Class Contempt

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remind remind's picture

Unionist wrote:
Remind provides many explanations for the failure of workers to take action. The only one missing is failure of leadership.
Leadership is an interesting facit, how one views leadership, and how another does is very different. Moreover, too much emphasis is put on leadership, when in fact people should be leading themselves, and putting someone in a figurehead position to only speak for them in differing venues. If a leader is failing, then the people who choose the leader are failing to make the leader hear their voices, or failing to make their leader act in accordance with larger organizational decisions, and thus they are failing themselves.

We saw this anti-progressive leader action play out in the last election where it became all about the leader, in each of the parties, when indeed we have a political party system for very good reasons. This false notion of a "leader" being the be all and end all, is buying into right wing or patriarchial philosophy, or conceptual framework, and it should be rejected everytime it rears it's ugly false head. It is divisive and disempowering to those that comprise the whole of the party, and indeed the whole of society.

I have had a good many tussels with so called "leaders" of things I was involved in, and upon occasion I completely discounted their "leadership" position as not being pertinent. Mostly over things pertinent to my sphere of actions and deliberations, and sometimes others than my own, whereas the leader was working for/from their own self-interest at the time and not for the good of the many, and thus refused action. And hell ya, I undercut their actions pertaining to what I/others were trying to acheive. But I did not undercut their broader leadership, as there needs to be someone who can be the voice of the many, and who can communicate effectively the message, unless of course their leadership is/was completely flawed.

Take for example hockey, where the team players nominate a team captain. In no way does this position mean that the puck must be passed always to the captain and never carried alone, or passed to another. But still the captain speaks for the team and thus is their leader in differing venues.

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"watching the tide roll away"

CMOT Dibbler

 

Quote:
Anyone have anything to say about actual unmistakable class conempt? .
 

ummmmmmmmmm....It's bad? 

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Takes more than combat gear to make a man Takes more than license for a gun Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can A gentleman will walk but never run -Sting, an englishman in new york

CMOT Dibbler

Quote:
If a leader is failing, then the people who choose the leader are failing to make the leader hear their voices, or failing to make their leader act in accordance with larger organizational decisions, and thus they are failing themselves.

 

But remind, not everyone has the time to plug away at these issues.  Because of this we need leaders who we can trust,  not ones who need to be constantly nannied by  the membership.   

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Takes more than combat gear to make a man Takes more than license for a gun Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can A gentleman will walk but never run -Sting, an englishman in new york

Unionist

Anyway, remind, you totally misconstrued my comment. Not your fault - I hadn't yet elaborated. When I said "failure of leadership", I was not referring to some "leader", but rather to the entirety of the left-wing political parties and forces and trade unions in action at the time. They couldn't figure out how to unite, what platform to promote, and how to lead.

I don't blame workers for that failure, either in the 1930s or today. If workers don't show up at union meetings or political party functions, it's because they correctly see them as a total waste of time, directionless and rudderless. Workers will get into motion, and the situation will change. But it will change radically, with a lot of parties and unions and other movements biting the dust and re-forming as something else.

So, to get back to class contempt. I have this mindless sort of admiration for workers (not parties, not unions). I think they know what's what, and despite all the odds, they will get their act together. Lecturing them to not be apathetic is counter-productive. They are apathetic for very good reasons.

remind remind's picture

Unioniest wrote:
They are apathetic for very good reasons.
And what would that be?

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"watching the tide roll away"

Unionist

Parties and unions that abandon principle at the least sign of trouble - that campaign from the left and rule from the right - that make promises to attract support and then shamelessly break them when they think workers' support is wrapped up - that foster individual ambition in place of self-sacrifice - that get so tied up in the status quo that they forget their mission is to change it - anyway, if you need specific examples, refer to:

[url=http://rabble.ca/babble]This resource.[/url]

remind remind's picture

I do not believe that is a good enough reason to get apathetic, I believe it is good a reason to get active. People decide to get apathetic, it is not a naturally occuring phenomena, and they can just as easily decide not to.

You can wallow all day in long past recriminations, and play the blame game, and not a damn thing gets changed. You can decide to see everything cynically, and not a damn thing gets done. You can hold grudges and not a damn thing gets done. You can keep on fighting over trivial shit and not a damn thing gets done. All that is getting done is a whole helleva lot of nothing, other than taking 3 steps back.

