When we say "class", what are we talking about?

When we say "class", what are we talking about?

Two parallel definitions of the word are used in political discussion. It's a perennial problem that radicals don't define what they're talking about when discussing class, or worse, making sweeping statements about it.

There were plenty of things wrong with last weekend’s Up the Anti conference. For example it’s lack of participation, ‘celebrity’ focus and deeply academic orientation.1 But there’s one thing I’m going to write about because it comes up again and again and never fails to drive me spare.

On the day we were treated to a number of speakers trying to sound sexy and radical by claiming that ‘traditional’ class politics are no longer relevant today. This, so the argument goes, is because of the decline of extractive and manufacturing industries in Britain and consequently the class ‘constituency’ with whom class politics would resonate.

Take for instance the slightly chaotic roundtable organised by Platypus. The point was made by ‘post-anarchist’ academic Saul Newman that the ‘splintering of class identities’ means that there is a need for a revision of radical politics which takes into account these new realities and looks for new ‘radical subjectivities’.

On the surface, this is reasonable enough. There has been a fundamental change in the composition of the British workforce that means that most of the industries that provided the basis of working class militancy in the 20th century are gone, and the form, content and pattern of work for much of the population is quite different. It’s also true that social changes have altered sociological facts. For example - increased access to higher education means that many teenagers are able to experience education in a way their parents weren’t (though higher education is far from universal and uptake rates are in fact declining again thanks to increased fees).

But the crux of the problem is that radicals constantly use two valid but very different definitions of class which have different political implications, and which have to be used in different ways.

The first is the definition of class which is commonplace in Britain. It’s a way of understanding identity, and the difference in background, experience, power and ‘opportunity’ that follows. The markers are pretty familiar – from accent and education through to dress, haircut and music taste. When you describe someone as being ‘middle class’, a whole range of associations immediately spring to mind. This is essentially a sociological definition of class, though the differences in power and quality of life do exist -most brutally in life expectancy - and they describe immediately relatable and readable social realities. And while the 'traditional' form of working class identity - associated with productive manual labour - is on the decline, clearly 'working class' still means something as an identity in Britain today.

This contrasts to a communist definition of class. This describes, fundamentally, the individual’s relationship with capital. Essentially, the fact we don’t have any and are only able to sell our labour power on the market, receiving a wage. This is about understanding the interplay between capital and labour, not about classifying individuals.

I’ll say again that both of these definitions are valid if we define and limit what we’re describing. It’s a mistake too commonly made for communists to dismiss ‘sociological’ definitions of class as being incorrect. They’re not: at their best they describe a reality which exists. The problem is when confusion about the use of these definitions arises, and the implications involved.

Take for instance the ‘sociological’ definition of class, which – crudely – is about defining individuals and their habits. It would be politically blinkered to pretend these realities don’t exist. It’s right to be revolted by public school kids dressing up as ‘chavs’ for their college parties at top universities. It makes sense to recognise that your parents’ income is the greatest determiner of your progress in life, or to be concerned that wealth, education and life expectancy are deeply linked. On a day-to-day level, snobbery from ‘middle-class’ workers towards ‘estate kids’ is widespread, and was a very common way of interpreting last year’s urban riots. “Classism”, in this sense, is a very common and uncontroversial form of bigotry in the UK, and is frequently mobilised by the state, for example when attacking benefit claimants.2

But if we shouldn’t be dismissive of this definition of class, we should also be very mindful of it’s implications and limitations, when compared to a communist understanding of class.

The resolution of the problem of “classism” is essentially liberal. This isn’t necessarily a criticism. In the here and now, I don’t want gay people to be discriminated against. But I’m basically demanding that liberal democracy does what it says on the tin and treats everyone as equal, sovereign subjects. The same goes for racism, sexism, etc. The culmination of these politics is formal and informal equality as liberal citizens and on the labour market. This is perfectly possible within capitalism.

But when we understand “class” as describing a relationship with capital, the implications are very different. We’re talking about an exploited class, not an oppressed one. I.e. the class has surplus value extracted from it, it is not discriminated against. This cannot be resolved by granting the working class equality with capital. It must result from a resolution of the struggling interests of workers and capital through the expropriation of capital and the construction of a society based on human needs.

This difference has been correctly described as a politics of oppression as opposed to a politics of exploitation. The resolution of oppression is liberation, the resolution of exploitation is expropriation. Only one necessarily points beyond capital.

