A discussion about class

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Jacques Roux's picture
Jacques Roux
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Jun 2 2005 18:41

yeah capital is fine

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Steven.
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Jun 2 2005 19:02
Catch wrote:
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It'd be good to come up with a work referring to the "middle class"

Professionals? Is that unjargony/accurate enough?

If I hear professionals, I think managers/doctors/teachers/civil servants/engineers anyone who "yuppie flats" are aimed at, about right for the sort of people we want to talk about without clouding our general class position? We could also use "aspirational professionals"!!

Hmmm I dunno... cos it includes students, maybe that's okay... not too sure though... for most people middle class means people without regional accents. M/c is used in political analysis by far lefties generally as an insult - that group's m/c, those ideas are m/c... I suppose when it refers to priviledges someone has that can shape their ideas, like the trot idea of them being a vanguard, hmmm will think more about this.

Quote:
Does anyone have a problem with using (forces of) Capital/Capital and the State for general non-working class elements? If it's linked to the glossary then that'd explain it to anyone unfamiliar. There's very little room for misunderstanding with those terms, and I'd rather have a short (then expanded) explanation of Capital, than constant discussions on the main forum about "what does libcom mean by class", or other groups starting threads on their boards to take the piss out of our analysis like we do to them....

Yeah that sounds good - get doing a definition of "capital" then! Not sure about "forces", can you give examples where that could be used?

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Jun 4 2005 11:48

Also I wouldn't mind a response from pingtiao re: this:

John. wrote:
pingtiao wrote:
I don't think that the 'middle class' or 'coordinator class' exists in any substantially definible way, no. I do think that a class analysis that fails to take into account the layers within the w/c that are materially (and culturally?) bound to the r/c is simplistic.

Materially?

If a class is defined by its relationship to the MOP then that means it has an economic interest as a class - by definition. Therefore the economic, or material, interests of a workers are by definition opposed to the bourgeoisie. As I pointed out, from your examples someone on a very high wage can leave the class rapidly by buying enough property. (but then these individual things are not very important anyway)

Are you accusing anyone of being so simplistic as to not realise that some workers act against their own interests? If not then surely the second statement is superfluous surely?

I wouldn't say "culturally" exactly, but ideologically sure - that's hegemony, no?

I do think it's quite an important point, cos I think if you believe workers can be materially bound to the bourgeoisie I think that's only a tiny step away from 3rd Worldism (I really wanted to say 3rd World Crypto-Maoism embarrassed wink )

Jack:

Quote:
Following on from this, I think the whole 'social relationship' thing can be taken too far - as I think John has gone down. As far as I am concerned, there IS a definate and distinct ruling class. Sure, it's not illuminati shit, or highly tightly planned, but there is certainly a class network of those who control the MOP + upper echelons of the collective capitalist, the state. I think it's pretty naive to think that while workers can organise collectivly in their interests (unions etc.), that bosses aren't going to do as much in a conscious way. To mean it just seems trying too hard to not sound like a conspiracy nutter.

I dunno maybe I have a bit... still I'm not sure how useful it is in terms of wording things...

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Jun 4 2005 13:53
John. wrote:
Jack wrote:
Following on from this, I think the whole 'social relationship' thing can be taken too far - as I think John has gone down. As far as I am concerned, there IS a definate and distinct ruling class. Sure, it's not illuminati shit, or highly tightly planned, but there is certainly a class network of those who control the MOP + upper echelons of the collective capitalist, the state. I think it's pretty naive to think that while workers can organise collectivly in their interests (unions etc.), that bosses aren't going to do as much in a conscious way. To mean it just seems trying too hard to not sound like a conspiracy nutter.

I dunno maybe I have a bit... still I'm not sure how useful it is in terms of wording things...

If you take something like the environment as an example, individually, you will find it very hard to find a boss who doesn't have any concern about the environment. this boss might be overseeing some strip mine, but at the same time they arent going to want the whole planet to be fucked up, they will still want to be able to take their kids to the seaside, etc.

But as a system, capitalism doesnt care about the environment until it affects profits (which we are yet to see imo), it is quite happy to have a strip mine, next to another strip mine, next to another, etc.

so yeah i am just arguing for a middle ground between the whole 'whats the driving force of capitalism', individual capitalists vs Capital. if we dont recognise both factors, then we just look like either class war types (ie "i know where this capitalist lives, lets go push dog shit throw his door") or individualists/total liberty type (ie "bosses are exploited to you know").

and yeah, nurses are professionals, which is funny coz all these 3 class anarchists, will never put nurses as middle class, besides the fact that a) they have power over working class people b) nursing is a profession c) you have to go to university. by any bullshit class analysis, nurses are just as middle class as teachers.

