Friday, December 17, 2010

Organizing amongst the working class

Theory is important because it organizes the world around our concerns. For example, most people who are very concerned about poverty don't naturally turn to mainstream economic theory, because the problem of poverty is subordinated to other priorities, like the need for economic growth. Insofar as poverty is identified as a problem, its solution must be found in economic growth, because that is the priority. How economic growth contributes to resource inequality, by concentrating wealth into fewer and fewer hands, is a problem relegated to governments; though how governments can pursue the problem when their mandate is always and everywhere to pursue economic growth is a question that mainstream economists are compensated very well to leave unanswered.

It follows from this that if poverty counts among your priorities, you will likely find yourself courting extra-capitalist or anti-capitalist explanations for why it persists in an industrial context where production is routinely jeopardized by its very ability to produce in excess. The theories that we use to explain our world, then, are in large part a reflection of our own priorities.

One of the most compelling insights to come out of socialist theory since the 19th century is the idea that a category of humanity identified as "the working class" has objective material interests; speaking broadly, its constituents share the same elementary priorities. This remains true even when the ruling class priorities of economic growth, war, and furthering their own domestic power are promoted to such extremes that the vocabulary of the working class appears to reference nothing else. No amount of ruling class propaganda can erase the objective relations of dominance and subjugation that exist between those that work and those that rule.

The practical project of organizing amongst the working class for people like you and me begins by wondering aloud at the remarkably consistent, objective reality that is always concealed behind the theoretical veil drawn by the ruling class: Isn't it funny how we are always obligated to them, but they are never obligated to us? Ha ha! Wait -- what?

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