The confusion is to some degree understandable. In the 19th and for most of the 20th century, the two definitions mapped onto each other pretty well, and still do in much of the world. The fact we’re using the same term to describe two parallel things is a recipe for problems too. But if we’re to communicate a class analysis we need to be clear exactly what we’re talking about.

Comments

Steven.
Dec 8 2012 15:20

Good blog!

banana slug
Dec 8 2012 16:23

I believe that discussion of class here in the US is almost entirely sociological.
For example, the "middle class" has upper/ lower economic boundaries that are slippery
and challenging to pin down. At the same time, this "middle class" is so important and
courted by politicians, big media, etc. Another part of the spectacle.
Good blog.

Operaista
Dec 8 2012 16:41

This is excellent.

Some random thoughts (some US context specific) that this brought up for me:

Something that strikes me, and this may be far more true of the US context, is that the way "working class" and "middle class" get used as sociological terms in the US not only points at stratifications within the proletariat, but also obscure Marxist class differences between "proletarians" and Marxist middle classes ("mom and pop" business owners, independent contractors in construction who have a business consisting of only themselves, artists who do contract work who have sufficient control over the terms of their contracts that we can look at them as artisans rather than casual labor), because generally the white collar portion of the Marxist working class and the petit bourgeois get lumped together as middle class. I think partly this serves as an escape valve for capitalism in the US - decent sized segments of the working class do have real opportunities to "be their own boss".

We can also mix that in with the fact that a lot of the really small businesses (owner-operator or mom-and-pop family affairs) offer a lot less influence on the functioning of society than the uppermost strata of the proletariat - the vast majority of the administrators and bureaucrats of important societal institutions own no capital of their own, even if their day-to-day tasks seriously impact the conditions of other workers' lives. I don't want to ditch a "relationship to the means of production" approach to class to adopt a more sociological one that includes a "techno-managerial class", but I do think that this is a class segment that really has the potential to co-opt and disrupt revolutionary movements into making the face of state capitalism more human (and I also want to point out that the remnants of the high bourgeoisie are pretty much superfluous to capitalism at this point - all their capital could be nationalized and I don't think the functioning of society would significantly change). I don't think the idea that much of society is run by upper stratifications of the working class is peculiar to state capitalism in the US at this point.

So, from that lengthy digression, I think it's important to stress that it's not so much the working class against capitalists, but the working class against capital (as a set of social relations) that is what we want to emphasize, and that also maybe the "working class people are often the face of capital to other working class people (because of race, gender, other socieeconomic stratifications in the working class, and also the functioning of the institutions of state capitalism)"/"the most important contradictions are those internal to the working class"/Gramscian mixed consciousness analysis become both more clear and more important when we look at the world as it is, and view sociological models of class as not wrong or "false consciousness" but as a more surface look of how things are that doesn't delve into deeper social relations.

James D
Dec 8 2012 17:42

On the working class:

"We’re talking about an exploited class, not an oppressed one."

Sorry, but the working class is both exploited and oppressed. If you've grown up on a sink council estate with all that entails, or been stuck on the minimum wage for some despotic boss, or been made to feel inferior for being poor every day of your life, that's oppression by any standards.

'Oppression' is not simply being discriminated against (although working class people do experience discrimination, in all sorts of ways). Expropriating capital would entail liberation from oppression just as much as it would mean ending exploitation. Indeed, the one presupposes the other.

Claiming that the working class is merely exploited because of the operation of surplus value etc. demonstrates a very superficial understanding of the reality of working class life.

Operaista
Dec 8 2012 18:21

I think, that for many working class (in the Marxist sense) people in modern capitalism, particularly in the overdeveloped world, they don't have a daily experience of visible repression. They of course know if they steal things they want from a store rather than buying them they are likely to have a run in with the police and so forth, but, the surface appearance of being "free labor" that goes and negotiates a deal with a boss to sell their labor power for a wage that they then use to go buy commodities on the market to meet their needs holds for them. The people who experience repression as a daily fact of life are the poor (the hyperexploited) or members of what are generally called oppressed groups (and generally those members of oppressed groups who are at lower stratifications of the working class, where they are overrepresented) and so forth.

If we look at society only from the perspective of the hyperexploited (or even just the way radicals tend to view the sociologically working class (equating it with the working poor)), exploitation and repression seem to be very tightly linked as always accompanying one another in a very simple way. If we look at society only from the perspective of another segment of the working class - say educated white men who are things like engineers, computer programmers and so forth - repression seems to be a side feature of not playing by the rules, and a level of the siphoning of surplus value (exploitation) seems to be the primary feature of the system.

