Am I Working Class? Are You? Are you sure?

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BourgeoisDreamer
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Jan 1 2010 23:36
Am I Working Class? Are You? Are you sure?

It occurs to me that the basis for a lot of activism is the so-called Working Class Struggle.

Now how would you define this? I am a graduate engineer with a mortgage and a well-paid job with a truly evil multinational corporation. But I despise the way Capital and the State seem to conspire to exert control over our lives to the point of enslavement. The old Personnel department has been renamed Human Resources without any acknowledgement of the irony. I mean, what do you do with "resources"? You use them up and chuck away what little's left, don't you?

Are people like me able to be part of a social revolution? Are we invited?

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LeftResistance
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Jan 2 2010 01:05

There can be radical elements in any class that are dedicated revolutionaries... technically youre exploited for a wage so you are part of the working class.. the fact you have a mortgage/position of authority/specialised body of knowledge would make you 'middle class' to some sociologists, the fact is capital has become to entwined with society the lines are no longer as objective ie; so many members of the working class having interests in shares etc.

Point is; you're invited. grin

Spassmaschine
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Jan 2 2010 03:15

Have a read of a recent thread on this subject:

http://libcom.org/forums/theory/questions-class-02112009

BourgeoisDreamer
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Jan 2 2010 22:46

Well, then, excellent. Viva the revolution smile

akai
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Jan 3 2010 00:01

I am quite against the idea that some people have that yuppies are not part of the working class or that income is the main determiner of social class. What determines both your position and class consciousness is indeed complex, but if you have made a conscious choice, you are invited as LeftResistance says.

Just don't become a manager. smile

PS - I actually have considered whether or not anarchists should have more articles dedicated to yuppies. I noticed from researching web addresses that a long of them are reading our web pages here. smile

bootsy
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Jan 3 2010 02:46

I think people like yourself could make a valuable contribution in the building of a new society. I mean we're still going to need engineers... it would just be a matter of making sure that knowledge is used to benefit the community and not monopolized by any one group.

So I for one welcome you to 'our side' and encourage you to put your thoughts into action.

Olly

petey
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Jan 3 2010 04:35
BourgeoisDreamer wrote:
Capital and the State seem to conspire to exert control over our lives to the point of enslavement.

sounds like you're on the right track

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armillaria
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Jan 4 2010 04:24

Ok, so I looked at the "Questions of Class" thread... from there I was looking at some of the articles from the Parecon debate, especially this one:
http://libcom.org/library/libcomorg-responds
First of all (if I'm understanding the concepts correctly) it seems that terms like "working class" get thrown around a lot in popular culture in very vague ways that aren't the same as how we'd mean them if we're talking about economics or revolutionary change. In the news, mass media, etc, it's pretty common to hear talk of working class vs. "middle class". But that's just talking about things that are immediatley visible from a mainstream perspective: Differences in amounts of money earned, etc. When we're talking from a radical anti-capitalist point of view, though, these aren't really useful terms. People working for a wage and living in a run-down apartment complex are technically in the same economic class- proletariate- as people working for a wage that allows them to live in a nice condo (referred to above as yuppies).

Also, it seems like there's no clear-cut distinction between middle and working class (a misnomer anyway, since most middle-class people have to work for a living)- While there is a clear distinction between worker and owner. It seems like the large middle class developed (in the U.S.) after WWII- To appease the workers who had been rising up against them in huge numbers, the Owners of Everything started paying a good portion of them enough to meet their material needs comfortably. So while some were still in poverty, it wouldn't be the vast majority- there would be a middle-class buffer of well-paid workers who were taught to identify their interests with those of the owners.

But I think BD is making an important point. While we have to realize that the mainstream framing of the issue- working class vs. middle class- is unhelpful and misleading (not least of all because stepping out of this framework lets us see that someone having a certain amount of wealth doesn't neccesarilly give them the social power of a ruling-class person, doesn't change the way in which they relate to capitalism, and doesn't make them one of the people who made it this way), we also have to ask, "Okay- since economic class isn't really the issue here, how do we talk about these still-very-important differences that exist amongst us?" I'm sure there's already been a lot of thought and discussion about this- and maybe one of you knows of some good writings that address this very question?

