Economics/Class Relations

The Real Class War

This Julius Krein article is interesting. It’s somewhat similar to Howard Zinn’s call for the “revolt of the guards.” I think we largely see what Krein is describing playing out in the Democratic Party now, where the social democrats and progressive liberals have created a de facto opposition party within the party against the centrist neoliberals. However, I think a weakness in Krein’s thesis is that what unites the corporate centrists and the left-wing of the professional-managerial class is their “right-wingophobia” and pathological hatred of cultural conservatives (“deplorables”). What matters to most of the US left right now is maintaining the “new popular front” against Trumpism. The corporate center is able to coopt the left with “right-wingophobia” and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

The new capitalist class that has emerged from the digital revolution is itself an upper middle class that is in the process of displacing the traditional capitalist elite (the Chamber of Commerce types, most old monied industries like fossil fuels and defense contractors that are the main donor class to the GOP). The professional-managerial class functions as what Joel Kotkin calls a “new clerisy” that has become the arbiter of moral and cultural values, which is why you find suburban neighborhoods outside of DC with BLM banners and Rainbow flags. The PMC tends to be aligned with new capital against old capital because “right-wingphobia” tends to be the common rallying point.

By Julius Krein, American Affairs Journal

Since at least 2016, the divide between the “working class” and the “elite” has been considered a defining issue in American (and Western) politics. This divide has been defined in occupational terms (“blue collar” versus “information workers”), geographic terms (rural and exurban regions versus major urban cores), and meritocratic terms (non-college-educated versus those with elite credentials). Oc­casionally, it is given an explicitly moral connotation (“somewheres” versus “anywheres,” “deplorables” versus “cosmopolitans”). All of these glosses effectively track basic economic categories: those who are seen to have enjoyed success in recent decades and those who have been “left behind.”

Like most clichés, this one contains elements of truth. The work­ing class has experienced economic stagnation and precarity, and even declining life expectancy in the United States, as well as lower family stability and civic engagement. Social mobility has declined, while inequality has widened.

But it is precisely for these reasons that the working class is unlikely to be decisive in shaping politics for the foreseeable future. However one defines the working class, it has scarcely any political agency in the current system and no apparent means for acquiring any. At most, working-class voters can cast their ballots for an “un­acceptable” candidate, but they can exercise no influence on policy formation or agency personnel, much less on governance areas that have been transferred to technocratic bodies. In countries like France, the working class might still be able to veto certain policies through public demonstrations, but such actions seem unlikely in the United States, and even the most heroic efforts of this kind show little prospect of achieving systemic reforms.


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