I think it's key to adopt a deeper investigation where:
1) There is a complex relationship between exploitation and repression.
2) Real stratifications are built into the working class giving different segments of the working class different experiences of society and often antagonist relationships with each other that must be over come. These real stratifications have very different experiences of repression.
3) The real necessity of repression/oppression to enable exploitation, and the real necessity capital has to create contradictions in the working class that have different experiences of repression/oppression to maintain itself.

I don't think "state capitalism as idealized Scandinavian social democracy for everyone everywhere" is possible (I think there needs to be intensely repressed, hyperexploited groups somewhere, large amounts of labor that are completely unpaid and invisibilized, and so forth, for capital to function), but when reformists are arguing for it, they're arguing for a society where repression is reserved for those who break the rules, and that that future society would have no good reason to break the rules. So it's true that the core of our argument is for a society without exploitation, but it's also true that struggle against oppression is a vital part of struggling to end exploitation.

ldz
Dec 8 2012 20:22
James D wrote:
Sorry, but the working class is both exploited and oppressed. If you've grown up on a sink council estate with all that entails, or been stuck on the minimum wage for some despotic boss, or been made to feel inferior for being poor every day of your life, that's oppression by any standards.

'Oppression' is not simply being discriminated against (although working class people do experience discrimination, in all sorts of ways). Expropriating capital would entail liberation from oppression just as much as it would mean ending exploitation. Indeed, the one presupposes the other.

Claiming that the working class is merely exploited because of the operation of surplus value etc. demonstrates a very superficial understanding of the reality of working class life.

I think you're missing the point of the article slightly - it isn't claiming both these "types" of classes don't exist, but acknowledging that they do exist and formally distinguishing them. The "sociological" meaning of working class is clearly oppressed, and the article acknowledges this. All it's saying is that while the sociological "classism" aspect of working class oppression could be reasonably tackled using liberal means, it is distinct form the marxist meaning of the working classes, which are those who are exploited by the owners of capital.

I agree that exploitation and oppression seem to be intertwined, but it's a good way of distinguishing two different "types" of class which can easily be conflated to come to incorrect conclusions.

Malva
Dec 9 2012 00:58

The practical implications of the sociological definition of class: The eradication of Received Pronunciation will bring about Full Communism. groucho

Stan Milgram
Dec 9 2012 02:02

As Third Worldist Anarchist Maoists (TWAM) we recognize that the most oppressed are the revolutionary class.

Pierre Lapin
Dec 9 2012 09:58

Like the blog.
I thought I'd give you a short story on class. My father started his own company many years ago, and at around that time also got a mortgage on his council house. He stopped reading The Mirror and got the Daily Wail instead. He also started putting 'esq' at the end of his signature in letters. This all happened in about '73.
He considered himself to have changed class, from working to middle, because "I bought my own house, and I am a partner in a company, therefore a proprietor".. He's never been to college, he did his apprenticeship as a machinist in the early 60's..
In about '85 he joined the masons.. His lodge are mainly taxi drivers, small business men and coppers.
Even so, he probably thinks he's now upper class..
Dear Dierdre, what do I do, and is it infectious?

Pierre Lapin
Dec 9 2012 10:08

Nice one, the Groucho Marx just finishes it off! I actually (ectually?) like received pronounciation, I even have a friend that speaks it(she is close to 80).
Thankfully David Mitchell and Victoria Coren are engaged, so RP will live on, hopefully they have 'orfspring'!

Joseph Kay
Dec 9 2012 13:26

Great blog. I think both uses of the term are important, but that gets lost when they're either treated as an either/or, conflated, or confused as people talk past each other. That said, I want to push this point a bit more:

Django wrote:
The resolution of problem of “classism” is essentially liberal. This isn’t necessarily a criticism. In the here and now, I don’t want gay people to be discriminated against. But I’m basically demanding that liberal democracy does what it says on the tin and treats everyone as equal, sovereign subjects. The same goes for racism, sexism, etc. The culmination of these politics is formal and informal equality as liberal citizens and on the labour market. This is perfectly possible within capitalism.

I broadly agree with this - from a communist point of view if the cabinet were all ex-miners rather than Old Etonians it wouldn't make much difference, as their structural position would tend to trump their sociological background. Completely getting rid of 'classism' as prejudice would seem to be fully compatible with capitalism. Extending this to racism and sexism seems plausible too - after all these are legislated against, universal human rights are bestowed on all and so on. "The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations" (Communist Manifesto).

