There is no such thing as 'middle class', so people should shut up about it
Debate Rounds (4)
I will argue that the term 'middle class' is meaningless, and that there is a simple political agenda behind it.
And in its place, I propose a class analysis that sees the world as mainly divided into the working class and the capitalist class, and that the interests of these two classes are diametrically opposed and irreconcilable. And as a result of that being the case, class conflict is central in the world we live in.
If you were to take out the middle class, there would only be the wealthy and the poor. So yes, there has to be a middle class so that there would be a term to represent the average worker. There is a big difference between an income of $200k, $30k, and $10k, so I think that the term "middle class" is very meaningful, and there is a thing as the "middle class". A two class system wouldn't work very good since it will have to cover just two extremes and it would be hard for the average worker to identify themselves as the most wealthy or poorest class since they likely wouldn't feel very rich or very poor.
My opponent claims that a "two class system" wouldn"t work because it would only cover just two extremes, excluding the vast majority of people I assume. That is not the case at all. Quite the opposite. It is very important to know what we mean by class. And I think the best piece that captures it quite well is written and published by libcom.org, http://libcom.org.... It has a very consistent basis for defining the classes that exists, one that is objective and material. For libcom.org, the best way "to talk about class" is based on classes" economic positions (i.e. our relation to production). They write,
"It is important to stress that our definition of class is not for classifying individuals or putting them in boxes, but in order to understand the forces which shape our world, why our bosses and politicians act the way they do, and how we can act to improve our conditions."
For us communists (I identify myself as one), class is a real condition, one that cannot be escaped or ignored. It is a particular circumstance we find ourselves in, irrespective of whether or not it was our own choice, or whether or not we like it or hate it. It is not about feeling "very rich or very poor" as my opponent would put it, or how individuals would want to "identify themselves". My opponent probably doesn't realize that "wealthy" and "poor" are socially determined constructs, and don"t really mean anything in the real world. For anyone, what constitutes wealthy or poor can be subjective, and can lead to all sorts of inconsistency.
His understanding of class, assuming it is his own, is rather similar to that of a cultural definition of class, which is best summed up here:
"Often, when people talk about class, they talk in terms of cultural/sociological labels. For example, middle-class people like foreign films, working class people like football, upper-class people like top hats and so on."
Sometimes I get the impression that a middle class household is one that lives in the suburbs and has an organized calendar on their refrigerator door. All of that may sound nice, but it is totally inconsistent, not just in the results but in how the classes are determined in the first place. Culture is not an objective basis for determining classes" positions.
Unfortunately, that is just how it is done throughout the mainstream academic and media world, and generally leads to all sorts of inconsistency and nonsense. And a lot of that inconsistency can be seen in Con"s first round post. "There are people in poverty" who are called the lower/under class. Then the average worker is assumed to be "middle class" as if the "poor" didn't have jobs as well. But what about the statement "the upper class is the wealthy class"? That just sounds like a tautology. It doesn't describe anything.
"There is a big difference between an income of $200k, $30k, and $10k, so I think that the term "middle class" is very meaningful, and there is a thing as the "middle class"." " Con
Yes, there are differences in income, but classes according to income brackets don"t go deep enough. What conclusions can be drawn from such categorizations? What are the specific class interests involved and are they conflicting? Those questions can"t be answered because it renders the use of concepts such as class totally irrelevant. The purpose of using class concepts is to dig out and shed light to the power relations and conflicts that defines the society we live in.
The purpose of the "middle class" label is to conceal class conflict. Why? Because everyone can consider themselves "middle class", including the vast majority of people living below the poverty line. They can do so because there is no objective basis for determining class. And if everyone is part of the middle class, then we really do have a flat world, making everything appear to be all swell and happy, which can only benefit those who wish to maintain this existing order. But the society we live in is not flat, and it is certainly not swell and happy. (See here: http://assetsandopportunity.org...) According to that data, almost half of all Americans are liquid asset poor!
Now I am going to turn to how we should define classes, based on our economic positions. Quoting that article I referred to above at length explains a lot, and the world we live in:
"Capitalism is essentially a system based on the self-expansion of capital - commodities and money making more commodities and more money.
This doesn"t happen by magic, but by human labor. For the work we do, we're paid for only a fraction of what we produce. The difference between the value we produce and the amount we're paid in wages is the "surplus value" we've produced. This is kept by our boss as profit and either reinvested to make more money or used to buy swimming pools or fur coats or whatever.
In order for this to take place, a class of people must be created who don't own anything they can use to make money i.e. offices, factories, farmland or other means of production. This class must then sell their ability to work in order to purchase essential goods and services in order to survive. This class is the working class.
So at one end of the spectrum is this class, with nothing to sell but their ability to work. At the other, those who do own capital to hire workers to expand their capital. Individuals in society will fall at some point between these two poles, but what is important from a political point of view is not the positions of individuals but the social relationship between classes."
The working class then is the class that is separated from the means of producing wealth, and have nothing to sell but their labor power in order to survive. And they are forced by need and lack of any other means to work for a boss for wages or salaries, or claim unemployment benefits if they can"t find work, or claim retirement if too elderly to work. Of course, they may have different income levels, but the point is that they are all exploited and dominated to some degree. And that is a fate they can"t escape as long as capitalism remains. The rules of work and the "market", enforced top down by the bosses, still applies to everyone in the working class. [Note: "middle class" often amounts to referring to those who are "better paid" than others within the working class, but they are still working class nonetheless.]
At the other end is the capitalist class, who own all the means of wealth production in society, and live off the labor of the working class. And it is the interests of this class that is diametrically opposed to the interests of the working class. Why? Because the success of their business entities depend on how much surplus they can acquire through the production process in which labor is employed, and the competition that exists between them drives each and every one of them to aim to "get the maximum amount of work from us, from the longest hours, for the least pay. We, on the other hand, want to be able to enjoy our lives: we don't want to be over-worked, and we want shorter hours and more pay.
This antagonism (or 'conflict') is central to capitalism. Between these two sides is a push and pull: employers cut pay, increase hours, speed up the pace of work. But we attempt to resist: either covertly and individually by taking it easy, grabbing moments to take a break and chat to colleagues, calling in sick, leaving early. Or we can resist overtly and collectively with strikes, slow-downs, occupations, etc."
That is class struggle, and it is central to our society. Notice it is based entirely in the realm of economics. Why? Because economics (referred here exclusively to mean "production") forms the basis of our society, making it the most objective basis for determining classes. And it is objectivity and consistency that we want when talking about class.
The problem with merging the lower and middle class if that's what you are saying is that the working class will probably cover almost every job that's paid by the hour and the capitalist class will probably be the people in top positions in companies and government officials.
Can you please define what you think the working and capitalist classes should be? Many people use a five-class system with the lower class, working class, lower middle class, upper middle class, and the upper class. I don't have anything against someone just using a two-class system, but I still don't see how the middle class shouldn't exist.
5thInternationalist forfeited this round.
Well, I guess he quit.
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