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Class division

Cooking the Books: The Death of the Middle Class

In an article in the Daily Mail (23 August) lamenting ‘the death of the middle classes’ Dominic Sandbrook wrote:

‘One day, predicted Karl Marx, ‘the lower strata of the middle class — the small tradespeople, shopkeepers and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants’, would begin to sink down the social ladder, crushed by the cruel economic logic of modern life. Society, he thought, would inexorably be divided into haves and have-nots, and tension would turn inevitably to violent revolution. Marx gloried in his own prediction. As the founding father of Communism, he looked forward to the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, when the middle classes would be extinguished and capitalism would be torn down.’

Now There are Seven – or are there?

A new study by academics from the LSE and Manchester has come up with the idea that there are seven classes in British society. You can classify people according to whatever criteria you want and the academics have chosen to combine income, security of income, occupation and leisure pursuits. The seven classes they come up with are: elite (6 percent), established middle class (25 percent), technical middle class (6 percent), new affluent workers (15 percent), traditional working class (14 percent), emergent service workers (19 percent), and precariat (15 percent). In fact, in some ways this is just a refinement of the popular division into upper class (toffs and business oligarchs), middle class and working class.

Editorial: Working Class Dismissed

David Cameron’s accent, though less plummy than some of his Tory predecessors, fairly tinkles with the sound of silver spoons being removed from their mahogany cases.  We Brits with our highly attuned class antennae know a toff when we hear one.  So when considering how it is that this man’s government is preparing to unleash a programme of ‘welfare reforms’ that seems set to devastate the lives of thousands of working people, cynics observe:  ‘How can you expect a man like Cameron to begin to understand the needs of ‘ordinary’ working people’ – many of whom, it is often said with real justification, live one payslip away from destitution.  

There is some truth in the observation, but Cameron’s ignorance of working class lives is not the source of his government’s attack, because, underneath the superficialities of accent and dress, class exists as part of what a capitalist economy is, and plays a leading role in government policy. 

Now … and Then

In a socialist society, people will still eat and drink and love and argue, much as they do now. But in other respects, socialism will be very different from capitalism.

Inequality

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