Examining the role of television programmes in legitimising inherited wealth and privilege for the super-rich in a society that values meritocracy

Abstract

Recent years have seen the proliferation of television broadcasts that focus on the lavish lifestyles and consumption of “rich kids. ”However, flaunting inherited wealth is an accountable activity within UK society that claims to be based on meritocratic values. Whilst wealthy individuals are a source of public spectatorship, they are also attributed with contributing to economic inequality and inhibiting social mobility. This study draws on social psychology to examine media representations of wealthy heirs accounting for their wealth in popular programmes about the “super rich. ”Forty-one and a half hours of non-subscription UK television data from 2016 that included the term “super-rich” was analysed. Drawing on Discursive Social Psychology, heirs were found to be managing an ideological dilemma of accounting for their inherited privilege while in a (supposedly) meritocratic environment. Heirs use four interpretative repertoires to negotiate their unmeritocratic position: (1) having a fair go, (2) unintentional privilege, (3) constructing wealth as “family money” and (4)sharing wealth with loved ones. These interpretative repertoires downplay privilege by redefining ownership, highlight any work they do, construct them as aspirational and present them as lacking agency. The presentation of heirs in entertainment documentaries maintains the illusion of meritocratic conditions

Description

open access article

Keywords

inequality, meritocracy, television, super-rich, inheritance;, discursive psychology

Citation

Carr, P., Goodman, S., Jowett, A. and Abell, J. (2023) Examining the role of television programmes in legitimising inherited wealth and privilege for the super-rich in a society that values meritocracy. Social Semiotics,

Rights

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/uk/

Research Institute

Institute for Psychological Science