David Brin is very opinionated about Star Wars.
I found the above to be a very interesting article particularly in the context of RPGs. I am forced to conclude that the distinction in fiction that Brin articulates is present in RPGs, and is a reasonable stylistic differentiator between old-school and more modern games. Consider:
Attributes - A system where you roll stats on 4 or 5d6, or where all stats start at 8 and you point-buy up, inherently says "We are only concerned with a certain quality of hero. Deeply flawed characters, with a 6- in one stat, need not apply." When you roll on 3d6, and your distribution is on par with the human average in your setting, the tone is much different - your heroes frequently end up flawed, even ones with one or two exceptionally high attributes. They're more human. Further, attributes exercise less raw power over the mechanics of most old school games, which decreases the gap between demideific and normal characters within a party. You got Int 9? Good enough to be a wizard with nearly as good a shot at eventual archmagistry as any other.
Henchmen - The New School tends to avoid henchmen; through Brin's lens, this is a concession both to the demideific (in that it keeps the action narrowly focused on a few superhuman individuals of interest) and to the limitations of the form (managing more than a handful of combatants in number-heavy systems is difficult). The old school's use of henchmen is relatively egalitarian, in that it distributes attention across a broader set of individuals of more varying capability, some of whom may even surpass or betray their masters.
Death - is, as they say, the Great Equalizer, and in the old school, it is a relatively Frequent Equalizer too. Nobody is predestined to kingship, and plot armor is nonexistent. Even characters of exceptional ability, like the Albanian with his 18 Str and 16 Dex, end up dead sometimes. Death is less frequent for main characters in the new school, and is considered a bigger deal because it threatens to derail the preordained plot. Dying has gotten harder, and the penalties for resurrection have gotten smaller.
Gear Focus - The old school game presents relatively few things as inherent powers of a character; instead most of a character's capabilities, at low levels especially, come from their mundane gear. This sends the essential message that "Anyone could do this with the right tools and a little elbow grease," which is essentially egalitarian. By comparison, a 1st-level 4e character for example starts out with like four special powers that are inherent to their being what they are, and a pile more hit points than an average human, and their rate of divergence from the norm is much faster and more total. A max-level ACKS fighter has probably 25 times as many HP as a 0-level human... but he is still very terminable by massed missile fire from Joe Mercenary and his pals with non-magical bows. I would be very surprised if a max-level (or even an equivalent / mid-teens level) 4e character still considered CR1 creatures in bulk an existential threat.
Really what it boils down to is equal opportunity and lack of predestination. The L0 henchman who is hired because he was in good health and looking for work, out of rational mutual self-interest on his part and his master's, and who goes on to outlive his master and perhaps eventually rise to power, wealth, and rulership is, essentially, the Great American Egalitarian Rags-to-Riches Myth. It is the elevation of one's station through risk-taking, hard work, good planning, and a little luck, with the full knowledge that the consequences of one's actions will come down not only on one's own head, but on the heads of one's companions as well, and that no higher power or predestination (coughElminstercough) waits in the wings to avert those consequences. Had any other peasant been presented with the same opportunities, been willing to take the same risks, and been as clever and lucky, he could've done the same.
Where does your game fall?
(Man, this would've made a great 4th of July post, with title "4e Players - Why Do You Hate America?")