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Bloomberg News[E]thnographic research into the very heart of privilege. . . . [Khan] steps down from his pedestal and lets himself get closer to these future masters of the universe.
— Robin D. Schatz
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As one of the most prestigious high schools in the nation, St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, has long been the exclusive domain of America's wealthiest sons. But times have changed. Today, a new elite of boys and girls is being molded at St. Paul's, one that reflects the hope of openness but also the persistence of inequality.
In Privilege, Shamus Khan returns to his alma mater to provide an inside look at an institution that has been the private realm of the elite for the past 150 years. He shows that St. Paul's students continue to learn what they always have--how to embody privilege. Yet, while students once leveraged the trappings of upper-class entitlement, family connections, and high culture, current St. Paul's students learn to succeed in a more diverse environment. To be the future leaders of a more democratic world, they must be at ease with everything from highbrow art to everyday life--from Beowulf to Jaws--and view hierarchies as ladders to scale. Through deft portrayals of the relationships among students, faculty, and staff, Khan shows how members of the new elite face the opening of society while still preserving the advantages that allow them to rule.
"Essential reading for understanding today's elite. Not since Christopher Lasch's Revolt of the Elites has the meritocracy been so effectively skewered."—Austin Bramwell, American Conservative
"There are few ethnographic accounts of life in exclusive American boarding schools and Khan's book is far and away the most sophisticated among them. But the contribution of Privilege goes beyond this narrow field. Those interested in the sociology of culture, stratification, everyday life, education, race, and gender will find much to appreciate. . . . Khan is a versatile and earnest ethnographer with a sharp eye for gesture and a keen ear for dialogue."—Victoria Bonnell, Contemporary Sociology
"Privilege is a welcome addition to the sociological literature on elite prep schools. . . . This readable book provides a vivid, often elucidating, and not always pretty look at life at St. Paul's as of the 2004-05 school year."—Richard L. Zweigenhaft, Social Forces
"[Shamus Rahman Khan's] book [is an] excellent, engaging, well written, and carefully researched study of the ways culture works in and through schools."—Lisa M. Stulberg, Contexts
Introduction: Democratic Inequality 1
Chapter 1. The New Elite 18
Chapter 2. Finding One's Place 41
Chapter 3. The Ease of Privilege 77
Chapter 4. Gender and the Performance of Privilege 114
Chapter 5. Learning Beowulf and Jaws 151
Methodological and Theoretical Reflections 201
Works Cited 223