But what if there's a counter-tendency? What if, as well as formally emancipating people, capitalism has a tendency to substantively oppress? What if this is part and parcel of formal emancipation? For example, a lot of feminist literature has focussed on the gendered division between domestic and waged labour. Now, we can imagine a capitalism where such work is not gendered, but at least in certain times and places, the formal freedom of male proletarians went hand in hand with the formal unfreedom of women, who were confined to the home, denied legal rights etc. So as well as the tendency to liberal, formal equality, there would seem to be a tendency to family values which is every bit as capitalist (i'm nicking this from Wendy Brown, chapter 6).

We can also think about police brutality. It's fairly uncontroversial to say a reserve army of labour is a structurally important part of a functioning capitalist economy. And this reserve army needs to be policed. So for many proles, direct state repression is the principal way in which capitalism is experienced, i.e. stop and search etc. Every so often it explodes, like last August. We could also think about global production chains, where living standards in the west have been maintained partly by wage (and state) repression in the far east, cheapening commodities despite stagnant wages. And the persistence, and indeed in places, escalation, of violence against women would suggest something more than a mere cultural lag or hangover from feudalism. All of this suggests a more inter-woven relationship between exploitation and oppression/repression/violence. So yeah, +1 to this:

Operaista wrote:
I think it's key to adopt a deeper investigation where:
1) There is a complex relationship between exploitation and repression.
2) Real stratifications are built into the working class giving different segments of the working class different experiences of society and often antagonist relationships with each other that must be over come. These real stratifications have very different experiences of repression.
3) The real necessity of repression/oppression to enable exploitation, and the real necessity capital has to create contradictions in the working class that have different experiences of repression/oppression to maintain itself.

I don't think "state capitalism as idealized Scandinavian social democracy for everyone everywhere" is possible (I think there needs to be intensely repressed, hyperexploited groups somewhere, large amounts of labor that are completely unpaid and invisibilized, and so forth, for capital to function), but when reformists are arguing for it, they're arguing for a society where repression is reserved for those who break the rules, and that that future society would have no good reason to break the rules. So it's true that the core of our argument is for a society without exploitation, but it's also true that struggle against oppression is a vital part of struggling to end exploitation.

RossWolfe
Dec 9 2012 14:23

This is a nice write-up/response. Full disclosure, I should probably mention that I'm a member of Platypus and helped organize the panel series on the crisis in New York, London, Chicago. But I'm gratified that you took up Saul Newman's remarks from the event we hosted at Up the Anti.

Newman's contention is fairly widespread, as you acknowledge, when he claims that "class" is no longer relevant. It's been more than thirty years since the French New Left theorist Andre Gorz wrote "farewell to the working class." What is more interesting to me, however, is that for several decades this contention seemed valid, especially after the putative "end of history" described by Fukuyama around the time of the Soviet Union's collapse. Working-class identity movements gave way to the so-called identity politics that grew out of the new social movements from the 1960s and 1970s. In the last few years, however, the supposed "irrelevance" of class seems to have been called into question, the face of the ongoing crisis of global capitalism.

It's encouraging to me that this trend that tends to dismiss the centrality of class is being reversed. Still, some problems remain, which hopefully the Left will continue to grapple with and address in the coming years. First, how do we define class? There are several different registers of class, each of which would seem to be relevant. There's the sociological dimension, of course, in which class is technically determined not by "income bracket" but rather by one's relationship to the means of production, the need to sell one's labor as a commodity on the market to the highest bidder, etc. Then there's the political dimension, which would seem to be somewhat different and might only potentially overlap with the sociological. For example, the political worldview of this or that member of the working class (understood sociologically) is not necessarily revolutionary. Nineteenth-century radicals, anarchist and Marxist alike, often pointed out how large sections of the working class are plagued by "petit-bourgeois consciousness."

So the big questions for me would be: What is the role of consciousness in determining a potential class politics? What role does the organization of the working class across multiple economic sectors play in constituting an anticapitalist politics? What role does internationalism play? How do these forces interface with the state? etc.