Of course everything needs renewal, and status quo, is another occurance not naturally found for any great length of time. Renewal should be recognized as something that is not something to be warded against, but necessary. However, people are resistent to change, even though change would be in their best interests. I have yet to decide if this is operant conditioning, or a fact of nature, or indeed an axiety disorder. Or even a combination of all the above.

And refering me to babble forum topics is such a brilliant strategy unionist.

As for principles, that is a whole other topic direction.

 

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"watching the tide roll away"

George Victor

 

When DID old Karl's concept, lumpenproletariat, fall out of fashion - and for what reason? Some of the above?

(And this question is honestly placed, u. , in the name of enlightenment.)

 

 

KenS

In the first place, I don't think Karl ever elaborated it with any pretense of rigour. So I'd say it was never more than an ad hoc descriptive label .

George Victor

Encyclopedia Brittanica:

(German: “rabble proletariat”), according to Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto, the lowest stratum of the industrial working class, including also such undesirables as tramps and criminals. The members of the Lumpenproletariat—this “social scum,” said Marx—are not only disinclined to participate in revolutionary activities with their “rightful brethren,” the proletariat, but also tend to act as the “bribed tools of reactionary intrigue.”

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Unionist

Unless Karl Marx has changed in the decades since I last read him, I don't recall him demonizing the very poor nor blaming workers' apathy for the slowness of social change. I do recall him meticulously dissecting what he viewed as unscientific theories of some ideologues who spoke in the name of the dispossessed but who didn't show them a path forward. I think those were the ones he blamed for perpetuation of the status quo - not the workers.

And by the way, remind, the same workers who don't participate in the activities and organizations that you and I may think are the right ones, don't just drink beer and fish and hunt. They are active in ways that to them appear more meaningful. But when the time comes for a fight, they are all there. I've seen some trade union officials whine about workers not attending meetings until the very moment when a strike or other struggle, authorized or wildcat, breaks out - and there they are. Often, in such moments, they will sweep away the old leadership which was not fit for the battle, but only for taking attendance and playing at Robert's or Bourinot's rules of order. And that same phenomenon will happen at the level of political parties as well. Our job is to ensure that when it happens, we can lead by being dedicated to the workers' needs - otherwise, they will seek or create other leaders, and that may be good or disastrous.

George Victor

Dopuble D..... post.

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And in the 2nd place?

Unionist

George Victor wrote:

And in the 2nd place?

In the 2nd place, it's "Britannica".

George Victor

Wikipedia also says Marx used it early on:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Lumpenproletariat (a German word meaning "raggedy proletariat") is a term first defined by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The German Ideology (1845) and later elaborated on in works by Marx.

In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852), Marx refers to the lumpenproletariat as the 'refuse of all classes,' including 'swindlers, confidence tricksters, brothel-keepers, rag-and-bone merchants, beggars, and other flotsam of society.' In the Eighteenth Brumaire, Marx describes the lumpenproletariat as a 'class fraction' that constituted the political power base for Louis Bonaparte of France in 1848. In this sense, Marx argued that Bonaparte was able to place himself above the two main classes, the proletariat and bourgeoisie, by resorting to the 'lumpenproletariat' as an apparently independent base of power, while in fact advancing the material interests of the bourgeoisie.

CMOT Dibbler

Quote:
And by the way, remind, the same workers who don't participate in the activities and organizations that you and I may think are the right ones, don't just drink beer and fish and hunt. They are active in ways that to them appear more meaningful. But when the time comes for a fight, they are all there. I've
 

Who says?  I don't believe that all people who disengage should be condemned but they shoudn't all be portrayed as virtuous either.  

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Takes more than combat gear to make a man Takes more than license for a gun Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can A gentleman will walk but never run -Sting, an englishman in new york

Unionist

CMOT Dibbler wrote:

Who says?  I don't believe that all people who disengage should be condemned but they shoudn't all be portrayed as virtuous either.  

Well, I don't know all workers in the world individually. I was trying to make a general point. Let me make it in plainer terms:

"Leaders good and noble, workers selfish and lazy!"

