Middle Class

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meanoldman
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Jul 8 2006 16:49
Middle Class

I'm also not very sure about anything to do with the middle class, so educate me. It is, sometimes, a useful category, but the class in middle class is very much not the class in capital-labour. It is a social and cultural categorisation. The basic thought of mine here is that there are two parallel two class models, which give rises to three 'classes.' So there are two economic classes (capital and labour) and two cultural classes (proletarian and bourgeois), and clearly if you intersect these you get three classes.

But then I started wondering if there is (still?) such a thing as non-bourgeois culture in capitalism. At some stage there may have been a working class culture in E. P. Thompson's sense of class as a lived experience but I don't think that does exist now. Certainly no generalised cultural group that defines itself in opposition to capital and capitalism. And with capital being a social relationship, and the control of capital no longer being the preserve of Rockefellers, but instead of pension trusts, I don't think capital has much of a human form. Those who 'obviously' have real substantial power don't. Politicians are hugely constrained by the dictates of international capital, so in what sense do they constitute a ruling class? Politicians 150 years ago may have been able to make substantial changes to society at the sweep of a pen, but that isn't actually true now, which is an argument we repeat in our anti-election propoganda.

This seemingly though reduces society to a post-modernist tangle of oppression, with no clear lines, and I don't like that. The line that does present itself though is that of order-takers and order-givers. This is not the same line as labour-capital (very few petty bosses control capital), and it's not the same line as the bourgeois culture-proletarian culture line (that I'm not even sure exists!). So I'm not sure where I've gotten to. Possibly John Holloway's characterisation of capitalism by reification, which kind of says this without falling into post-modernist despair of 'oppression is everything and everywhere, it has no focus, no direction and no point at which to attack' by simultaneously examing the mechanisms by which this oppression constantly has to be reproduced.

" In a very real sense capital is nothing other than our separation brought about by our compliance. It is nothing more than the reproduction of the reified and alienated relations that bind us together through our very separation. Indeed the power of capital is our separation. Capital is never more powerful than when we exist as merely isolated individuals, however much we may scream as a result."

Although with Aufheben's important caveat:

"Holloway comes dangerously close to a position of liberal humanism. After all, under capitalism, everyone's activity - the capitalist's included - is alienated. Hence, underneath 'we are all human'. Class becomes so fluid that it is dissolved into a general humanism. For Holloway there is 'no them and us' only us! But there is a 'them': there are those who are well content in the roles as personifications of capital and are quite prepared to destroy any who would threaten capital's dominance!"

phoenixd7
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Joined: 27-06-06
Jul 8 2006 22:38

The rich think the class system goes like this;

Upper

Middle

Working

Criminal

Maybe it's been turned on it's head latley... no?

meanoldman
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Jul 8 2006 23:34

You tell me.

phoenixd7
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Joined: 27-06-06
Jul 9 2006 01:41

Well sure it has.

Mostly the rich are the criminals, or the criminals are the rich. Generally the working class are cemented in the centre, next to the middle class, which in my opinion is either non-existant or in denial of itself with it's outdated deluded moral values.

The way it's always been is that the guy with the muscle to take another guys money comes out on top of any financial situation, which is why the wealthy upper class hogs and the criminals seem to be firmly in charge of the show.

It's a socially-fitting matter to class an unpaid parking ticket "offender" into the same category as.... say Ken Lay, or even a murdering lunatic with a hacksawblade (no comparisons there of course). But there we have another problem which rips out the real moral values we all have but are forced to crush down deep inside us, and replaces them with the rigid chrome laws of "civilisation". Giving us all the freedom to throw the our morals out of the window, and never look back.

Anothr interesting point on language, notice how people aren't criminals anymore, but "offenders".

"Offenders to who?" You may ask,

"Offenders against society." they reply.

But has this "offender" really harmed you in anyway by not paying their congestion charges? Of course not.

Wow.... what my point?

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Tacks
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Joined: 8-11-05
Jul 18 2006 09:13
meanoldman wrote:
I'm also not very sure about anything to do with the middle class, so educate me. It is, sometimes, a useful category, but the class in middle class is very much not the class in capital-labour. It is a social and cultural categorisation. The basic thought of mine here is that there are two parallel two class models, which give rises to three 'classes.' So there are two economic classes (capital and labour) and two cultural classes (proletarian and bourgeois), and clearly if you intersect these you get three classes.