EastTexasRed
Dec 9 2012 16:26

Good blog. I think that last post by RossWolfe touches on an aspect of the sociological understanding of class which I believe to be largely a function of economic and social changes. That is, post-war 'prosperity' and changes in the global distribution of production/capital/management changed and obscured people's understanding of their personal relation to production. It led to the rise of the new social movements, it decimated UK industry, it seemed to indicate the relentless rise of the middle class, but with the shift of production to the third world, you can also talk about a burgeoning working class in many countries which were fairly recently better described as agrarian. So to some extent I would suggest the angst about what has happened to class boundaries is specific to certain mainly western economies, and those class boundaries are constantly shifting. In Spain, for instance, I would argue that the expansion of the middle class in the 80s and 90s is being reversed by the economic reality, and therefore people's personal identification with class will be shaped by their experience of the new economic climate. Likewise there must be a huge change in mass consciousness in China or India, for instance, where millions more people have become involved in industrial production (and where there is a commensurate development of the managerial middle class). So my point is that the sociological understanding of class is in constant flux everywhere whereas the objective existence of class as relating to the means of production is a given. For the purposes of revolutionary praxis the former is what determines people's receptivity or otherwise to ideas about the latter. The headlong rush of capitalism to implode will reveal in the western so-called 'post-industrial' economies that the reality of class relations and its corollary political organisation/action continues to be more important than the illusion of sectional, identity politics. I think. There's probably loads to take to bits in there, but I maintain that it is possible to glimpse a future much more class-based activism than that we've seen in the last thirty years or so.

D
Dec 9 2012 18:21

Excellent article, I strongly agree with the idea that both forms of class exist and much of the confusion comes when what are the same words used to describe different things are used as if they were the same in meaning.

The only part I disagree with is that sociological classism can be (even hypothetically) done away with under capitalism.

Part of 'classism' is differences in wealth which is IMO an inherent part of capitalism that no form of liberal politics could ever get rid of. In this sense if one is truly against classism a revolutionary perspective is actually required

Stan Milgram
Dec 10 2012 18:18

To put my last post in perspective read my posts in this thread, thanks:

http://libcom.org/forums/north-america/why-is-maoism-strong-in-the-us?page=3#comment-503580

dodger
Dec 10 2012 23:06

This is an important article because it recognises the elephant in the room which is consistently exploited (for example) by the media and politicians. This is the problem of class and culture (and which comes first).

An Aussie once argued with me that they had a classless society because her boss drank Fosters with the workers he had invited onto his Yacht for parties. I just said, do you own a Yacht?

This is the same argument which makes Rupert Murdoch working class in the Sun, because he has certain cultural traits which can be presented as supposed 'working class' culture.

Britain is particularly susceptible to such cultural confusions about class (as is Japan) because it had long histroical periods where class divisions based on material realities of wealth and power were able to produce cultural divisions (and even solidified castes). These often live on in popular culture despite the dynamic of changes in class composition.

The smashing of such cultural divisions (classism for example) are often presented in the same way as overcoming racism. However they do not in any way attack the concrete relationship of the proletariat to capital and the bourgeosie. All they actually attack is cultural representation of class and by so doing create the illusion of a 'classless' society.

EastTexasRed
Dec 12 2012 13:59

Exactly

wiliamson
Dec 15 2012 13:52

And what does this mean in real life? Racism, sexism, are put under the spotlight and rightly abhorred. But classism, is the ism that dares not speak its name. Its not OK to discriminate against ethnics, women, sexual diversity, but it is still OK to discriminate against working class people. And not ever acknowledge that it is happening. Discrimination? Being assumed to be a criminal because of your social class, finding educational qualifications dont get you anywhere, because you are not already part of the in-group, or a token--included group - you get brownie points for employing an ethnic, a sexual diverse, etc, but not for employing a standard working class chap.

Steven.
Dec 15 2012 16:35
wiliamson wrote:
you get brownie points for employing an ethnic, a sexual diverse, etc, but not for employing a standard working class chap.

what the hell is this supposed to mean? Who gives "brownie points" in your view? And as for your language, "an ethnic", "a sexual diverse", apart from the fact it is very bizarre language and grammatically incorrect it is not acceptable on this site.

sihhi
Dec 15 2012 23:00
Django wrote:
But when we understand “class” as describing a relationship with capital, the implications are very different. We’re talking about an exploited class, not an oppressed one. I.e. the class has surplus value extracted from it, it is not discriminated against. This cannot be resolved by granting the working class equality with capital. It must result from a resolution of the struggling interests of workers and capital through the expropriation of capital and the construction of a society based on human needs. This difference has been correctly described as a politics of oppression as opposed to a politics of exploitation. The resolution of oppression is liberation, the resolution of exploitation is expropriation. Only one necessarily points beyond capital.

