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I understand many wizards don't know much about Muggles, probably because they have no need or desire to.

However, Arthur Weasley has always puzzled me. He loves Muggles. He obsesses over them. His hobby is taking apart Muggle objects. Heck, even his job involves Muggle relations!

So, why in the world is he so clueless about Muggles?? Not only does he not know how electricity is produced, he doesn't even know how it's pronounced! And he doesn't know escalators, he doesn't know stamps, he doesn't even know about Muggle money!

If my hobby was coin collecting and my job was a coin dealer, and I didn't know what a penny was, I'd lose my job and also go find a new hobby!

So how in the world is Mr. Weasley, for whom Muggles are his job and his hobby, so clueless!??

(none of the answers here solve my problem - I'm referring particularly to Arthur Weasley, who has no ignorance or 'didn't keep up with it' excuses, as thats his job!)

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Mrs Weasley stopped him from building up his knowledge to any great extent.

Arthur Weasley was an enthusiast for all things Muggle. But his expertise was hindered by a rather suspicious and judgemental wife, who didn't care much for his experiments with Muggle technology. Arthur took to hiding these experiments from his wife.

"C-cars, Molly, dear?"
"Yes, Arthur, cars," said Mrs Weasley, her eyes flashing. "Imagine a wizard buying a rusty old car and telling his wife all he wanted to do with it was take it apart to see how it worked while really he was enchanting it to make it fly."
Mr Weasley blinked.
"Well, dear, I think you'll find that he would be quite within the law to do that, even if, er, he maybe would have done better to, um, tell his wife the truth...There's a loophole in the law, you'll find...as long as he wasn't intending to fly the car, the fact that the car could fly wouldn't- "
"Arthur Weasley, you made sure there was a loophole when you wrote that law!" shouted Mrs Weasley. "Just so you could carry on tinkering with all that Muggle rubbish in your shed!"
(Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 3, The Burrow).

"There's no need to, er, mention it to Molly," Mr Weasley told Harry, blocking his access to the coop, "but, er, Ted Tonks sent me most of what was left of Sirius's bike and, er, I'm hiding - that is to say, keeping - it in here. Fantastic stuff: there's an exhaust gaskin, as I believe it's called, the most magnificent battery, and it'll be a great opportunity to find out how brakes work. I'm going to try and put it all back together again when Molly's not - I mean, when I've got time."
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 6, The Ghoul in Pyjamas).

Since his wife was not the most...supportive of people Arthur had to conduct his experiments on Muggle tech in secrecy and on his own. He could only do this occasionally whenever he had some spare time.

Arthur is a pureblood. He didn't grow up in the Muggle world and both of his parents were magical. He's had to build his knowledge of the Muggle world up from scratch. Imagine if you found a piece of alien tech and had to work out how it operated with no manual or frame of reference. Arthur learned the best he could in difficult conditions.

Remember as well that Arthur may love the Muggle world but he still spends most of his time in the wizarding world. He goes into the Muggle world temporarily in order to solve problems but this contact is only fleeting and necessarily involves him going straight back to the wizarding world to fill out the paperwork. Any Muggles he talks to have to have their memories wiped immediately. His scope for learning is really limited.

His best hope of learning more about the Muggle world is to talk to Muggleborn witches and wizards. When Harry comes to stay he grasps this opportunity with both hands.

Mr Weasley liked Harry to sit next to him at the dinner table so that he could bombard him with questions about life with Muggles, asking him to explain how things like plugs and the postal service worked.
"Fascinating!" he would say, as Harry talked him through using a telephone. "Ingenious, really, how many ways Muggles have found of getting along without magic."
(Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 4, At Flourish and Blotts).

Again, these sorts of conversations were probably few and far between. Perhaps older Muggleborns are more coy about their upbringing. Or maybe Mr Weasley doesn't know who's a Muggleborn and who isn't. But since Mrs Weasley regards her husband's fascination with all things Muggle as a acute source of social embarrassment it's a fair bet that he doesn't often get the chance to quiz anyone who really knows about the Muggle world.

That said Mr Weasley is actually pretty knowledgeable...for a wizard.

Mr Weasley isn't actually a total dunce. He does have some awareness of how Muggles operate. Consider when he goes camping.

"Right," he said excitedly, "no magic allowed, strictly speaking, not when we're out in these numbers on Muggle land. We'll be putting these tents up by hand! Shouldn't be too difficult...Muggles do it all the time..."
(Goblet of Fire, Chapter 7, Bagman and Crouch).

He may not really know how to put up a tent but he does at least know that Muggles go camping and that putting a tent up with poles, pegs and a mallet is possible. How many other witches and wizards could say that?

"Ron, anti-Muggle security!" said Mr Weasley, his face shining with anticipation. "When real Muggles camp, they cook on fires outdoors, I've seen them at it!"
(Goblet of Fire, Chapter 7, Bagman and Crouch).

Again, he's actually observed Muggles camping in the Muggle world. How many other witches and wizards could say that?

If Arthur Weasley seems dim it's because the rest of the wizarding world is totally and utterly ignorant. Perhaps it would be reasonable to expect him to know more than he does. But he's one of the only people (if not the only person) who takes an interest in the Muggle world. He's mocked and chastised for doing so by his wife, and the rest of his society. The ways of Muggles may have been both his profession and his hobby but he was really an oddball as far as his fellow-wizards were concerned. His passion could never really evolve beyond an eager, nerdish curiosity, no matter how much he might have liked it to.