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Jun 4 2005 16:43
gav wrote:
and yeah, nurses are professionals, which is funny coz all these 3 class anarchists, will never put nurses as middle class, besides the fact that a) they have power over working class people b) nursing is a profession c) you have to go to university. by any bullshit class analysis, nurses are just as middle class as teachers.

Tell me about it roll eyes

[note to self - searched for house type statistics and found them, only 13% of households live in council houses, 69% in owner-occupied, with 11% private rented. Kinda shits on the the "council house" class analysis...

ONS stats]

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pingtiao
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Jun 10 2005 13:29

***Moved to Thought and bumped***

Questionauthority
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Jun 10 2005 20:03

The middle class is essentially defined by wealth in modern day society. If you pick up a guardian or something it will have an article about well to d middle class families who buy organic food. They have defined this class as terms of wealth not in relation in to how they are a part of production.

Quote:
for most people middle class means people without regional accents. M/c is used in political analysis by far lefties generally as an insult - that group's m/c, those ideas are m/c... I suppose when it refers to priviledges someone has that can shape their ideas, like the trot idea of them being a vanguard, hmmm will think more about this.

That also backs up this view but why is it held then? It seems that within the far left its a joke and insult to be called m/c. On one level its ribbing because you may speak with a different accent and have come from a slightly better background but that better background refers to a financial sense. But it is still pointless to throw it around as an insult if it is being referred to as a financial status. That would explain such things as when people say "lower middle class" and "upper middle class"....

Perhaps a better way of defining the idea ofa "co-ordinator" class or m/c in refereance to how capitalism functions is that often this "class" has the chance to perhaps enter the ruling class by becoming wealtheir and rising the job ladder?

Quote:
What's the other class's interest, and how does it manifest itself?

The intrest of this "class's" intrest would be to mantain a sound financial platform then BUT it is an ever changing class with the generations is it not? A middle class child leaves home for university which he has in part to pay for himself and then enters the working world as a laborer (working part time for a shop or something) then he is part of the working class or proletariat .... how does he then leave that class? ( see it as a child he had no means of making money or involvement in capitalism so he wasn't yet a member of the class system but his parents were) Surely he will continue to have to sell his labour even if he reaches the financial status of middle class.

I guess I'm saying that the exsitence of this class revolves around keeping itself at a sound financial place where it gets better value for its labour. By this wishing to stay up there however I don't know whether that involes opressing the working class hmm thinking about it at a stretch i would say they could see themseles as opressing it by trying to mantain a personal grip on their wealth.....

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Jun 11 2005 19:06

Hi All

This is getting good, and I feel sort of guilty disrupting the flow of argument here, but is anyone familiar with the Andy Anderson's "The Enemy is Middle Class". I remember the CW conference in Bradford that he attended, was it in 87?, oh I can't remember, but it turned out quite nasty and no mistake.

Anyway, CW was forced by the issues raised in this pamphlet to advance 2/3-strata class analysis to a level of sophistication that I haven't seen since.

Trouble is, I've forgotten what we all concluded. I personally remember thinking, at the time, that Andy's position was entertaining, valuable but quite scary in a sectarian sort of way. It certainly did CW no favours, mind. Caused more trouble than it was worth.

I'll post this link up, please don't be baited by it, I think it's designed to annoy...

http://www.openlyclassist.org.uk

Cheers folks, lots of love

Chris

Mike Harman
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Jun 11 2005 21:53

We've seen that, Anarch (a self-styled American middle-class kid) who posts here some times loves it.

Do you not think a three class analysis, or even a two class analysis involving only working and middle simply divides the class in the interests of Capital?

All that stuff is based on sociological and cultural identifiers of class, and abandons the economic terrain (except income, unless it's a footballer etc.) almost entirely. If we all stopped eating pesto or smoked salmon it wouldn't change the relations of production would it?

redyred
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Jun 12 2005 08:51

The main error the openly classist types make is they fail to realise a class can only be distinct if it's relation to capital is distinct. We all know there are certain sociological and cultural differences that give us a concept of working class and middle class as seperate, but in terms of the economic model all you're really talking about is richer and poorer workers.