P.S.- I hope it's ok for me to post this here even though I live in the U.S.- The "Questions of Class" thread seems to have been dead for a while and I don't know if bringing it back after all this time would be seen as appropriate/polite. Also, the "libcom responds" article from the debate is really interesting- Anyone know why it's not set up like a normal article, where we can comment on it?

MT
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Jan 4 2010 08:44

there is a difference in so-called sociological and -what I would- call revolutionary approach to the class and it would be better to use "stratum" not "class" when speaking sociologicaly (wage, lifestyle, education whatever...). The difference is that in sociological approach you try to catogories each individual according to some indicators, which makes little sense in revolutionary approach where class is pretty fluid I think and where the fact that you are on one or another pole of the capital-labour relationship is crucial but in terms of activity in real world uncertaint fact. you can be a wage slave working for a minimum wage and living in a drity squat but still act counterrevolutionary when the class conflict is open (as a scab for example). At least this is how I see it. Would welcome other views.

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AIW
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Jan 4 2010 20:05

Scabs do belong to our class. They add economic value. So do unemployed workers. Economic class is not a political position.
We should remember that most people say "middle class" to mean what we call privaliged strata of the working class. Where we use the term "working class" we should explain what we mean by it by putting it in context; in relation to the employing class.
The land is mostly owned by aristocrats; is this the only class whose definition is not contested?

Fletcher
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Jan 5 2010 15:28

Very interesting topic and something that needs discussed more within anarchist circles.

The vast majority of society are members of the working class. This is nothing to do with the type of job you do or the wage/salary you are paid.

Groups like Class War which cry on about middle class wankers etc are playing into the states hands by dividing one group of workers against another.

Teachers, miners, dockers, builders, doctors, strippers, programmers or whatever - we are all working class.

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cantdocartwheels
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Jan 5 2010 18:46

There are grey areas, mostly involving self employment or managerial responsibilities which cloud class interests, and class is not always a black and white issue but still broadly speaking class is simply a tool for generalising what we have in common. Thus the main thing you and someone who works in a coffeeshop have in common is that you both have to sell your labour for a wage. Likewise the only thing said coffee shop worker and a factory worker in China have in common is that again they both sell their labour in return for a wage.

A good quote on the subject:

Quote:
If one identifies proletarian with factory worker (or even worse: with manual labourer), or with the poor, then one cannot see what is subversive in the proletarian condition. The proletariat is the negation of this society. It is not the collection of the poor, but of those who are desperate, those who have no reserves, who have nothing to lose but their chains; those who are nothing, have nothing, and cannot liberate themselves without destroying the whole social order. The proletariat is the dissolution of present society, because this society deprives it of nearly all its positive aspects.

Giles Dauve

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The Outlaw
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Jan 5 2010 19:36

Don't know if this is of relevance, but the end game is to destroy all class distinctions and this cannot happen without aid from all levels of the social stratisphere.

bootsy
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Jan 5 2010 20:41
The Outlaw wrote:
Don't know if this is of relevance, but the end game is to destroy all class distinctions and this cannot happen without aid from all levels of the social stratisphere.

Don't know about this... capitalists make up a part of the social stratosphere, but I don't think we really need their help.

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Choccy
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Jan 5 2010 20:43
The Outlaw wrote:
Don't know if this is of relevance, but the end game is to destroy all class distinctions and this cannot happen without aid from all levels of the social stratisphere.

This undermines all class-struggle because it ultimately means forging cross-class alliances.

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The Outlaw
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Jan 5 2010 22:21

How then can we hope to destroy class all together if we only think "we are the working class, we are the proleteriat"? When we should be thinking "we're all fucked, we're all in this together"

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PartyBucket
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Jan 5 2010 22:39
The Outlaw wrote:
How then can we hope to destroy class all together if we only think "we are the working class, we are the proleteriat"? When we should be thinking "we're all fucked, we're all in this together"

Have you read anything on this site? confused
We clearly arent 'all in this together'.
Isnt that the point?

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Jan 5 2010 22:55
The Outlaw wrote:
How then can we hope to destroy class all together if we only think "we are the working class, we are the proleteriat"? When we should be thinking "we're all fucked, we're all in this together"

We're in this together with our class, not outside it. My interest are in siding with fellow workers.
I don't side with my bosses for example.
My bosses are not 'in this together' with me.

Simple stuff really.

