Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Class consciousness

Financial Times:

[T]here are two main areas of concern within the business community about deficit reduction plans being floated around Washington.

One is that aggressive spending cuts at federal agencies, from the Pentagon to the education and energy departments, could damage the revenue stream and profitability of large government contractors, which are concentrated in the technology and defence industries.

The other concern is that any attempt at tax reform aimed at deficit reduction -- including an overhaul of corporate taxation -- could involve the loss of critical tax breaks and incentives that benefit specific companies and sectors, even if it were accompanied by a lower corporate tax rate.

It comes as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that the purpose of government in a class society is contested between classes; "class" being a concept that is buried beneath the unifying claim of "the nation" to the degree that it references power, and which is retrieved from it only in truncated form, as a measure of income.

Whatever social class best discerns its existence as a class and in turn organizes its activities to promote its interests is most likely to see them advanced, both for better and for worse, by means of "the coercive power of the state," as our observant friends at the The Economist have put it. Even if you and I are not class conscious, the possessing classes by necessity are; and this goes a long way towards explaining why the United States looks the way it does, at least when any modicum of time is spent regarding it honestly.

Alternative explanations never go so far; they leave us with equality under the law -- "even if the rich can afford better lawyers"! Subsequently, they proliferate, and gain the kind of acceptance that comes not out of an acknowledgment of what is true, but what is true in the face of class power, presently constituted.

We learn a lot by reading the most class conscious literature of any class. Consider the above example, and what it tells us about the role government must play for the purposes of one class versus another.


TWS said...

Bourgeois ideology is not the same as class consciousness, and confusing the two leaves one open to conspiracy-flavoured liberalism à la Chomsky. The people running the government and writing for the FT literally do not see class, and contradictions speak to them with one voice.

JRB said...

That effective rulers will understand their social position and interests despite the limitations of their ideologies is all I mean by "class consciousness" in this case.

This is where I want to begin a discussion of "class consciousness" because, for example, my coworkers will grasp it more intuitively than if it is wrapped up in the historical mission of the proletariat as conceived by Marx.

Incidentally, Chomsky is also useful in this regard.

Mike Ballard said...

So, what the workers need to know is which class they are in and why they are in that class. Workers make their living from selling their skills to the employing class for a wage. The wage system results in the producers of wealth ending up with 12% of what they create. The other 88% ends up in the control and ownership of their masters in the capitalist class. The landlord class also appropriates its take. The point is to change that power relation to one where the producers own 100% of the wealth they create in common. This can only be accomplished through the abolition of the wage system and that can be brought about though class conscious unionism.