Laura Weinrib, Class and Classification, in The Empire of Disgust: Prejudice, Discrimination, and Policy in India and the US (Zoya Hasan, Aziz Z. Huq, Martha C. Nussbaum & Vidhu Verma eds., 2018).
Abstract: Disgust plays a role in structuring social relationships across class lines. Revulsion and fear of contamination reinforce spatial separation and the stigmatization of poverty. Moreover, terms such as ‘white trash’ indicate that class-based disgust can operate in the absence of other markers of low social status for which poverty often serves as a proxy. Although class-based disgust is rarely the principal impetus for the legal regulation of wealth and social status, it has consistently contributed to laws that denigrate and segregate the poor. Meanwhile, the theoretical capacity of law to mitigate economic inequality and, by extension, status-based distinctions has helped to render social class a putatively permeable category that is denied heightened constitutional scrutiny. Building from these premises, this chapter considers whether law might be used to dismantle the status-based stratification that exacerbates and legitimates disgust and, more equivocally, whether disgust might in some situations be redeployed to spur legal and social change.