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kakumei
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Jan 5 2010 22:57
The Outlaw wrote:
How then can we hope to destroy class all together if we only think "we are the working class, we are the proleteriat"? When we should be thinking "we're all fucked, we're all in this together"

I'm pretty new to this site, and i was reading this discussion because i felt it was applicable to me, but like previous posters i do not understand how you can come to the conclusion that "we're all in this together"? And i would imagine that the capitalist class, despite a recession, is not "fucked" and is doing quite well exploiting our labour (well, not mine so much, i am unemployed after all). It is not in their interests to side with communists.

bootsy
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Jan 5 2010 23:36
The Outlaw wrote:
How then can we hope to destroy class all together if we only think "we are the working class, we are the proleteriat"? When we should be thinking "we're all fucked, we're all in this together"

What happened to The Outlaw? Here I was thinking you were badass...

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Choccy
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Jan 6 2010 00:26

I know, big disappointment. I thought he was THE ONE.

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kakumei
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Jan 6 2010 00:42
Choccy wrote:
I know, big disappointment. I thought he was THE ONE.

not having been here for too long i'm obviously missing something here, but is he a joke account?

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The Outlaw
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Jan 6 2010 00:46

If we don't work out a way to combine with the slave-masters, we will become slave-drivers. The oppressor will become the oppressed and we will become our enemy.

Are you telling me thats what you fucking want? You want to become the bourgeoisie?

FUCK THAT!

we need to be rid of class divisions, we need to become one class, a class where we are all equal. In the new world, there will be doctors, there will be people who atm are in jobs we perceive to be "upper class".

We need to get as many of them as possible onto our side if we're to get victory, that doesn't mean betraying who we are!

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Jan 6 2010 00:52
The Outlaw wrote:
In the new world, there will be doctors, there will be people who atm are in jobs we perceive to be "upper class".

What sort of jobs do you mean? Doctors, for example, are not 'upper class' simply by virtue of being doctors.

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Choccy
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Jan 6 2010 00:57

You read THAT from what people were saying?
THE OUTLAW, what the fuck is wrong with your head?

No one but idiots think doctors are 'upper class'. Some of the posters here are/were medical students, one of the admins is a medical doctor. Some of us are teachers, some are even the academics you profess to hate.

The definition of class most of us work with is that of your relationship to the means of production. As communists we want to abolish the social relationship that means that most of us have tosell our labour for a wage, where an ruling class leech off the combined social labour of the working class, our class.

Abolishing that social relationship is our goal. A society where workers and communities are self managed, and run by ALL the peopel in them, with everyone affected by decisions having a direct say in those decisions.
A soceity based on need, not profit.

Nowhere in this vision is there a 'role-reversal' which you astonishingly misread into peoples' criticism of your cross-class alliance mental shite. There will be no masters. The old masters will either make the decision to stop being a parasite, living off the working class, or be isolated, left to their own devices, see how they survive without contributing to a communist society. Or they'll get a bullet wink

bootsy
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Jan 6 2010 00:57
The Outlaw wrote:
If we don't work out a way to combine with the slave-masters, we will become slave-drivers. The oppressor will become the oppressed and we will become our enemy.

Are you telling me thats what you fucking want? You want to become the bourgeoisie?

FUCK THAT!

we need to be rid of class divisions, we need to become one class, a class where we are all equal. In the new world, there will be doctors, there will be people who atm are in jobs we perceive to be "upper class".

We need to get as many of them as possible onto our side if we're to get victory, that doesn't mean betraying who we are!

so you're saying we should unite with the capitalists against capitalism?

petey
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Jan 6 2010 01:06
Choccy wrote:
one of the admins is a medical doctor.

i had no idea

Choccy wrote:
Some of us are teachers, some are even the academics you profess to hate.

yes ... it's true ... cry

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Jan 6 2010 05:20

Okay, back to the original questions, which I reckon are very good ones. What is working class struggle? What role is there for the middle class, if any?

If I were asked what 'working class struggle' was, I would say it was the struggle to turn all the smaller struggles over wages, conditions and exploitation into the struggle to end the class society that causes these problems.

Anarchists advocate working class struggle, and its end, because the working class is the only possible agent in instituting the overturn of class society. The conclusion from this is that the classless society that follows the old must be a communist one; everyone having equal access to the resources necessary to live a meaningful life.

