More on the working/universal class, classes…beyond classes to individuals and back
September 12th, 2018 ·
We have often suggested a larger perspective than that of the working class: the universal class, in a pun on set theory: the set of all subsets of a given class.
Marxists these days hardly know anything about the working class, or so it seems.
The left needs to multitask a far larger set of problems than the economics of the working class. But such is the idea that the working class is perhaps one of the largest subsets of the universal class: the focus on the working class can coexist with all sorts of groups and movements. And the universal class reminds us there aren’t really any classes: only people. The universal class includes all individuals in their own subset class. The
working class is a statistical average or fiction and not even so dominant now as we enter postindustreality, automation, etc…It is more of a nineteenth century idea, of the proletariat, and the Manchester world.
The working class is nonetheless a key focus for the left, obviously, but the situation is shifting now.
And who are really the radicals in society? The working class? I have been in dozens, hundreds of working class job situations, from apple pickers in Washington, to labor pools that charge high, pay low, to roustabouting in Louisiana, to spinach weeders in Arizona desert and I have almost never met a radical in such jobs. Sullen flip the birders at the bosses, should qualify, let’s hope. I was usually the only one, confronting the task of explaining exploitation: easy, wages are too low. But revolution? Those fucking commies!
I am too pessimistic, perhaps…
We can’t really assign human properties to ‘classes’. They/it won’t behave the way your theories expect. And what are the objectives of the ‘left’? The point is we need a new kind of movement that is more than economic: at a time of full employment, who will revolt and why? And full employment requires growth, high carbon generation and climate change.
At some point all of that is going to crash in any case.
We need to fight for a new society, not just the wages of factory workers. We need to ask what happens when the music stops: no more growth, a steady state economy, and yet work and economic rights nonetheless.
And we need to act soon: time is running out, and the ‘counter-revolution’ on the right is well underway.
Our models of ‘democratic market neo-communism’ are a tool to explore the possibilities. Perhaps still too limited.
If the left will stop its Marx chatter and design a viable, attractive set of social/ecological possibilities for the ‘universal’ (and/or working) class, with some guarantees of rights and no concentration camps people will become radical (again) overnight. People are starting to taste fear: the future does not look good.