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What does middle class mean in the United States and England?

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yoda's walking stick
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Joined: 6-04-11
Jul 10 2011 03:13
What does middle class mean in the United States and England?

I know there are different definitions across the Atlantic.

Baronarchist
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Jul 10 2011 13:01

I'm assuming it's regional managers, lawyers, maybe police e.t.c
I mean its all subjective, but to me I suppose it's those who are wealthy, but still work for a living to a degree rather than off mulitple surplus labour.

Usually (but not always) the middle classes seem to favour and/or protect those that are in the upper classes.

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devoration1
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Jul 10 2011 13:22

In the US it's almost entirely made up of working-class people with decent wages and benefits. Many unions use 'middle class' rhetoric and talking-points when giving press interviews/statements, conducting parliamentary lobbying, etc. Especially since 1945 and the post-war economic boom, working-class (particularly unionized workers) families were introduced to a standard of living higher than they've ever had with an accompanying culture of standardization (Suburbia, white picket fence, television, 2.5 kids and a dog, 2 cars, etc).

The 'middle strata' of professionals (the historic 'middle class' mentioned in Marx & Second International texts like Bela Kun's "On The Middle Classes") are largely being proletarianized. Most 'managers' are workers with a salary bump and the responsibility to keep order around the shop, hire & fire and handle logistics.

yoda's walking stick
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Jul 10 2011 13:27
devoration1 wrote:
In the US it's almost entirely made up of working-class people with decent wages and benefits. Many unions use 'middle class' rhetoric and talking-points when giving press interviews/statements, conducting parliamentary lobbying, etc. Especially since 1945 and the post-war economic boom, working-class (particularly unionized workers) families were introduced to a standard of living higher than they've ever had with an accompanying culture of standardization (Suburbia, white picket fence, television, 2.5 kids and a dog, 2 cars, etc).

The 'middle strata' of professionals (the historic 'middle class' mentioned in Marx & Second International texts like Bela Kun's "On The Middle Classes") are largely being proletarianized. Most 'managers' are workers with a salary bump and the responsibility to keep order around the shop, hire & fire and handle logistics.

Thanks, this was exactly what I was looking for.

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armillaria
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Jul 10 2011 17:23

Yeah, it's weird because people talk about "saving the middle class" as an important part of democracy... but the existence of a middle class automatically means that there's an underclass, and the existence of an underclass automatically means it's really not democracy.

Devoration, I think you're right. The U.S. middle class is part of the working class, but the part that's doing more alright for itself. There's no clear line, it's all shades of grey further blurred by the fact that some people who are poor and struggling will still identify as middle-class, because it's like a matter of pride for them- the false-consciousness shit got pushed so hard that it's a huge shame thing now for lots of people to feel like they can't claim this middle-class identity. :\

And sometimes, in the anarchist circles that are less class-struggle oriented- the ones who other radicals get pissed at for being 'lifestylist'- there's this thing where people reject the 'middle class lifestyle' really angrilly- and I can see how that's a flawed and incomplete standpoint that might tend towards glorifying poverty, but I don't want to dismiss it entirely.

Because- the cultural stuff is a really big deal, and just because we can say that all of XYZ people- whether poor or not, whether identifying as middle-class or not- are actually the proletariat and actually have a common interest in the class war- doesn't mean we can ignore the divisions in strata and all the mindfucking psychological baggage that goes along with it.

Because if you grow up in an environment with people who've managed to accumulate the nice suburban house and the two cars, etc- there's almost no vocabulary that you're given to talk about shit like- how you've been taught to identify with the status quo, even tho it's really still screwing you, or how you get taught to look down on people who don't have the same resources as you, etc...

Alexander Roxwell
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Jul 11 2011 03:00

I always have problems with "categories" that are vaguely defined and subject to many definitions.

I do not like the category "middle class" because it is exactly that kind of a category.

I don't even like Marx's definition of "middle class" altho it is at least not deliberately obscurantist.

The primary classes in the world today are big bourgeoisie, petit-bourgeoisie, rentiers or landlords, workers, and peasants. You also have a “de-classe” that Marx called the "lumpen proletariat." There are indeed quite a few left over "people" who do not "fit" neatly into any of those classes either temporarily or ever. And you have some "people" that you can debate back and forth which box they belong in. "Managers" for instance or "professionals." There are also "subdivisions" within classes such as the peasantry.

I do not believe that calling anyone "middle class" is useful at all.

I think it is part of the ruling class's smoke and mirrors game. I think it like Barack Obama's "hope."

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Arbeiten
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Jul 11 2011 09:18

The middle class is a smoke and mirrors game, but it has a longer history than Obama. It's ideology through and through. On the other hand, I do think there is some analytical weight which should be given to the so-called middle class. From how I understand it (and I haven't given it much thought until now), they are workers with small property rights and large debts, something like a petit-bourgeois-proletarian amalgam. In times of crisis (such as today) the myth of the middle class is exposed for what it is. It's a shame none of our political parties nor the media will admit this....

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arminius
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Jul 12 2011 20:41

We've had a few posts on our blog about this recently. The most recent (I think) is this one:

http://spacesofhope.blogspot.com/2011/07/late-great-middle-class.html