Now, what role is there for the middle class (as a class or individually) in all this? To quote from Black Flame:

Quote:
[19th century anarchists] did not use the term middle class in either of the ways common in the twentieth century — to signify relatively comfortable layers of society, or to refer to the middling layers of professionals, small business people, and middle management — but rather to distinguish the new capitalists from the aristocrats.

Just look at how confused the wikipedia article on the middle class is to see how difficult it is to define it in relation to the working class. What is clear to me, is there are a large portion of people who, under capitalism, occupy part of the spectrum between workers and rulers, whose function is to carry out tasks of the rulers (managers, bureaucrats, etc).

My own opinion is that the middle class generally have a stake in the continuation of class society. It seems unlikely that, as a class, they will act against their own interests. The problem I have with middle class involvement is it tends to come with strings attached; they are socialised to believe themselves to be natural leaders and combating these attitudes takes up a lot of time. They often see their own involvement as a legitimiser of struggle, and pulling demands toward middle class interests as being more 'realistic'.

You cannot simply give up being middle class by joining an anarchist group. Even a bourgeoisie who starts working in a factory does so despite having choices to do otherwise. Having the option to call on the services of a QC informs the choices of what 'revolutionary activity' to undertake.

That said, you need to give everyone a chance. If a middle class person wants to get involved in revolutionary struggle, then that's okay by me. I do think their class position needs to be taken into account when listening to their proposals. However great the numbers of middle class involvement are, they are not strictly necessary for the revolution to abolish capitalism.

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Jan 6 2010 09:00
Lumpen wrote:
Okay, back to the original questions, which I reckon are very good ones. What is working class struggle? What role is there for the middle class, if any?

If I were asked what 'working class struggle' was, I would say it was the struggle to turn all the smaller struggles over wages, conditions and exploitation into the struggle to end the class society that causes these problems.

Anarchists advocate working class struggle, and its end, because the working class is the only possible agent in instituting the overturn of class society. The conclusion from this is that the classless society that follows the old must be a communist one; everyone having equal access to the resources necessary to live a meaningful life.

Now, what role is there for the middle class (as a class or individually) in all this? To quote from Black Flame:

Quote:
[19th century anarchists] did not use the term middle class in either of the ways common in the twentieth century — to signify relatively comfortable layers of society, or to refer to the middling layers of professionals, small business people, and middle management — but rather to distinguish the new capitalists from the aristocrats.

Just look at how confused the wikipedia article on the middle class is to see how difficult it is to define it in relation to the working class. What is clear to me, is there are a large portion of people who, under capitalism, occupy part of the spectrum between workers and rulers, whose function is to carry out tasks of the rulers (managers, bureaucrats, etc).

My own opinion is that the middle class generally have a stake in the continuation of class society. It seems unlikely that, as a class, they will act against their own interests. The problem I have with middle class involvement is it tends to come with strings attached; they are socialised to believe themselves to be natural leaders and combating these attitudes takes up a lot of time. They often see their own involvement as a legitimiser of struggle, and pulling demands toward middle class interests as being more 'realistic'.

You cannot simply give up being middle class by joining an anarchist group. Even a bourgeoisie who starts working in a factory does so despite having choices to do otherwise. Having the option to call on the services of a QC informs the choices of what 'revolutionary activity' to undertake.

That said, you need to give everyone a chance. If a middle class person wants to get involved in revolutionary struggle, then that's okay by me. I do think their class position needs to be taken into account when listening to their proposals. However great the numbers of middle class involvement are, they are not strictly necessary for the revolution to abolish capitalism.

Class has no use as a system of individual classification, we should leave that sort of nonsense to the sociologists. Likewise all this stuff about ingrained attitudes misses the point, penty of people have ingrained hierarchical atttitudes, the point is that struggle is the forge of new ideas and methods. So struggle shows us for example that sexism and racism divides the working class.
Using the term middle class to define anyone who's a manager is counter productive, its literally playing into the hands of neo-liberals and their ilk who are always keen to muddy the water when it comes to class. Most supervisors, middle managers and team leaders are simply workers who are given a few priviliges in return for managerial responsibilities, or they are experienced workers whose authority of knowledge (however necessary or unnecessary that knowledge is) is, under capitalism, formalised into a more purely managerial form of authority
Personally i'd steer clear of using the term middle class altogether, its very rarely a useful term and offers a pretty piss poor vague definition of society at best. The whole point of class struggle is that there isn;t a middle ground, you can;t sit on the fence in a strike, thus also in political terms, talking about a middle class is futile. Generally the term middle class just leaves graduates, office workers, ''professionals'' and other skilled workers floundering because they think socialism and class struggle somehow doesn;t apply to them, so its really not a term anarchists should go around using that much.