Hi can you or anyone explain this "granting the working class equality with capital" I'm having difficulty envisioning what this means. How would it work, or have I misunderstood completely and that this equality is impossible.

radicalgraffiti
Dec 15 2012 23:39

it is impossible, but it is the sort of thing liberals propose

Steven.
Dec 15 2012 23:51
sihhi wrote:
Django wrote:
But when we understand “class” as describing a relationship with capital, the implications are very different. We’re talking about an exploited class, not an oppressed one. I.e. the class has surplus value extracted from it, it is not discriminated against. This cannot be resolved by granting the working class equality with capital. It must result from a resolution of the struggling interests of workers and capital through the expropriation of capital and the construction of a society based on human needs. This difference has been correctly described as a politics of oppression as opposed to a politics of exploitation. The resolution of oppression is liberation, the resolution of exploitation is expropriation. Only one necessarily points beyond capital.

Hi can you or anyone explain this "granting the working class equality with capital" I'm having difficulty envisioning what this means. How would it work, or have I misunderstood completely and that this equality is impossible.

I think the point is it is saying that with racism, technically white people and black people could be treated equally. However the working class and capital could not be treated equally as it is qualitatively different relationship (indeed, capital is not a group of people!).

Spikymike
Dec 16 2012 12:58

Steven,

With respect don't get on your high horse about poor grammar and inappropriate language in your response to williamson who clearly stated their opposition to racism and sexism and is, as far as I can see, a totally new poster here writing presumably from some personal experience. They make a valid point even if poorly expressed. As an admin person It's both reasonable and responsible of you to question the language they used but be a little more tolerant to a first timer on a first post.

radicalgraffiti
Dec 16 2012 14:58
Spikymike wrote:
Steven,

With respect don't get on your high horse about poor grammar and inappropriate language in your response to williamson who clearly stated their opposition to racism and sexism and is, as far as I can see, a totally new poster here writing presumably from some personal experience. They make a valid point even if poorly expressed. As an admin person It's both reasonable and responsible of you to question the language they used but be a little more tolerant to a first timer on a first post.

Stating opposition to racism and sexism doesn't mean a person is not racist and sexist, it has become a rule that any time someone says "I'm not racists but" they are about to say something racist.

In this case wiliamson promotes the common racist myth that it is easier for women, non white and LGBT people to get jobs than it is for white men, something that is the exact opposite of the truth. They also do so using terminology of the far right like "ethnics".

But you are right that criticising grammar is not a good argument.

Spikymike
Dec 16 2012 18:48

radicalgrafitti,

Your interpretation of williamson's view could be correct but not necessarily given their poor expression, but certainly the 'equalities' agenda as promoted and practiced in the public services as I experienced it in the local council I worked in could certainly said to discriminate against, what some here have described as the sociological or cultural working class (of whatever colour or sexual orientation) when it came to jobs in the white collar sector - something I did my best to correct.

I prefer to give posters such as williamson the benefit of a doubt until proved otherwise. They must of course expect to be challenged on what they write when it is open to such conflicting interpretations.

Chilli Sauce
Jan 1 2013 12:55

Know it's a bit late but I just wanted to say that this is a great article--well deserving of the 350+ facebook likes it now appears to have. FWIW, I think it'd be worth linking to when libcom's introduction to class is completed: http://libcom.org/library/class-class-struggle-introduction-draft

EDIT: It's no longer a draft, but I still think it'd be a worthwhile link.

Chilli Sauce
Jan 1 2013 13:26
Quote:
Britain is particularly susceptible to such cultural confusions about class (as is Japan) because it had long histroical periods where class divisions based on material realities of wealth and power were able to produce cultural divisions (and even solidified castes). These often live on in popular culture despite the dynamic of changes in class composition.

The smashing of such cultural divisions (classism for example) are often presented in the same way as overcoming racism. However they do not in any way attack the concrete relationship of the proletariat to capital and the bourgeosie. All they actually attack is cultural representation of class and by so doing create the illusion of a 'classless' society.

Dodger, just want to say that this is a really interesting and important observation. It's a sort of class as spectacle: a representation of "class" being sold back to the class in such a way as to shore up class society and, in fact, undermine the power of a defined working class culture.

And it's expansive, being reflected over decades on political, social, and cultural levels (often even being promoted by legitimate as well as 'self-described' radicals). I'm pretty sure there's a dissertation in their somewhere...