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    I always thought Molly's disapproval of Arthur's tinkering stemmed from the hypocrisy and risk of him doing exactly what he's supposed to prevent other wizards from doing, and not so much from any personal distaste for Muggle tech on her part. – David Z Nov 9 '17 at 0:49
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    @DavidZ That's part of it. But it's also a rather weird hobby/obsession. Like someone who likes pickling brains and putting them around the house. You don't have to be anti-brain to think that it's weird. – The Dark Lord Nov 9 '17 at 7:32
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For in-universe explanations:

  1. I'd say that not everyone approaches their hobbies as having to know everything about it. Some people enjoy acquiring information, while other people enjoy, say, more creative aspects. Example: people who cosplay are less likely to acquire trivia knowledge about their fandom because they're putting tons of time into making their costumes. But that by no means makes them a less dedicated hobbyist than those who enjoy the trivia knowledge aspect. Since Arthur likes tinkering with muggle objects, it's evidence he might be more in the creative category.

  2. He might not have had the time or resources to acquire more knowledge. He didn't seem to personally know any muggles, so he would have to acquire any knowledge from either books, or possibly classes like Muggles Studies. (Harry Potter was also before internet was widespread.) We've heard no mention of a public wizard library, and he was probably too poor to spend money on books or classes. He maybe could have asked other wizards who knew muggles, but it was clearly thought of as a weird, nerdy hobby among wizards, and so talking about it to them would probably be awkward.

  3. As for the job aspect, it was also made clear in the book it was a job no one else wanted, his coworkers disrespect him, and his "office" is a tiny room with barely enough space for his desk. He was almost certainly given his job as a way to get him out of the other more important ministry jobs without firing him, probably in the hopes he would get frustrated and quit. Perhaps his boss hesitated to fire him due to the fact that his financial situation is well known, and he has six kids. Therefore, his job performance is probably irrelevant. This sort of workplace politics situation happens all the time.

And of course, the out-of-universe explanation is because it was a comic relief type detail.

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    He keeps his job because virtually all other wizards are at least equally ignorant of how Muggles live. Even those of his superiors who care about his work likely don’t understand it. Miserable as it may seem, he is the expert. Also, note something important: Arthur is pure-blood. A “blood traitor” in the Death Eater’s estimations, yes, but that’s not so relevant to more run-of-the-mill blood prejudice. – Adamant Nov 8 '17 at 22:03
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    So they may hire him over a Muggle-born wizard (like Hermione,say) who would have a better understanding of Muggle Britain (Arthur would have a better understanding of wizarding law than the average Muggle-born wizard, though). To be frank, the magical world is really quite isolationist. The only British witch or wizard with two magical parents (save Harry, a special case) whom I can think of with potentially greater Muggle knowledge than Arthur Weasley is Dumbledore. – Adamant Nov 8 '17 at 22:07
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This is just a guess since the books don't actually have an answer except for quasi-legal and cultural prohibitions against mixing with muggles. His magiked car is actually forbidden (he got special dispensation for it).

I suspect that this is a poke at high society by the author. Mixing with the lower classes is something that "is not done." Even knowing about stuff the lower classes do is looked upon as being stained by them. This isn't as much of an issue as it was in England's past but there is still the cultural memory of it. Also, history and theoretical knowledge was much more valued than practical knowledge.

The lords and ladies tended to think of the lower classes as something along the spectrum of vicious animals to cute pets.

If you watch enough British TV shows, you would know that the "privileged" mode of thought is a pretty common target.

So, Arthur might be depicted as benign and lovable but still clueless minor lord.

Think of early (Victorian) pieces written about Africa. Most of what was written had no real relation to what Africa was actually like. In fact, even books written by people who loved Africa seem silly and/or offensive.

Also, it seems the Weasleys try to distance themselves from non-wizards, even if they are related to them:

‘Are all your family wizards?’ asked Harry, who found Ron just as interesting as Ron found him. Er – yes, I think so,’ said Ron. ‘I think Mum’s got a second cousin who’s an accountant, but we never talk about him.' ~Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Chapter Six: The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

I wonder if "Keeping Up Appearances" is on Netflix or anywhere people can see it. Watching that would give people a pretty good clue how class consciousness works and how it is mocked.

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    What?!? The Weasleys live in poverty and are set apart from wealthy snobs like the Malfoys. It makes zero sense to describe Mr Weasley as a member of the aristocracy. – The Dark Lord Nov 8 '17 at 18:40
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    @TheDarkLord, he is a wizard. Compared to muggles, he is an aristocrat. Substitute wizard blood for noble blood for where their snobbery lies. Wizard = noble and High House (e.g. Malfoy) = royalty. The Weasleys might be considered the most minor of wizard/noble but they are still part of that class due to their blood. – ShadoCat Nov 8 '17 at 18:43
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    You could add some in-universe quote about Arthur's patronising attitude towards muggles to support your argument. There are several scenes with some where Rowling is gently mocking Arthur. Also there is this: ‘Er – yes, I think so,’ said Ron. ‘I think Mum’s got a second cousin who’s an accountant, but we never talk about him.' - it's about squibs, but it's pretty much the same thing - charming creatures who don't qualify as wizards. – user68762 Nov 8 '17 at 19:00
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    @TheAsh but then JKR also mocked as SJW by many, so it fits :) – user68762 Nov 8 '17 at 19:39
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    Of course, we’re meant to laugh at him, but we’re also meant to laugh at Umbridge. Arthur Weasley’s an analogue of, say, a Victorian devotee of “Eastern” cultures. He views Muggles as exotic, but less so as individuals. “As ever when he found himself in close proximity to Muggles going about their daily business, Mr. Weasley was hard put to contain his enthusiasm.” And in keeping with this archetype, he’s actually fairly ignorant about the details of day-to-day life. – Adamant Nov 8 '17 at 21:59

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