Shaw and the Rise of Reverse Snobbery

  • David Clare
Part of the Bernard Shaw and His Contemporaries book series (BSC)


Much has been written about Bernard Shaw’s profound influence on British and Irish thought during the twentieth century. In 1977, the Irish playwright and critic Denis Johnston rightly contended that Shaw “more than anybody else is at the root of the ways of thinking that dominate the English-speaking communities of today … We live in fact in a Shavian world—with Shavian education, Shavian economics, a Shavian view of sex and marriage, and certainly a Shavian view towards religion.”1 One of Shaw’s most lasting contributions to modern thought, however, is a little publicized one: the fact that he helped make reverse snobbery a commonplace of Anglophone art and public discourse during the twentieth century.


Class Consciousness Modern Thought Irish People English Character Frantz Fanon 
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    Like Shaw, sociologist Elizabeth Throop believes that “begrudgery” is rife in Irish society; she defines “begrudgery” as the society-wide tendency to “feel envy at another’s good fortune” and to “flatten social differences” through the use of (often humorous) mockery and insult, thus “ensuring everyone’s equality.” (Elizabeth A. Throop. Net Curtains and Closed Doors: Intimacy, Family, and Public Life in Dublin. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999. 53.)Google Scholar
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