... does not accord with my life experience, whether in the union movement, the peace movement, the women's movement (as an ally), or in various political parties, primarily the NDP.
Hopefully that makes my point clearer.

Do you agree, CMOT?

remind remind's picture

Not a believer in and not a follower of Marx, unionist, at least as how it is perceived and used  today and in recent history. IMV, he was an ideologue in as much as the "other" ideologues, to which he took exception to.

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"watching the tide roll away"

Unionist

remind wrote:

Not a believer in and not a follower of Marx, unionist.

Me neither. I only responded to George's appeal to "authority". Although I must say, Marx wrote better and was a lot more perceptive (brilliant) than most of those who swore by his name afterwards... I definitely plan to read him again one day.

I did find it astonishing, at a young age, to see such a man of letters place the working class on a pedestal and attribute to it the role of leadership in moving history forward. I had been brought up to believe that people (like my parents) were workers because they were failures. There's still a fair bit of that around.

remind remind's picture

"Leaders good and noble, workers selfish and lazy!"

No one said this unionist, so you can stop puttng words in people's mouths.

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"watching the tide roll away"

Unionist

Many many many people have said it, remind. Hence this thread.

remind remind's picture

I was speaking of this thread unionist, as you well knew.

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"watching the tide roll away"

Unionist

Now that we've clarified that point, remind, what did you think of my comments about my experience that workers are in fact very active, though not always within the structures that society tells them to use?

janfromthebruce

 I think that most working poor folks are so busy surviving day to day, week to week, that there is no time to get involved in politics. Working 2 or 3 crappy jobs, getting there, trying to put food on the table and roof over one's head and over one's kids heads, is enough. 

And the poor bureacracy doesn't help by putting constant demands on them to "jump through." I think that as they struggle, the best the rest of us can do, is help them out, and lift some of the load off. 

I think a kind word, a helping hand, and also asking for their help is also a good way to help people be a part of a movement and politics. I think of the work of OCAP in Ontario and the National Poverty Coalition. 

I think of fighting for more than 10 bucks an hour and higher is concrete. They need more money to live and feel like it is not their fault. And we all make dumb choices sometimes. The difference is that we have a wider margin of error.

 

Our kids live together and play together in their communities, let's have them learn together too!

George Victor

 

I could be wrong, jan, but I believe the chief concern in this thread is for the politics/apathy of the working well to do, more than the poor.

Been wondering along those lines since a newspaper strike in 1968 got a good student turnout but only a handful of UE stalwarts. The talk among the students was of revolution in Paris and its advance with a New Left in North America. The talk among the UE stalwarts, who were themselves trying to hold together a shrinking bargaining unit containing workers from assemblers to draughtsmen, machinists to switchgear wiring electricians, were satisfied to see an attempt at a solid line of pickets in an attempt to shut down production.

The centre did not hold. Students were arrested, and when a cop pulled my wife backwards to land on a pavement, I was lining up a punch on the fella's nose when another cop hoisted me out of the fray (I was lighter, then) and, calling his old classmate and huntin'/fishin' buddy a silly bastard, he saved me from the students' fate. 

A couple of years later I yearned to go to Chile where there was obviously less disconnect between social class and political consciousness - and was saved again by acceptance into a graduate program at U of T.

I've been waiting for someone to point to the changing economic situation for the worker, their co-optation into the system of production and distribution, to explain today's situation. Including the union's very "success" in getting company pensions - we all know you can't survive on government pensions. 

You can see the evolution of (let's call it "quietism" in the ranks) in reading Richard Parker's bio on John Kenneth Galbraith, or Robrt Reich's Supercapitalism. 

And now, with the apparent collapse of that "Supercapitalism", opportunity strikes.  However, as an earlier thread demonstrated, it would be nice not to have to appeal to "any economist out there" to tell us what might be allowed to fly in this brave new world. Or to wonder just what we might manufacture and where it might sell and ....

Now for the invective from the stands...

 

CMOT Dibbler

 

Quote:

Well, I don't know all workers in the world individually. I was trying to make a general point. Let me make it in plainer terms:

"Leaders good and noble, workers selfish and lazy!"

... does not accord with my life experience, whether in the union movement, the peace movement, the women's movement (as an ally), or in various political parties, primarily the NDP.
Hopefully that makes my point clearer.

