack political and cultural sophistication" and others make comparisons saying that the old rich are "more sophisticated than the less cosmopolitan nouveau riche."[9][10] These assumptions further perpetuate the differences between the two and lead to even further stereotypes and have lasted for well over a century. In the 1920s, Mrs. Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte protested that "the nouveau riche... is making places like Palm Beach no more exclusive than Coney Island. Newport, the last stronghold of the elite, has the moneyed intruder at the gates.... Undesirables are penetrating everywhere."[11]

See also


  1. ^ "Nouveau Riche". Merriam Webster. 
  2. ^ Gill, David H. 1994 "Anti-popular rhetoric in ancient Greece." In Wealth in Western Thought, ed. Paul G. Schervish, 13-42. Westport, CT: Praeger.
  3. ^ Theognis 1973 "Elegies." Hesiod and Theognis. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  4. ^ Burris, Val 2000 "The Myth of Old Money Liberalism: The Politics of the "Forbes" 400 Richest Americans." Social Problems, Vol. 47, No. 3, 360-378. CA: University of California Press
  5. ^ Beth Day 1966 “After This Party She’ll Be Invited Everywhere,” Saturday Evening Post, 239:35.
  6. ^ Dean D. Knudsen 1968 "Socialization to Elitism: A Study of Debutantes." The Sociological Quarterly 9 (3) , 300–308.
  7. ^ a b Burris, Val 2000 "The Myth of Old Money Liberalism: The Politics of the "Forbes" 400 Richest Americans." Social Problems, Vol. 47, No. 3, 360-378. CA: University of California Press
  8. ^ Linn, Erwin L. "Reference Group: A Case Study in Conceptual Diffusion" The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 4. (Autumn, 1966), pp. 489-499.
  9. ^ Lipset, Seymour M. 1963 "Three decades of the Radical Right." In The Radical Right, ed. Daniel Bell, 373-446. New York: Anchor Books.
  10. ^ Szymanski, Albert 1978 "The Capitalist State and the Politics of Class." Cambridge, MA: Winthrop.
  11. ^ Amory, Cleveland 1960 "Who Killed Society?" New York, Harper.

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  • Nouveau Riche — refers to a social class. Nouveau Riche may also refer to: Nouveau Riche (Philadelphia band) Nouveau Riche (Swedish band) Nouveau Riche (real estate investment college) This disambiguation page lists articles associated with the same title. If an …   Wikipedia

  • Nouveau riche — Nou veau riche , m., Nouvelle riche Nou velle riche , f.; pl. m. {Noveaux riches}, f. {Nouvelles riches}. [F.] A person newly rich. Contrasted with {old money}. [Webster 1913 Suppl. +PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • nouveau riche — (izg. nuvȏ rȉš) m DEFINICIJA sociol. 1. onaj koji se na brzinu obogatio zahvaljujući ratnim i sl. okolnostima; skorojević 2. meton. onaj koji napadno ističe svoje bogatstvo kako bi time nadoknadio one nedostatke koji kompromitiraju društveni… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • nouveau riche — index philistine Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • Nouveau riche — ● Nouveau riche dont la fortune est récente et qui la montre avec ostentation, mauvais goût …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • nouveau riche — 1813, French, lit. new rich. Opposite noveau pauvre is attested from 1965. Ancient Greek had the same idea in neo ploutos newly become rich …   Etymology dictionary

  • nouveau riche — [n] new rich DINK*, parvenu, social climber, upstart, vulgarian, yuppie*; concept 423 …   New thesaurus

  • nouveau riche — ► NOUN (treated as pl. ) ▪ people who have recently acquired wealth, typically those perceived as lacking good taste. ORIGIN French, new rich …   English terms dictionary

  • nouveau riche — [no͞o΄vō rēsh′] n. pl. nouveaux riches [no͞o΄vō rēsh′] [Fr, newly rich] a person who has only recently become rich: often connoting tasteless ostentation, lack of culture, etc …   English World dictionary

  • nouveau-riche — [[t]nu͟ːvoʊ ri͟ːʃ[/t]] (The plural can be either nouveau riche or nouveaux riches.) 1) N PLURAL: usu the N (disapproval) The nouveaux riches are people who have only recently become rich and who have tastes and manners that some people consider… …   English dictionary

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