Sunday, 10 January 2016

What I Mean When I Talk About Class...

In the aftermath of The Glasgow Effect excitement - it's the weekend, so the print media is giving it some, still - Loki commented that many commentators will discuss any aspect of the stushie as long as they don't have to talk about class. Since my current catch-phrase is all art is bourgeois, it's probably time for me to define my understanding of class consciousness.

The Bourgeoisie
According to the Urban Dictionary, the bourgeoisie was actually a legally defined social status during the French Revolution. It's most popular usage is within Marxist critiques of society, which identifies them as being the owners of the means of production: they are the people who own the factory, invest in the company, tell other people what to do. 

Sometimes bourgeoisie  is used as a synonym for...

The Middle Class
Although I see 'middle class' as being a wider category, since it doesn't just include the owners of production, but those groups who stand to gain from a society dominated by capitalism. So Doctors, Teachers, people who get a good wage, that kind of lark, are middle class without necessarily being bourgeoisie. To mark this collaboration with the bosses, I use the adjective

I read somewhere or another that bourgeois society  is another way
of saying capitalism. I tend to use it to describe anything that works to the advantage of capitalism, the middle class and the bourgeoisie. 

I do this because I read some Diderot, and think I can see how his massive project was an attempt to define reality to the advantage of these groups. Bourgeois was once a revolutionary energy, aiming to break the hegemony of the absolutist state or aristocrats. Now it is the dominant culture, having created the social framework within which most activity happens. 

That's why I say all art is bourgeois, since its terms have been established by a bourgeois culture. 

The Working Class
This is where I get stuck, perhaps because recent models of capitalism try to dissolve the boundaries between working and middle class. 

There are a bunch of easy stereotypes that can stand in for the working class. I don't like them (the stereotypes, not the class). So I jump to something more specific...

The Proletariat
Marx liked a bit of this... the proletariat are the urban group who do not own the means of production - the exploited masses who have nothing to lose but their chains. Again, working class can be used to mean proletariat, but at least the fancy French word has a bit of political context. 

I've got a few more words to explain, but I'll pause here for a bit. I think my Waitrose soup and Lidl toast are ready. 

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