Do you agree, CMOT?

 Well, you're putting me in a hell of a spot, but...

There are a lot of good workers out there, people who are kind and decent, and need to be payed much more, but there are also workers who aren't.  I had an aide in highschool who didn't like unions, voted reform and yet was not above exploiting the contract when it suited her. 

The problem is that  unions have made workers so prosperous, that they don't feel a need for them anymore.  This was certainly the case with this person, whose husband was an engineer at one of the mines in the valley. 

My bus driver for the last couple of years of my public education told me once "if your going to work, work, don't hide behind the damn union."

This was a man who had serious back problems, and who, if the union hadn't been backing him,  wouldve been out on his ass, but he still treated it with contempt.

Now, I relize that union leaders can be dippshits and that the system is flawed, but I would also like people to acknowledge that a strong union movement is essential. 

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Takes more than combat gear to make a man Takes more than license for a gun Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can A gentleman will walk but never run -Sting, an englishman in new york

Cueball Cueball's picture

George Victor wrote:

 

I could be wrong, jan, but I believe the chief concern in this thread is for the politics/apathy of the working well to do, more than the poor.

 [SNIP] 

Now for the invective from the stands...

 

No, its actually been a thread about the disenfranchised criminal "element" not unionized workers, and the state criminal justice system as the primary tool of class warfare. That was the take off point for Reminds incautious remarks.

remind remind's picture

George Victor wrote:
I could be wrong, jan, but I believe the chief concern in this thread is for the politics/apathy of the working well to do, more than the poor.

All to do with the working well to do! No one can expect the dispossessed, and the frantic working poor to be able to greatly get involved, they have already been taken out of the equation, and it becomes necessiity that the working well to do, get more involved than what they are to protect those already marginalized and to protect themselves.

First they come for.....

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"watching the tide roll away"

Cueball Cueball's picture

Not at all Remind, that was your intervention that sparked this line of discussion. The thread is about contempt for the"working class" in total, not just one segment (unionized workers) of it. You are playing word games with my use of the word dispossessed, even if we exclude those we might call the "dispossessed" from the equation, most Canadian workers are not unionized. Many are of the kind who Mallick might deem to be "white trash."

I also feel that Pastor Niemoller evocative poem is somewhat fitting, to express the idea you want to express, but also vaguely patronizing. It very much evokes the image of the coddling Christians (presumably in the Union movement) knowing and doing what is best for the underclass, who can not be "expected" to do anything for themselves.

remind remind's picture

Cueball wrote:
Not at all Remind, that was your intervention that sparked this line of discussion. The thread is about contempt for the"working class" in total, not just one segment (unionized workers) of it. You are playing word games with my use of the word dispossessed, even if we exclude those we might call the "dispossessed" from the equation, most Canadian workers are not unionized. Many are of the kind who Mallick might deem to be "white trash."

I also feel that Pastor Niemoller evocative poem is somewhat fitting, to express the idea you want to express, but also vaguely patronizing. It very much evokes the image of the coddling Christians (presumably in the Union movement) knowing and doing what is best for the underclass, who can not be "expected" to do anything for themselves.

I see you added to your intial  post in the length of time it took me to quote your response to address it. Good idea, lest one point out you were partaking in an action you often decry in others, comments addressing the person posting as opposed to the topic.

But now you are simply putting in words and twisting inferences that you have created, but still only in order to do exactly what you decry others as doing to you. 

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"watching the tide roll away"

Cueball Cueball's picture

All I said was that though I appreciated the point you were making with the Pastor Neimoller reference, that I also found it subtly condecending, as if social movements can't and don't exist among anyone but the well-to-do, working or otherwise: "No one can expect the dispossessed, and the frantic working poor to be able to greatly get involved."

To Unionists point, they are involved, everyday. Leadership that expressess their interests would also be helpful.

I also pointed out that this thread has not been: "All to do with the working well to do!" I pointed out that it was you who introduced this subject. Nothing wrong with that, but that has been a sidebar to the main issues that the thread begins with.

remind remind's picture

Sealed

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"watching the tide roll away"

George Victor

From CMOT:

The problem is that  unions have made workers so prosperous, that they don't feel a need for them anymore.  This was certainly the case with this person, whose husband was an engineer at one of the mines in the valley. 

