Bertrand and Dora Russell Nailed This Characterization of Middle-Class Men

They are “generally filled with envy.”

The Four Seasons of Life: Middle-Age, Currier & Ives.

I came across the following passage in the essay “Moral Standards and Social Well-being,” from The Prospects of Industrial Civilization, published by married powerhouse Bertrand and Dora Russell in 1923. Though almost one hundred years old, the piece deftly captures the spirit of the middle-class man, a demographic that has only gained cultural, political, social, and economic influence since the essay was written.

It’s short, and not exactly flattering, but I think it’s a sharp and illuminating read:

Middle-class men, when they are no longer quite young, are generally filled with envy: envy of their more successful colleagues, envy of the young, and strange as it may seem, envy of working men. The result of the first kind of envy is to make them hostile to all intellectual or artistic eminence, until it is so well established that they dare not challenge it; of the second, to make them rejoice in war because it gives them a chance to thwart the young who have to do the fighting; of the third, to make them politically opposed to everything calculated to benefit wage earners, such as education, sanitation, maintenance during unemployment, knowledge of birth control (which the middle class practice as a matter of course), housing reform, and so on. They believe that their opposition to these measures is based on economy and a desire to keep down the taxes, but in this they deceive themselves, because they do not object to the spending of vastly greater sums on armaments and wars. The same man, often, will object to the education rate on the ground that the poor have larger families than the well-to-do, and to birth control on the ground that it is immoral and unnatural except for those whose income is fairly comfortable. Men are strangely unconscious of their passions, and the envy which dominates most middle-aged professional men is a thing of which they know nothing, though the methods of psychoanalysis reveal it unerringly.

Oh, middle-class men, help us help you.