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Friday, May 30, 2014

More class explorations

I think that there is a difference between being working class and being poor/low-income, or being working class and being non-tertiary educated.

As far as I am concerned, and I'll admit I'm trying to figure this out as I write this out, all middle class people (who work for a living) are working class, though not all working class people are middle class...

The distinction between these two classes would be related to two major factors:

1. The extent to which one is consciously identified with (one's own working) class struggle... 

Middle class (identity) would tend to be highly invested in the managing of amicable relations between labour and capitalist owning classes (or about aspiring to the comforts that such managerialism rewards/affords), while working class identity seems more squarely to be about identification with the possible dignity of working itself, and of being a worker.

Working class struggle, therefore, is not necessarily about the desire to cease to have to work, but about the desire to recuperate work from capitalist goals and ends.

2. The extent to which one aspires to higher/upper class status 

In this sense, one can be both working class and middle class. I can be identified with the possible dignity of work (working class), and can choose to recuperate this dignity through various machinations (conscious working class struggle), while simultaneously medicating away the humiliations of work within a capitalist society by identification with (and acquisition of) the middling trappings of wealth, comfort and cultural capital (middle class). The latter, far from being "not working class", is actually a quintessential expression of the sometimes "inevitable" cultural results of working class labour under global capitalism... 


For example, for those of us raised by working class parents in more middle class conditions, who move into the attainment of quintessentially professional middle class tertiary education, or into middle class professions (e.g. medicine/law/public health/etc.), we are culturally wedded to as well as culturally disconnected from the working class roots which may have propelled this movement, even as this professional attainment has been about access to more privileged and powerful work.

"My working class parents worked so hard [under capitalist oppression] so that I would not have to suffer like they did; so I/they/we became middle class [more comfortable under global capitalism]"

To me, the indignity of work has less to do with the fact That We Work, and more to do with the lack of control over the ends to which all our work is dedicated, as well as the under-compensation and under-recognition of this labour for the purposes of sustaining our day to day material existence. Too many workers are disempowered from negotiating the terms and conditions of their/our labour.

In this sense, then, many so-called middle class professions are of the same cloth as more quintessentially working class professions, except that the forms of workers' angst that arise will differ, as may the struggles and strategies for enfranchisement.

The aforementioned factors combined (i.e. lack of self-directed control over the ends of our work, under-compensation and under-recognition of labour)... Along with a more classically Marxist-industrial society view of the lack of workers' collective ownership over the means of production, these to me, as someone who is expediently identified with both my middle class upbringing as well as with being a worker in a worker-majority world under capitalism, are some of where the major humiliations of working (class) people lie, broadly speaking.

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