In the case of the middle management/co-ordinator "class" as others have said they do not really constitute a class in themselves. I'd say that (like coppers) they are a group whose main function in capitalism is against the working class. They organise the exploitation of the workforce at a basic, hands-on level and they are generally against working class organisation. But economically they are workers. They still work for a proportion of their value, and they do not own or control the means of production, or at most they have a small degree of control over a tiny section of it.

Jack wrote:
Following on from this, I think the whole 'social relationship' thing can be taken too far - as I think John has gone down. As far as I am concerned, there IS a definate and distinct ruling class. Sure, it's not illuminati shit, or highly tightly planned, but there is certainly a class network of those who control the MOP + upper echelons of the collective capitalist, the state. I think it's pretty naive to think that while workers can organise collectivly in their interests (unions etc.), that bosses aren't going to do as much in a conscious way. To mean it just seems trying too hard to not sound like a conspiracy nutter.

Hmm.. Would a less conspiraloony-sounding way of saying this be to describe the bourgeoisie as being class conscious?

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Jun 12 2005 15:16
redyred wrote:
Hmm.. Would a less conspiraloony-sounding way of saying this be to describe the bourgeoisie as being class conscious?

But that's not true though, is it? Hmmm I spose in some ways it would be, but the individual capitalists are all in rampant competition with each other...

Lazy Riser - OC are morons, they do not have a single useful thing to say about class. Check out the article Middle class kill working-class babies roll eyes

redyred
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Jun 12 2005 16:57
John. wrote:
redyred wrote:
Hmm.. Would a less conspiraloony-sounding way of saying this be to describe the bourgeoisie as being class conscious?

But that's not true though, is it? Hmmm I spose in some ways it would be, but the individual capitalists are all in rampant competition with each other...

But does class consciousness necessarily imply unity? Granted, in the case of the working class a conscious class is a unified class, the two would necessarily go hand in hand. Capitalists, despite divisions are by and large conscious of their aims in class struggle. And they can compete against each other without compromising their position of power over the workers.

Also unity works in a very different way for the capitalist class - for example US oil companies will compete for markets against each other in a local arena, but will form into a cartel to compete for markets in a global arena.

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Jun 18 2005 20:13

Hi

Catch, I've got "mild" reservations about your point about divisiveness. Nevertheless, you're right to be suspicious of prevailing perspectives on socio-economic class.

You won't be surprised to learn that I've brewed a rather special class analysis of my very own, it draws on Marx, Anderson and Veblen. I'm a big Veblen fan...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Theory_of_the_Leisure_Class#Economic_drive

I'm a bit worried that it'll make me look idoitic, but I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know what you think. Shall I post it?, it's a bit inflammatory, I think I just might, but I'd need indemnity from...

John., to my mind Andy Anderson is (was?) unlikely to be a "moron", but if you know better then who am I to argue with you sir?

Anderson’s “The Enemy is Middle Class” is certainly controversial, and some of Openly Classist’s utterances are nutty, but we dismiss their position at our peril. Anderson’s ideas at least attempt to make sense of the weaknesses of traditional leftist points of view, and it would be in our best interests for Anderson’s estate to allow the text of “The Enemy is Middle Class” to be made more freely available. That’s not to say that Anderson’s analysis is a panacea, far from it, but it is a useful work and develops an insightful appraisal of the relationship between political organisations and the wider community in whose interests they seek to operate.

http://www.openlyclassist.org.uk/educating.htm

How you analyse class depends on which axe you’re grinding. The correctness of a model of social strata can only be measured by the success of its concomitant endeavour. Given that we have failed to rid ourselves of the yoke of hierarchical power, it’s fair to conclude that the aggregate theory of class emerging across our various agendas is at best irrelevant and at worst reactionary.

Cheers

Chris

Mike Harman
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Jun 18 2005 23:08

Don't see much reason not to post it/link to it, unless it's thousands of words of cut and paste. Unless you don't think it holds up to scrutiny wink

I think a lot of jobs in recent Western Capitalism have been created primarily to consume commodities, or which are essentially jobs providing use-values for Capital (stuff like business services especially) although that doesn't make the work any less exploitative for the people doing it. Lots of jobs that are very hard and unpleasant also aren't giving anyone much benefit.