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Jan 6 2010 12:21

while a definition of middle class may be useless in terms of classical marxist notions of class (which to be honest largely belong to the 19th century, not the 21st) i think the reasons given for its rejection are not particularly helpful in recognising the existence, and operation of, unequal/unfair power relations in society?

unequal power relations re economic power, social power, political power, cultural power, physical power etc.. exist within capitalist society and to collapse everything down into a definition of working class which effectively includes 98-99% of all people in society while being theoretically correct and in accordance with the gospel of saint marx, is a rejection of anything other than a two class analysis a sufficient base from which to work from for people who are supposedly opposed to all unequal and unfair power relationship in society?

Fair enough if you are saying that the only unfair power relation in society you are concerned about is that between those that have to sell their labour power to survive and those who don't - but as soon as you take that line it leads you to a situation where for example you can't treat police, prison officers, debt collectors, bailiffs, politicians,scabs etc.. any different as your power relations analysis isn't nuanced enough to take these things into account. Likewise this approach leaves no room for responses to manifestations of unequal/unfair power relations in relation to sex, race, social/cultural power etc..between members of the working class. Now clearly having some blanket term of middle class doesn't do anything in identifying these unequal power relations either and as pointed out leads to further alienation and division between the wider working class, so I don't object to it being seen as a useless term, but what I do think is poor is the reasons for its rejection - i.e. we all have to sell our labour power so we're all in the same boat

To ignore the substantial power relations that exist and are exercised amongst the large group of people who all have to sell their labour power to survive seems like a pretty blinkered view of the world we live in - using a blanket and vague identifier of middle class does nothing to address these problems mind, but then again collapsing everything down to a sale of labour power analysis doesn't either

cantdo - that quote from duave above (which i think is pretty meaningless crap) is pretty much diametrically opposed to the stance you took in the post above, i.e. duave reduces the working class to the minimum those who have absolutely nothing and nothing to lose, i.e.

those who are desperate, those who have no reserves, who have nothing to lose but their chains; those who are nothing, have nothing, and cannot liberate themselves without destroying the whole social order

while you expand it to its maximum (i.e including those who are not desperate, who have reserves, have plenty to lose, who are 'something', have something etc..) - so not sure how you can praise the duave quote while arguing something that to me seems to be at the other end of the spectrum from it - for what it's worth I agree more with you than duave

no1
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Jan 6 2010 13:39

The distinction of 'middle class' vs 'working class' can be useful once you realise that it's mainly a cultural category that does not parallel the material categories of proletariat vs bourgeoisie.
Being 'middle class' means wanting to have a career and identifying with your job, being university educated, owning a house and thinking of it as giving financial security, having a cleaner and perhaps an au-pair, sending your kids to a school that increases their chance of getting a well-paid job etc. Plus of course feeling superior to everybody who does not have a 'middle class' lifestyle.
Being 'working class' (in the cultural sense) constitues a rejection of the above in favour of an attitude to life that is less individualist and values solidarity and community. There is of course a material basis to these two cultures. Being middle class works really well in material terms for professionals, because the individualistic career-focus will allow you to succeed in an work environment that rewards these characteristics.
Did anyone see Adam Curtis' [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trap_(television_documentary_series)#1._.22Fuck_You_Buddy.22_.2811_March_2007.29]documentary[/url] on game theory, which described how John Nash worked out that (capitalist) society could be very stable if everybody behaved selfishly as an inhdividual? I think that middle class culture is the result of a strategy used by the most privileged workers that consists of promoting your individual interest by betraying your class interest. This works well in a neo-liberal society, with its managerialism, performance targets, large salary differentials, long working hours. Working class culture is based on a strategy where fighting for your collective interest improves your material conditions. This works quite well if you're e.g. a miner or factory worker in a social-democratic society, but less so in a neo-liberal one.