My bus driver for the last couple of years of my public education told me once "if your going to work, work, don't hide behind the damn union."

This was a man who had serious back problems, and who, if the union hadn't been backing him,  wouldve been out on his ass, but he still treated it with contempt.

 

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That sounds like a situation right out of Appalachia, mate. Or have the hills of Alberta/B.C. taken on that hue?

Anyway, hope we can get past the invective. Don't think egos can be too badly battered here.

Clearly, the "too successful" union is not a general situation (and certainly not in the U.S. where it's been nearly wiped out). 

I'm showing flu symptoms right now or I'd delve into those tomes that give us an understanding of the historical forces at work. Have to beg off.

kropotkin1951

I am glad to see Cueball that you have come to the conclusion that the current generation of homeless on the streets are deserving poor although I can't quite understand your view that the last generation was not. I listened to your kind of bullshit back 40 years ago when I was on the streets and self righteous people looked at me and told me to go home to suburbia. Then as now most of the people on the streets have stories to tell about things like abuse and I was astounded that you would shit on homeless people with such comments.  

I would love to have the money to do a research project on attitudes about unions between two groups of HEU workers. In the HEU when Campbell privatized a whole bunch of jobs and illegally removed the workers rights the HEU surprised them because unlike in Britain the HEU did not call the new workers scabs and vilify them for taking the contracted out jobs instead that union set about reorganizing the positions. I suspect that there would be a big difference in the attitudes about unions and class politics with the newly organized workers and many of their coworkers.

This whole society we live in has changed in who it respects. The fast buck artist, the baseball player, the lottery winner are the heroes of MSM. There are very few illustrations of the power of cooperation amongst people showing the sum of the people is always greater than the individuals themselves.

Quote:
No longer is it the case that the people we see begging on the streets are the volunteer homeless, or kids out for the "experience", but in fact quite normal people, who otherwise would be working, had they the chance, and who only really look dishevelled and stressed because abject poverty makes you that way.
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___________________________________________________________________________________________ From North of Manifest Destiny

Tommy_Paine

"Awwww..I am sorry, I did not mean it that way, I meant it as that it was you to whom I was directly positioning commentary towards, though not at you specifically, and that you could have taken it personally and thus might not have seen it for what it was saying." 

 (chuckle)  I know you didn't mean it that way, that's what made me laugh.  On a message board where people seem to delight in taking things the worst possible way in order to provide for themselves  a venting of vesuvian preportions, I thought the way you said that was, well, hillarious.   And no, I didn't take it personally. 

 A couple of Unionists posts point to something that occurred to me a long time ago, and that is that working class people have been deluded into thinking that there is nothing to be proud of in what they do.  And it's a subtle thing.  Amazing, really, that the segment of society that actually adds value to the economy is made to feel ashamed of what they do, that their wages are ill gotten gains, even.  (until such ill gotten gains are spent, then they become someone else's divine right to profits)

That's why I really didn't, and won't besides this, give much thought or discussion to Mallicks's use of the term "white trash".  It may be wrong, but there are much larger fish to fry on this subject than a fillet 0' Mallick. 

 

remind remind's picture

Quote:
Amazing, really, that the segment of society that actually adds value
to the economy is made to feel ashamed of what they do, that their
wages are ill gotten gains, even.  (until such ill gotten gains are
spent, then they become someone else's divine right to profits)
  Oh yes, I realize this aspect and as well in respect to farming. Or even  the false notion that urbanites have a right to dictate to ruralites and are superior. The truth of worth was/is turned into lies, and the lies of who makes the profits is righteous, has become truth.

Just like the move to shit on trades people as being less than, as opposed to getting and having a degree, or several. Now we have a shortage of trades people, and a whacking bunch of people have partial degrees, or low grade degrees and they now have massive student debt and cannot go back to school to get into something that suits them.

BTW, CBC had a whole segment on last night's late news in respect to the NDP's initiative on getting active against white collar crime. I didn't watch it, but my partner called from out of town, woke me up and and told me  that he was watching it. I went back to sleep. :D

This whole white collar is good, blue collar is bad, in all of it facets, has gone on long enough. It is a phoney bill of goods that has been allowed to stand for way too long. The trick becomes how to change it.