There's a point where you need to make divisions yes, otherwise why have a class analysis at all, but I think any movement which claims to want to be a majoritarian one - ending minority rule - needs to be able to appeal to the majority of people, and arbitrarily cutting them off seems silly. Obviously in actual groups you have to choose who to work with carefully though, and in real life I'd probably very much accept the existence of a middle class culturally/sociologically.

knightrose
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Jun 19 2005 07:50
Quote:
I think a lot of jobs in recent Western Capitalism have been created primarily to consume commodities, or which are essentially jobs providing use-values for Capital (stuff like business services especially) although that doesn't make the work any less exploitative for the people doing it. Lots of jobs that are very hard and unpleasant also aren't giving anyone much benefit.

As far as I un derstand it, everything produced has a use-value. If it didn't then it wouldn't be able to be sold, hence would not have an exchange value. In which casze, what you are saying makes no sense. Sorry.

Surely the distinction between workers and capitalists is blurred by a number of things. As I see it, class position derives from whether income comes from wage labour or as a reward for the exploitation of wage labour. People with 'managerial' jobs fall on both sides of this divide.

The working class, however, is no longer neatly classified as producers of surplus value. In fact it never has been. Vast sections, for example, are involved in the distribution of commodities, not in their production. It makes a lot more sense to see the class as collectively producing surplus value, not individually. That helps make sense of globalisation too.

Mike Harman
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Jun 19 2005 09:37

knightrose.

I said "essentially jobs providing use-values for Capital". Not jobs which don't provide a use-value.

The person who cleans the London Stock Exchange has no different class relationship to the person who cleans a hospital, they may even work for the same company. However, does the Stock Exchange being clean create any kind of use-value for the working class, do any of the jobs there do that?

A mate of mine has a job cleaning fish tanks in places like Bloomberg and people's houses in Sloane Square etc. Now the fish don't deserve to die, but he's not creating use-values for the working class in that job, he's servicing the conspicuous corporate and private consumption of the ruling/capital class. However he gets paid about 13K a year and has to pay the parking tickets on his van (which he's had loads of), whilst some of the contracts are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

And my favorite example, people who work in call centres who call me up to offer you long distance telephone services, or the people who manage those pre-recorded "Congratulations! You've won a trip to Disneyland" messages I get spammed with on my home phone. Their jobs only provide use-values to the people who make money off them, certainly not me.

I don't think any of those examples are "exploiters" though, but their jobs primarily consume resources and labour without producing any tangible use-value.

knightrose
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Jun 19 2005 10:32

The realisation of surplus value is a very complicated process. I suppose I'm just repeating myself, but I don't see a lot of point in trying to differentiate between your mate and the person who cleans a factory. They are both working to enable capital to reproduce itself and expand. I think we're probably both saying the same thing here.

That's why I think it's more useful to see the working class as being exploited collectively as a class and producing surplus value collectively as a class. Even annoying call centree workers smile

Mike Harman
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Jun 19 2005 11:27
Quote:
I think we're probably both saying the same thing here.

Yes, I think we are.

The only point of pointing out the difference is that the same quality of living as we currently enjoy could be produced with considerably less labour in a libertarian communist society, one that would also greatly reduce the ecological impact of our society as well. It shows the possibilities of eliminating class relationships.

knightrose
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Jun 19 2005 11:52
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The only point of pointing out the difference is that the same quality of living as we currently enjoy could be produced with considerably less labour in a libertarian communist society,

I once heard it argued that we could get by on two hours work a week!

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oisleep
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Jun 19 2005 14:53

indeed (although i thought it was 2 hours a day)

i urge anyone who hasn't already to read work and the free society

http://af-north.org/work.htm

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Jun 19 2005 16:37

Hi

A bit too much coffee, double posted first time round. Sorry, hope the next bit isn't too long for everyone's tastes...

Peace and love etc

Chris

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Jun 19 2005 16:38

Hi

There continues to be a diverse range of perspectives on socio-economic class within the libertarian left, the wider political milieu, and the public at large.

Even though it’s putting Marx’s cart before his horse, a satisfying theory of class can only be developed with regard to a political programme. Without some idea of the shape of the revolutionary project, a model of class is useless. Class theory plots how humanity’s massed power dispatches revolutionary objectives, and so a good one is a supreme asset.

The revolutionary class is the intersection of two sets of individuals; those whose best interests are served by the revolutionary project and those able to action the project’s tasks.

