Re-Analyzing Classes

American Affairs has an article that claims that the real class war isn't between (totally destroyed and disenfranchised) working class and middle class but between the 10% and 0.1%.

Essentially, professional managerial class (the 10%) originally went to Reagan who opened up new opportunities by deregulating business. Clinton continued the same basic economic program but he added sinecures in the shape of various NGOs and the similar.

Now PMC fortunes are drying up. Media doesn't pay as it used to and neither does the legal profession. PMC is also saddled with student debt and has difficulties finding housing. Meanwhile the wealth of 0.1% skyrocketed.

This reminded me a very interesting article I once read - probably linked at old slatestarcodex - that made a very interesting analysis of classes. Basically it identified four broad classes from bottom to top.

Lumpenploretariat: these are 10% or so of the permanent underclass. Think petty criminals, homeless or unemployed drug addicts and so forth. This is the the disenfranchised and very passive class that struggles to make a living. Their political power is minimal.

Working class: this is 80% or so of your normal workers in your average factory jobs. People in this class are permanently threatened to become lumpenploretariat and are thus often feeling insecure. Their political power is limited and they generally view themselves as far removed from any true influence. Their main goal is to gain material security.

Creative/Managerial class: this is 10% of upper middle class. Think top journalists, university professors, lawyers, cushy government jobs (judges, upper bureaucrats). Basically your average bourgeois class. This class is very influential in politics as they are very active and are main drivers of political discourse. Although their material level can vary - from poor but influential activists to wealthy professional managers their mark of status is often more subtle - they compete with status games for an influence.

The super-rich: This is the creme-de-la creme - think top 0.1%. Think people with vast wealth and immense influence - like top government official.

Now what I liked in that analysis is that the classes are somewhat separated. Lower class looks with envy on closest higher class and tries to get there as part of social mobility either during their lifetime or as part of intergenerational mobility. The upper class looks to the closest lower class with suspicion and views them as enemies that can oust them from their position.

Now what was interesting in this model is that this interaction creates strange bedfellows. For instance the very top class that is threatened by creative class can be natural allies with working class. And creative class can use lumpenploretariat to keep working class in check. Also each class develops distinct cultural norms, patterns of behaviour that makes it hard from people from bellow to fit in. Think christian values, table manners and discussions about Shakespeare or title from Harvard and membership in Country Club.

Now in general I do not like class analysis but this simple model makes intuitively a lot of sense. People compete with other people around the same place in the hierarchy. For petty criminal or even your average working class the minutia of power struggle in the upper echelons of power are far removed. They are far more likely to mingle with people one level higher at best. They are concerned with mimicking the behaviour of the higher class while keeping competitors from below at check.

The most concerning for these people is not even simple income/wealth inequality. It is invisible form of discrimination - the aforementioned table manners - that stand in their way to truly become accepted by higher class and thus firmly rooted in their new position. This also explains that the biggest antipathy is against people of higher class that are not at risk of ever losing their status and position. For instance working class people may hate with vengeance recently appointed local School Director if she gained her cushy government position thanks to nepotism and they may love even richer local business owner who made it from rags to riches.

So to conclude to me it seems obvious that from the standpoint of somebody in creative class it really can seem like the real war is them against the top rich. As George Orwell famously said in his The Road to Wigan Pier:

Sometimes I look at a Socialist — the intellectual, tract-writing type of Socialist, with his pullover, his fuzzy hair, and his Marxian quotation — and wonder what the devil his motive really is. It is often difficult to believe that it is a love of anybody, especially of the working class, from whom he is of all people the furthest removed.

and later

At best his attitude to the working class is the sniggering Punch attitude, in more serious moments (consider, for instance, the young man who symbolizes the dispossessed classes in Misalliance) he finds them merely contemptible and disgusting. Poverty and, what is more, the habits of mind created by poverty, are something to be abolished from above, by violence if necessary; perhaps even preferably by violence.

and further

Though seldom giving much evidence of affection for the exploited, he is perfectly capable of displaying hatred — a sort of queer, theoretical, in vacua hatred — against the exploiters.