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"watching the tide roll away"

Tommy_Paine

There's one of the problems, with the term "working class".  Perhaps a long time ago, it might have had a clearly seen deffinition.  Today, not so much. 

When I say "working class" I mean anyone who works at farming, manufacturing or resource, and I would exclude professionals.  However, nurses surely work hard, and are professionals, and I'd consider them "working class".  Even if they may not. 

Is it wage level?  What you do? 

I could win a million dollars this wednesday, never work another day in y life, and yet I'd still be  "working class", as my mother and father were before me, and their mothers and fathers before them, and  their.... well, you get the pattern.

It's not just wages, or what you do-- it's also culture.  And there's little pride to be found on that account, is there? 

 And, point taken on the CBC/NDP/white collar crime feature.

 

 

kropotkin1951

And TP (I couldn't resist using your initials) that is the real problem with grasping for terms and trying to define people. Pretty much the only people I know who don't self identify as middle class are people in the labour movement and many of them are BA's etc and frankly they are middle class although their roots are often working class.

But class is something that the right wing has purposefully expunged from our civil discourse because it has such powerful potential to unite the very people that our elite in the media and in politics are trying to control. But I know when you start to talk about the working class most Canadians get offended because they have been trained for at least 30 years if not 50 years that class is irrelevant and our society has gone beyond class.  I don't know that I have any answers other than winning a very very very large lottery and buying some media.

___________________________________________________________________________________________ From North of Manifest Destiny

Tommy_Paine

Is it just the right wing that has expunged it from our discourse?  

kropotkin1951

No they have also convinced other people and movements to do the same. I think they are the only group that has deliberately tried to expunge it. Others like the NDP have expunged it as more and more people told them that they don't identify with the term and that it turns them off the message. We need to make the discourse about class again and maybe the brain trust in the NDP will follow suit. They after all do tend to try and follow the polling data.

___________________________________________________________________________________________ From North of Manifest Destiny

kropotkin1951

Double post

Unionist

I confess to not understanding some of the last posts. My sisters and brothers have no problem identifying with the working class. They are workers, and call themselves workers. Is this a cultural/regional issue? Do Ontario manufacturing workers call themselves "middle class?" I've honestly never heard worker here use that term.

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Tommy_Paine wrote:

There's one of the problems, with the term "working class".  Perhaps a long time ago, it might have had a clearly seen deffinition.  Today, not so much. 

When I say "working class" I mean anyone who works at farming, manufacturing or resource, and I would exclude professionals.  However, nurses surely work hard, and are professionals, and I'd consider them "working class".  Even if they may not. 

Is it wage level?  What you do?

The problem is that "middle class" and "working class" are apples and oranges - they are terms from different kinds of classifications, so they overlap.

Middle class is between lower class and upper class - a classification system based on wealth. The lower class are the poor, the upper class are the rich, and the middle class are everyone else.

Working class is a category based on a relationship to the system of capitalist production, rather than on wealth or income per se. The working class comprises those who derive their income primarily from the sale of their labour power to an employer, who in turn appropriates the fruits of that labour power and either enjoys it directly or sells it at a profit to others. Those employers, as well as the much larger number of people who are self-employed, are technically not part of the working class, though many self-employed persons identify as working class in their orientation and do the same work that many workers do for their employers.*

There is no reason in principle why a salaried "professional" cannot be a part of the working class.

The working class thus comprises a wide range of income levels, from the "working poor" to the highly skilled technical or professional workers.  

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* Conversely, some people who work for a salary are not in any real sense working class, because their orientation and their function in the economy is to support and advance the interests of the capitalist class, which derives its income primarily from "investment" in the purchase of labour power and its utilization to earn a profit for the owner of capital. Obvious examples of such salaried people would be "business executives" and other managerial staff whose main purpose is to ensure the continued smooth functioning of the capitalist enterprise and maximize profit for the owners at the expense of the employed workers. 

KenS

Unionist wrote:

I confess to not understanding some of the last posts. My sisters and brothers have no problem identifying with the working class. They are workers, and call themselves workers. Is this a cultural/regional issue? Do Ontario manufacturing workers call themselves "middle class?" I've honestly never heard worker here use that term.

There are a lot more dimensions to it than that unionist.