If we set ourselves a conventional 19th century objective of ending the exploitation of workers by factory owners, then we arrive at a class analysis based on the relationship between individuals and capital. Nowadays, when workers’ pensions are held in shares in other workers’ businesses, alongside a long list of other post-modern irritations, it’s no wonder that leftist class polemic is irrelevant to everyday life.

Imagine setting the revolutionary objective as the maximisation of authentic leisure.Only elitist psychopaths could stand against this primal desire, only productive workers can advance the economy towards its realisation. By checking an individual’s economic interests, their political capability and adding a notional economic success factor we can appraise their socio-economic class. Please enjoy the following truth table…

In                      Economic

Interests   Capable     Success           Class

0           0           0                 Lumpen 1

0           0           1                 Ruling Elite

0           1           0                 Lumpen 2 

0           1           1                 Middle Class 1

1           0           0                 Lumpen 3

1           0           1                 Middle Class 2

1           1           0                 Working Class 1

1           1           1                 Working Class 2

An obvious weakness of this model is the reliance on the observer’s subjectivity. This model points to the idea of an individual’s class as an aggregated public perception.

Organisations with specific positions are able to develop well-defined models of political class. The lack of ideological coherence within the libertarian left means that it’s hard to reach consensus on fundamentals of class and history. A movement with a declared programme and a united vision is in a much better position to develop a useful class theory, but the incredible ideological diversity within left-anarchism exists as a consequence of the inability of its factions to achieve critical mass in their own right. Advocates of the 1926 platform dismiss its failure to grip the imaginations of the “labouring masses” at their peril.

Lots of love etc

Chris

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Jun 23 2005 12:33

This thread's been quiet for a bit, so I don't think I'm disrupting it by changing tack slightly.

OK -- I've heard various posters making a distinction between class as a sociological concept (based on cultural, educational, "family background" factors) & class as an economic category (by which they mean "location in means of production" or similar).

My question about this is: -

Aren't you in danger of reifying the distinction between the social & the economic here? Isn't this precisely what Leninists (& indeed the Second International) do when they say "Here's the unions, they're for economic struggle, here's the party, the real agent of social change"?

I don't have problem with the fact that a lot of sociological definitions of class are bullshit. Not to mention based on marketing theory. It's just the drawing of that kind of distinction that I'm not sure about.

Or am I just being an ultra-picky poststructuralist slaphead (as usual)?

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Jun 23 2005 15:14
the button wrote:
Aren't you in danger of reifying the distinction between the social & the economic here? Isn't this precisely what Leninists (& indeed the Second International) do when they say "Here's the unions, they're for economic struggle, here's the party, the real agent of social change"?

I don't see how, cos no one's saying that. They separate the economic and political, when in reality they aren't separate.

But the socio-economic and the cultural are very different.

Quote:
I don't have problem with the fact that a lot of sociological definitions of class are bullshit. Not to mention based on marketing theory. It's just the drawing of that kind of distinction that I'm not sure about.

What distinction? Between the (macro) socio-economic and (micro - i.e. individual) culture?

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Jun 23 2005 15:19
John. wrote:

I don't see how, cos no one's saying that.

Really?

Quote:
Jack wrote:

if you want to talk about a sociological grouping. If you want to talk about an economic class.

confused

Does tend to suggest that the social & the economic are different domains.

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Jun 23 2005 15:21

Yeah but he's not separating the economic and political, he's separating the macro socio-economic and the micro cultural, no?

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the button
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Jun 23 2005 15:22
John. wrote:

What distinction? Between the (macro) socio-economic and (micro - i.e. individual) culture?

The distinction between the social & the economic.

The chances are I've got completely the wrong of the stick here.

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Jun 23 2005 15:23
the button wrote:
The distinction between the social & the economic.

The chances are I've got completely the wrong of the stick here.

Yeah no one's making that. I think the argument is that class is about economics not accent (non-regional vs cockney/Northern) or taste in lunches (pie + mash vs. rocket salad)

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the button
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Jun 23 2005 15:24
John. wrote:
Yeah but he's not separating the economic and political, he's separating the macro socio-economic and the micro cultural, no?

OK, so it would have been clearer if he'd said "cultural grouping," and "socio-economic class." As I say, the wrong end of the stick firmly in my grasp!

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Steven.
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Jun 23 2005 15:25
the button wrote:
OK, so it would have been clearer if he'd said "cultural grouping," and "socio-economic class." As I say, the wrong end of the stick firmly in my grasp!

Yeah probably. But I know I like to just slag off sociology for the sake of it black bloc