But then I started wondering if there is (still?) such a thing as non-bourgeois culture in capitalism. At some stage there may have been a working class culture in E. P. Thompson's sense of class as a lived experience but I don't think that does exist now. Certainly no generalised cultural group that defines itself in opposition to capital and capitalism. And with capital being a social relationship, and the control of capital no longer being the preserve of Rockefellers, but instead of pension trusts, I don't think capital has much of a human form. Those who 'obviously' have real substantial power don't. Politicians are hugely constrained by the dictates of international capital, so in what sense do they constitute a ruling class? Politicians 150 years ago may have been able to make substantial changes to society at the sweep of a pen, but that isn't actually true now, which is an argument we repeat in our anti-election propoganda.

This seemingly though reduces society to a post-modernist tangle of oppression, with no clear lines, and I don't like that. The line that does present itself though is that of order-takers and order-givers. This is not the same line as labour-capital (very few petty bosses control capital), and it's not the same line as the bourgeois culture-proletarian culture line (that I'm not even sure exists!). So I'm not sure where I've gotten to. Possibly John Holloway's characterisation of capitalism by reification, which kind of says this without falling into post-modernist despair of 'oppression is everything and everywhere, it has no focus, no direction and no point at which to attack' by simultaneously examing the mechanisms by which this oppression constantly has to be reproduced.

" In a very real sense capital is nothing other than our separation brought about by our compliance. It is nothing more than the reproduction of the reified and alienated relations that bind us together through our very separation. Indeed the power of capital is our separation. Capital is never more powerful than when we exist as merely isolated individuals, however much we may scream as a result."

Although with Aufheben's important caveat:

"Holloway comes dangerously close to a position of liberal humanism. After all, under capitalism, everyone's activity - the capitalist's included - is alienated. Hence, underneath 'we are all human'. Class becomes so fluid that it is dissolved into a general humanism. For Holloway there is 'no them and us' only us! But there is a 'them': there are those who are well content in the roles as personifications of capital and are quite prepared to destroy any who would threaten capital's dominance!"

wow i think you just helped me get my head round some tricky theory that had been bothering me for years!

I agree that a ruling class with a sense of its class position and a belief in the right to rule has ewaned considerably, but a new ideology - financial determinism - works just as well. They don't rule because they are better as a class, they rule beacause they have to do so in their position in the economy. The boss doesn't have to think the cleaner is a lesser person to them, but they still employ them as such.

This transition is meant to have happened post feudalism, but actually i think notions of class were integral to capital right up until the 1980's in the UK.

What do you say to the notion that - no matter how transnational, disembodied, and increasingly separate from human control capitalism may be, you'd still fight it the same way?

It doesn't really matter if the PM has no influence over capital now, and is totally constrained by its demands - we were never gunning for the PM but capital itself. Otherwise, obviously, it would seem that there ever WAS a PM who didn't serve capital.

I may not have understood any of this nad there may be a typo somewhere.

Ilan
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Joined: 5-04-04
Aug 19 2006 15:08

Capitalism nearly succeeded to camoflage its main core - exploitation. Many factors underlay the capitalist systems but capitalist without exploitation is like a carrige without apulling power...

So, if you go beyond the coverups and superficial aspects, you will find the essence - exploitation. you will find also the demarkation line butween us and them - the expoited and the exploiters.

Power relations are wide spread in capitalism. Culture and ideologies are many. Self labeling as "middle class" or labeling so by others is taking a superficial factor and missing the core. Very few are just in the middle of the continuom - not exploited and not exploiting.

knightrose
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Joined: 8-11-03
Aug 20 2006 09:47

I agree Ilan. The key to exploitation is to remember that we are exploited collectively as a class. It is no longer an individual process between boss and worker.

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Joseph Kay
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Joined: 14-03-06
Aug 20 2006 10:10

Interestingly, Steven Byers just claimed that inheritance tax attacks 'the middle class', but apparently it only applies to the top 6% of estates. So the middle of what?