Calling yourself a worker does not equal having no problem identifying with the working class. Many who call themselves workers, or agree to the label, are among those who do not like the term 'working class'.

Not to mention that thinking of oneself as a worker is far more common among unionized workers- where people are used to the term. But unionized workers are not the working class.

And: a great many of the same people who are comfortable with the term 'worker' [let alone those workers who do not identify with it] will also identify themselves as 'middle class' rather than working class.

That in turn is a reflection of two things. First: as Spector pointed out, common usage of 'middle class' has become everyone who is not either wealthy or poor. But as well is the lack of affinity with the term 'working class'.

Plus of course the very ambivalent attitude towards the term 'class' period. Where on the one hand people freely identify all sorts of 'them and us' divides, but show a distaste for the term 'class'. And one of the reasons for that is because they have a strong attachment to all the meritocratic notions even at the same time they know its not a level playing field.  "I still can." [with subtext: 'class' makes it sound impossible, therefore the visceral dislike for it]

Cueball Cueball's picture

Fundamentally the distinctions are derived from two economic models, the Marxist model, which Spector points out has to do with a persons relationship to the means of production, and the latter day liberal-capitalist model, with lower, middle and upper class, based on wealth. The latters serves as a way of talking about social relations without actually having to engage the Marxist model, something that is very useful ideologically speaking for the adherents of the Keynsian and neo-liberal models.

The Marxist model diretly challenges the idea that members of the working class, can in fact, become members of the elite because their relationship to the means of production gives them a distinct place in the economic order, regardless of how much wealth they accumulate. All members of the working class are similarlly vulenerable to the same processes that effect others of their class regardless of how wealthy they are. The capitalist modes of understanding class allows for members of what Marxists would call the working class to identify themselves with the elite, exactly what we can see happening in the Union movement.

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

Hervé Kempf points out that people do primarily self-identify by economic standing, rather than by Marxist taxonomy. And all aspire to the next level of economic class, whatever that may be. I read somewhere that there is an amazing corollary when people are asked how much money they would need to be happy. With remarkably high consistancy, people respond that they would need double their current household earnings - whether they make $30K, or $300K.

CMOT Dibbler

Quote:
That sounds like a situation right out of Appalachia, mate. 

 I didn't mean he would lose his home, I just mean that without union protection he would probably be unemployed.  The market, when left to it's own devices discards the disabled.  As for the elkvalley being  Appalachia it's not quite that bad, but their are a lot of right wingers here.    

Takes more than combat gear to make a man Takes more than license for a gun Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can A gentleman will walk but never run -Sting, an englishman in new york

Cueball Cueball's picture

Lard Tunderin' Jeezus wrote:

Hervé Kempf points out that people do primarily self-identify by economic standing, rather than by Marxist taxonomy. And all aspire to the next level of economic class, whatever that may be. I read somewhere that there is an amazing corollary when people are asked how much money they would need to be happy. With remarkably high consistancy, people respond that they would need double their current household earnings - whether they make $30K, or $300K.

This kind of thing is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy, don't you think? This, since the reigning ideology gives people the tools to express their understanding of how the world works. There are no full courses in Marx in any high school course in North America, nor is it discussed in any depth in the media, and is easily avoidable even in University. The mainstream ideology is well covered in high school economics and sociology courses, and the latter is often a requirement in humanities in university.

You really can't expect people to miraculously devine a Marxist class analysis from life experience alone.

On the level of intutive connection, I find that unionized construction workers, and non-unionized construction workers, have much more in common with each other than they do with stockbrokers, regardless of economic disparity, so at least in that regard, the Marxist paradigm reflects some important truths.

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

Sorry; I wasn't very clear. The challenge is to engage the 'middle class' without having to re-educate them. How does one make them understand their own interests are not those of the class above; the class with which they identify and to which they aspire?

Cueball Cueball's picture

I don't think you can. I think you have to give them different tools to look at their circumstances. I also think that circumstances change peoples world outlook, and all things come in their time. Socialism has a lot to answer for, as well.

George Victor

Probably the concept "false consciousness" was never expected to be applied in a consumer society. But one can only hope that it will regain use as social conditions change, and the importance of "the worker" is again recognized. Should not be too far away, methinks.

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