47 Comments
Aug 10, 2023Liked by Rhyd Wildermuth

I'm fascinated by class, as most Brits are. This reminded me of two things I've read recently:

The 7 types of class in the UK, which shows very few actual working class anymore and a rise of 'emergent service workers': high cultural capital but little actual wealth.

Also Goodheart's somewheres & anywheres idea which really made me think twice about why I am embarrassed by the people I grew up with but also aware I am from a different planet than the people in the circles I'm now in.

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Maybe it's different in America, but here in the UK we've always had the petite bourgeoisie, only we call them the lower middle classes. Since the expansion of education, a whole raft of further education qualifications are required for things that a few decades any school-leaver could walk into and learn as they went along. Now every clerk has a degree or two and sees themself as an intellectual, a rebel and - bizarrely - still a member of the working class. But as they quite obviously are not w.c., they have had to identify more accommodating categories of disadvantage (gender/ethnicity/sexuality etc) in order to continue to claim w.c./p.c. victimhood. The left has totally lost the plot as to what working class is/was. The majority of people concerned with class today are simply middle class and ashamed of it, poor things.

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Aug 10, 2023Liked by Rhyd Wildermuth

Great, thoughtful (and thought-provoking) review, which reminds me I'm long overdue getting a copy of the book. I exist in the venn overlap between Desolation Radio and The Re/al/ign and this has made me very happy!

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Aug 10, 2023Liked by Rhyd Wildermuth

Wow, why did this review explain so much about my life/brain 🤯

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Aug 10, 2023Liked by Rhyd Wildermuth

Evans attempts to explain via the class framework, but I would propose that a better framework is Studebaker's concept of the "excess Song dynasty civil servant" (read civil servant = intellectual):

https://benjaminstudebaker.com/2021/03/01/are-declassed-professionals-in-the-united-states-like-surplus-song-dynasty-civil-servants/

"Unable to pursue political power through the conventional pathways, these young men invented a new kind of political theory to make sense of their positions (or lack thereof).

...

As Kim presents it, Dao Learning asserted that human beings were united on a metaphysical level, even though they occupied different social strata in practice. This metaphysical unity consisted in their shared moral nature, which they could realize through the practice of personal morality. This practice was, in their view, open to everyone, irrespective of their social position. Indeed, in the years to come, the Ming-era Wang Yangmin would argue that even literacy is not required for sagehood.

This view allowed the surplus Song elite a conceit–even if they could not achieve positions within the temporal hierarchy of the Song, they could still observe a personal morality through which they might attain sagehood. If sagehood is the aim of life and anyone can attain sagehood, then the failure to achieve high office within the Song state becomes irrelevant to the ultimate value of the lives of these elites."

Replace sagehood for "sophistication"...

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Aug 10, 2023Liked by Rhyd Wildermuth

Great piece. I think world system theorists hint at what Marx couldn't yet see. The metropoles (US, UK, EU, eg) serve in the larger world as consumers of last instance, as the 'traditional' proletariat is shunted into the peripheries (China now being the exceptional challenger). It can't work without a proletariat, but with this world-regional division of labor, it's easy--from the standpoint of those of us in the metropoles--to think that Marx's surplus value theory is defunct (it's not). Not speaking as a Marxist any longer, but Marxian theories have consistently (so far) proven correct with regard to deskilling and the inevitable advance of proletarianization into every field (thinking now of college TAs as well as fast food workers). What's new(ish), it seems, is the scope and scale of financialization, which has simultaneously captured the whole economy and introduced a treadmill of recurrent risk--a kind of runaway train of collapse and bailout . . . and also communications technology, about which you and others have thought and written as we all try to get our heads around this kind of emergent technofeudalism growing like a parasitic mold on the financialized world system. Neoliberalism has been at its heart precisely financialization (the rest is ideological cover), and it's tottering badly right now, its cascading failures ramifying down through the rest of us as desperate ideological shopping and irritable antagonisms (like culture wars). idk

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I've been pondering around this for a bit.

We live in a unique time in human history. As much as we might want to debate the reasons, truth is we have gone from less than 1 billion to almost 8 billion people in about 200 years. The rise in population was fueled by the results of whatever socioecopolitical amalgam existed. I have tons of problems with it, row farming, feed lots, you name it. Even the factories are not my bag. But this is what I ponder....

In all of this, progress, the human creature has donned itself the king of contemplation (including myself) and has the leisure (even we Petite bourgeoisie who feed ourselves primarily by selling "air") to worry about the why instead of the how and when. So, what happens when the why is no longer valuable? Are we victim to our own "success"? We can feed the poor; we have; they have thrived; now there are 7.x billion souls consuming oxygen and producing waste on the planet. Do we really need to be "more" successful?

Hmm.

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I love this. It completely explains why I, as a teacher, am paid 1/4 the hourly rate of my plumber, despite having an advanced degree. And why I wonder about the fact that I am called "middle class" while my plumber is still "working class."

