[Marxism] Class structure

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Fri Aug 13 03:27:44 MDT 2004


In the USA in 2002, in approximate round figures there were 10 million
employers of labor and 10 million self-employed working proprietors
(including 1 million farmers). But there were also some 15.8 million
managers and executives, and 9.1 million civilian supervisory staff members
(most of whom are ordinary salaried employees) and at a guess 16 million
other highly qualified civilian people working in the higher-paid
professions.

In US official statistics, it's quite a challenging task to identify
employment status by occupation, income and industry, and additionally much
more talk is done about class than actual empirical research, but the
"middle strata" comprising self-employed proprietors, plus qualified new
middle-class professionals of various kinds, would comprise between a
quarter and a third of the total working population.

Social classes in capitalist society are defined relationally both by
property ownership, occupation and income-level, but I would imagine that if
I crunched the numbers correctly, I would obtain something like the
following broad picture for the working population of the USA:

Employers - 7%
Self-employed proprietors - 7%
Professional salaried new middle classes - 20%
Working classes - 66%

The main thing about the intermediate strata is that qua morality, social
outlook and self-interest their position inclines partly towards the
employers, and partly towards the working classes. But any valid
generalisations must be generalisations from real experiential data, of
course. Otherwise, it's just metaphysics.

Just because somebody has a particular class position, does not say anything
automatically about their social outlook, morality or perceived
self-interest. In addition, these things ought to be evaluated in the
dimension of historical time, since what matters is how the opinions,
attitudes and dispositions of a large mass of people evolve over time, and
these subjectivities are formed historically and generationally.

The Marxian argument is that social class position will strongly influence
the ideology of this large mass over time, not the ideology of particular
individuals, which may deviate to a greater or lesser extent from that mass.
The question is not primarily one of how the opinions of an individual
immediately correlate with, or reflect, his personal position in the social
hierarchy, but how this opinion correlates with the interests and concerns
of the large mass of people.

Thus, in politics, what matters is individual opinions which are
representative of the views of a larger mass of people, and politicians
aim - rightly or wrongly - to articulate and interpellate those views in a
specific way.

J.








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