The Myth of the Middle Class: Blurring Class Lines and Dividing Labour
by, 3rd April 2010 at 10:10 (5657 Views)
All classes, past and present, have been and are defined by their relation to productive property. Under capitalism this can be shown by observing an individual's relation to the means of production (also known as private property; as opposed to personal property which includes tangible items as well as houses, cars, trucks and boats): the working class of Proletarians which own no means of production of their own have to sell their labour to the Bourgeoisie (or sometimes the Petit-Bourgeoisie) to work on their means of production and bring in capital for the Bourgeoisie (or Petit-Bourgeoisie; depending on the employer) in return for a comparatively unfair wage. Whilst the Bourgeoisie and the Petit-Bourgeoisie both own private property, the difference between them is that the Petit-Bourgeoisie still work on their own means of production; as opposed to the Bourgeoisie whose businesses have become large enough and powerful enough (especially if the Bourgeoisie want to remove competitors - such as the Petit-Bourgeoisie) that they can hire enough workers to do their job for them. Despite the class differences, the Bourgeoisie conceived a new class and a completely new social structure with which they would try to dismantle Marxian sociology.
The new class was called the Middle Class - and it went against all pre-defined class definitions. For this class was not defined by a relation to production at all - not even property ownership - rather, it was defined as being a certain demographic which had a certain income and a certain level of education. The contemporary definition arose sometime in the middle of the 20th century. It was a complete shift from any class definition as it was completely irrespective of relationships to the means of production. A member of the upper class of Bourgeoisie owns the means of production; a member of the working class of Proletarians is hired by a member of the Bourgeoisie or the Petit-Bourgeoisie to work on the means of production that they own and deliver profit and accumulate capital for the member of the Bourgeoisie or Petit-Bourgeoisie that owns the means of production and a member of the Petit-Bourgeoisie is typically a small business owner that works on his/her own means of production. But what does a member of the Middle Class do? Once, this class referred only to a class of professionals such as doctors, architects and lawyers - distinct from stereotypical working class jobs such as being a manual labourer in a factory. But now the Bourgeoisie's invented term of the Middle Class not only blurred other class lines, but it blurred it's own. Over the years it's usage has expanded to cover members of the working and Petit-Bourgeois classes which did not work as manual labourers in factories - these members ranged from shopkeepers and retail workers to workers in large office towers and eventually nearly everyone who didn't work in the secondary (manufacturing and construction - although many workers in the secondary sector in the First World are now being called "middle class" due to a general rise in their wages which will almost certainly result in their jobs being outsourced to the Third World where the labour is cheap; as has been the reason for the outsourcing of all the manufacturing jobs in the past) and primary (agricultural, forestry, fishing and mining industries - wage increases in the latter mean that this job is now considered to be a middle class job, too) sectors. The definition ended up covering most of the working class. But the definition was really designed to quash the possibility of socialist revolution. After all, how can the working class overthrow the Bourgeoisie if the working class has convinced itself that it either doesn't exist, or is actually part of a different class. This different class - called the Middle Class - is made up of a mix of the Proletariat, the Petit-Bourgeoisie and the Bourgeoisie. A middle class cannot possibly overthrow the Bourgeoisie if the Bourgeoisie form part of the same class, can it? Although, many contemporary class models do recognise an elite few called the "rich" at the top of the social hierarchy - and the majority of the Bourgeoisie also have their own section of the middle class - the "Upper Middle Class"; a foolish attempt to recognise that they are separate from the masses but at the same time disprove Marxian sociology.
As a result, the First World working class is known as the middle class but the Third World workers who have the same relationship with the means of production are called the working class - as if it was some sort of futile attempt to distance large sections of the working class from uniting against the Bourgeoisie. And this is all thanks to stereotypes of the working class dating back to the 19th century when nearly all workers worked in the factories. The differences between cheap overseas labourers and First World workers were noticed; the First World workers work mainly in the service sector (i.e., commercial services and retail) and a lot have office jobs as opposed to the workers that are now dominant in the Third World - the workers that toil in factories and sweatshops like the American and British workers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And why did these First World factory jobs end up being outsourced to the Third World? All in the name of profit. The Bourgeoisie traps the Third World working class into a position from which it cannot escape whilst under capitalism. As a result of industrial jobs being outsourced to the the Third World, there were plenty of newly available jobs in the service sector which arose from the physical manufacturing taking place overseas. The First World working class taking up these new commercial and retail jobs gave rise to the contemporary definition of the middle class - a working class which does not manually produce goods that are to be sold to make a profit; rather, the First World working class distributes them to the consumers at retail stores, provides support for consumers and manages their employers' finances. This process is known as the [URL="http://www.revleft.com/vb/blog.php?b=815"]capitalist division of labour[/URL]. To help prove the middle class definition; the First World working class earns more money than the Third World working class does. The First World working class is paid more than the Third World working class so that it can afford the goods that the Third World working class manufactures whilst also making a massive profit for the Bourgeoisie as the goods are made for fraction of a fraction of the cost that the First World working class buys them for. This difference in wealth ultimately decides the level of education that their families get and their living conditions. Capitalism is also loosely related to (the illusions of) [URL="http://www.revleft.com/vb/blog.php?b=858"]democracy[/URL] and freedom by the large lack of democracy and freedom in the Third World - where capitalism isn't considered by the Bourgeoisie to be a success story; unlike the First World. And, of course, working in an office building or a supermarket, department or retail store does not fit in with the stereotype of a member of the working class - which is generally of a factory worker. This is passed off to the working class as a new way of distinguishing social classes.
Of course, the First World working class needs to have [URL="http://www.revleft.com/vb/blog.php?b=782"]the illusion that they can succeed under capitalism[/URL]. Obvious differences in income and living conditions help to keep up this illusion, as well as the opportunity to buy a very small percentage of a company's shares and have the capitalist system "work for them" in the stock markets. Another thing to note is that the Bourgeoisie which are not in government themselves nearly always reside in the First World - which is supposedly where capitalism has been a success story. The Bourgeoisie only ever pay workers more if it helps to support the capitalist system, if it is in the Bourgeoisie's interests or if they are loyal to the Bourgeoisie - the latter are workers such as actors, musicians, artists, television hosts, some radio hosts and anyone who will - intentionally or unintentionally - spread the propaganda of the Bourgeoisie; such as [URL="http://www.revleft.com/vb/blog.php?b=766"]nationalism[/URL], patriotism, racism, a support for capitalism or sometimes even blatant anti-socialist sentiment. These Bourgeois-loyal workers are paid large salaries to keep that loyalty whilst also spouting out Bourgeois propaganda and using the term "middle class" - which many Bourgeois politicians and business icons themselves do, too.
The working class' relationship to the means of production never changed - only the specific jobs and the income received did.[/B]
[B]The middle class was conceived purely to blur class lines and erase the possibility of a socialist revolution. After all, a working class, a class of self-employed persons and an upper class had existed since capitalism became the dominant economic system, so why the change in social structure when the means of production never changed hands?
[B]The working class must not fall victim to this capitalist indoctrination, they must see to what class they really belong to and arise as one to overthrow the social conditions that arise as a result of exploitation and alienation.
Class is not a result of behaviour, education, living standards or income. But rather, behaviour, education, living standards and income are a result of class.