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Aug 10, 2023·edited Aug 10, 2023

The working class and old petite bourgeoisie I know of are into craft beer, especially IPA’s and more recently Budweiser has been cast into outer darkness - Google Dylan Mulvaney and Bud Light. You have been in Europe awhile. The working class and old petite bourgeoisie are quite aware they are held in derision by a certain type of leftist. I live in the Texas/Oklahoma part of California in the south Central Valley. The working class/old petite bourgeoisie Mexican portion of this area have little affinity with woke/social identity leftism. If anything they think it’s stupid. They drink a variety of Mexican beers and craft beers.

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Excellent piece Rhyd. Deserves wider readership. You should reach out to 'Ricky from Council Estate Media' on Substack. Very left, very angry but with a sense of humour as well.

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Great article. If you want to go down this path further in the US context Erik Olin Wright’s work is def a good place to start (much of it was or is free on his old website). You may find it unsurprisingly that major national surveys make a Marxian measurement of class a bit tricky due to data limitations.

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I painfully relate to too much of this. Ironically my retired factory working father is visiting me in Colorado for the first time in a week.

Colorado, especially the more liberal parts, has almost no working class and does not want it. Being here for 10 years and seeing how those with means start tech and other companies operate without any consideration or close relationships to those who may do the physical labor has definitely changed how I see things. It has definitely helped erode any idea that I’m in any way better than anyone yet I’m still stuck between trying to create something financially sustaining for myself and not fall backward into manual labor for a living. I too do not have a farm to go back to.

I also experienced firsthand the bits about the resentment with student loan forgiveness. On the day the 10k student debt was announced I received a call from my cousin who lives in Ohio an hour after it was announced . He was seething and screamed that he gave his life to his job. He wasn’t wrong, yet I didn’t grow up around factories and never saw that not going to school as an option. It’s such an easy political weapon to use, every time the student debt issue is brought up I see bots on social media everywhere stirring up resentment on both sides between those who were able to pay their debts and those who never took out loans.

If you’ve not read Matt Taibbi’s substack post “The Trillion Lie” I highly recommend it. He directly ties the loan issue to the 2008 financial crisis (credit default swaps) where schools raise tuition, the government raises loan amounts, banks offer loans then sell them to other lending institutions, and in the end it’s a debt swap game of musical chairs that everyone knows is going to collapse but hasn’t yet due to borrowers being unable to file bankruptcy and escape them. Additionally it was eye opening to understand the student loan lenders see outstanding debt as assets. So as unpaid student loans increase they can borrow additional funds as if they have real assets.

Here in lies the literal aspect of not being better than anyone. Every night I go to sleep I wake up more in debt. I am a debt asset to the wealthy, they don’t need my physical labor to accrue wealth.

Fantastic essay, thank you for bringing Dan Evans to my attention.

Link (the trillion dollar lie)

https://www.racket.news/p/the-trillion-dollar-lie

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Nailed it

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Read Paul Fussell "Social Class In America" and become wise.

There is another class to consider, that of Local Gentry. Think of that guy who owns a chain of local muffler shops. He maybe only has a high school diploma or a certificate from a community college, but may be doing quite well for himself. Or maybe he owns an insurance agency. Regardless, the relationship between Local Gentry to location and capital and that of the PMC is very different.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/09/trump-american-gentry-wyman-elites/620151/

Once you understand that Team D is the political manifestation of the PMC (with various minorities as junior partners), and Team R does the same for Local Gentry (with white Evangelicals as junior partners), All Will Be Revealed.

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This was very illuminating! I had been thinking of class strictly in terms of who does and doesnt have a college degree. Some of the more conservative/moderate substacks look at it this way which I've found helpful since college educated people make up the minority in the US, Australia and the UK.

But I also like this explanation as well because I kept seeing white leftist asserting that people with Master's degrees who work at Walmart are working class which I didn't agree with (and it's not clear how true that even is). But I also read in Jason L. Riley's "Please Stop Helping Us" that if you're college educated but working this sort low skill job, you probably grew up poor.

There's a lot to wrap my mind around. Especially since I keep reading about how elites control society but literally no one has a useful framework on how to deal with that.

So it all just feels like squabbling; white leftists want Black people to get over race so that they can have their fever dream of a multiracial working class revolution, Black liberals and progressives just hate white people and have a revisionist understanding of Black political history to substantiate their frustrations while offering nothing material for Black people except "joy". Asians and Latinos, when liberal, often demand obedience from Blacks while also co-opting Black history for their own racial pet projects.

I am convinced that the only way for things to change is a changing of the guards (ie elites) because I genuinely dont believe that any kind of working class uprising or solidarity project is going to happen. There is not only no desire, but people literally dont see issues as pertaining to class; it's race or bust. Even when affirmative action was ruled as unconstitutional, I saw Black liberals making it about "whiteness" and race.

Literally no class understanding or framework available or of interest.

And "working class", thanks to the media when Trump was elected, is now associated very strongly with racist whites.

And having experienced racism at the hands of white liberals, I can't say that I'm super invested in white led political projects. Even though white people are the ones doing all the necessary thinking and examination of these issues. Unless there are secret books bring published, I don't see any useful insight coming from Black liberals or progressives; only the conservatives.

But I liked this write up!! Thank you for your insight.

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You've read lit professor Paul Fussell's book CLASS? He claimed later that it was sort of a joke, but for a long time, it was the only book of its type.

My mother always summarized the over-educated, underpaid as "Champagne tastes, beer salary."

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