If we don’t talk about ‘class’ the species will go extinct.
Marx’s original concept of class is that:
There is only the working class and the capitalist class.
The concept of a ‘middle class’ is a necessary fiction that is fostered by the capitalist class (who generally realise that there are only two classes – being ‘us’ and ‘them’).
If you have to work to support yourself then you are in the working class.
If you do not need to work then you are a capitalist.
The distinction pivots on the perception of the individual relating to their own circumstances, not on the degree of capital that an individual might possess.
Marx talks of a class ‘in itself’ as the objective reality of the relations of production. A class ‘in itself’ is defined by whether or not an individual must sell their labour to survive, regardless of whether or not the individual might believe they are actually in ‘the working class’ or the ‘middle or upper class’.
So the definition of a class ‘in itself’ is an objective appreciation relating to the relationship of the individual to the means of production. If an individual need not work at all then they are in the capitalist class ‘in itself’. In modern parlance we would say that they are ‘objectively’ (i.e., by appreciating the facts that are evident) in a situation where they need not work because they can comfortably and trans-nationally live off accumulated capital without diminishing the sum of the available capital. The only class that is currently ‘in itself’ and ‘for itself’ are the rich elite. (Consider that at the moment more than half the fungible wealth in the USA is under the direct control of less than ten people. Moreover, the richest .001% of the worlds population control more than 80% of the capital resources on the globe).
If it is apparent, objectively, that you cannot simply put up your feet and make a living by using your capital to generate more capital (sufficient to not only surviving but also generating a further surplus), then you are a member of the working class ‘in itself’. Regardless of what you might say yourself.
The terminology of a class ‘for itself’ is, therefore, a reference to the subjective appreciation entertained by an individual relating to their own economic and social status. In this manner, the ‘middle-class’ does exist as a class ‘for itself’ (i.e., as a social definition) but not as a class ‘in itself’.
The easiest way to work out if you are in the working class ‘in itself’ is to think about whether or not you would be ‘wiped out’ in a substantial downturn in the marketplace (think about something like a housing market and stock market crash). Capitalists retain their capital during downturns and make surpluses during upturns. This is because their wealth (stolen labour) is sequestered in fungible forms (land, plant, political hegemony) across a number of jurisdictions. Their primary calling is to accumulate personal wealth so their allegiance is to the retention of wealth (objects) not other people (subjects).
Our PM (for example) is in the capitalist class because he has a gazillion dollars squirreled away in overseas accounts. All of the capitalist class are similarly ‘economically’ rational and so ‘economically motivated’ (above all else). If you gave our PM (or any other of his class) the option of living as a worker in Australia without property, or elsewhere with their current wealth, then …
Marx theorized that revolution occurs when the degree of alienation of the working class is such that it remains impossible for the bulk of the workers to maintain their fictional self-conception as being members of a class ‘for itself’ and realise that they are simply wage takers (and part of the working class ‘in itself’). In other words, when they realise that their primary class allegiance should be to other subjects; not to a pile of objects.
In the original thesis proposed by Karl (in the unpublished German Ideology and the Grundrisse) he proposed that the ‘alienation of the working class’ will dissipate when the wage takers of society become wage setters. So, breeding a revolution has nothing to do with brainwashing people but rather the opposite. Marx proposes that social revolution begins with individual enlightenment. When the majority of the citizenry decide to objectively and communally re-negotiate what is valuable and what is ‘freedom’ – then we will have achieved class liberation.
The emancipation of society is all about the education of the individual and development of a just and equitable society that is in balance with the environmental, agrarian and industrial base’s of production.
Unless we do change our systems of distribution and common assessments of ‘value’ then we are stuffed. The human experiment will be snuffed out for want of facility and ability. Like 99.999% of all the species that have gone before us, we will pass away. Perhaps so shall consciousness. That self-aware spark of magic we think of as ‘us’ might very well fade away even before we get any real chance to become truly self-aware. I find it difficult to smile at the irony of this prospect.
It is relatively certain we will go extinct if we do not work out a system by which we can say ‘no’ to both the imperatives of capital and those of our own literature. Who will say that the current system is either rational or just? Yet so many amongst us yearn to retain our ever-failing traditions? This is simply a longing for annihilation as a species.
If you say we can never contain the imperatives and the violence of capital, upon the citizenry and the environment, then you are saying that mankind cannot survive.
Marx proposed that the central urgencies which make sense of our current system is the logic of the .0001% of the population who own virtually everything on earth. He proposed that as soon as the ‘working class in itself’ suddenly realise that there is actually enough ‘stuff’ for everyone on the planet, revolution will occur.
We either contain the ravages of ‘the rationale of capitalism’ or we fail.
We must make it impossible for individuals to gain control of large aggregations of capital and then pass this on to their offspring. This is because the rationale of capital is to make more capital irrespective of the individual, environmental and social cost.
As a species we only get one shot. Just like the 99.999% of species that went before us. But it looks like a tiny group of rich arseholes are going to entirely stuff it up for the rest. Apparently the need to be able to own sixteen cars and a house in five countries is more important than the need for fresh water and food for the children and the future of our species upon the globe.
Right at the moment I am not confident. People keep on telling me that I am the one who is a ‘radical’.
But (I keep stuttering) …
– the Great Barrier reef is crumbling and going white
– people are working ever longer hours to pay ever inflated prices for virtually everything
-we are wedded to environmentally catastrophic products that we throw away and repurchase weekly
-across the world we spend five hundred times as much on armaments as we do on feeding the poor
-our oceans are dying
-our planet is warming.
Yet the mainstream press and most of our citizenry are continuing to work hard to prop up this failing system whilst inanely prating inanities about how great the modern capitalist world is and how wonderful all this ‘economic activity’ is for ‘jobs and growth’.
What I find ‘radical’ is the sort of hypocrisy that is mainstream in our society. That we should all be happy to trade our current spurt of economic sunshine (being entertained by a tiny minority of the worlds population) for the whole of the worlds environment and the future of our species. I think that is ‘radical’.
Yet I am labelled a radical for ever trying to progress the needs of the species? By proposing that inanimate objects are not valuable. But rather that I am valuable and you are valuable. And that my time and your time is valuable. All the rest is bullshit.
I think it is radical that we are living in and fostering the perpetuation of a society where you and I – and everything we care about – can be weighed against a small pile of coinage and legal documents. And sick.
If mankind does not abandon many of its ‘cherished traditions’ then the experiment will fail.
Midday December 29th
(any given year on the calendar)