The Fabrication of False Consciousness: The Middle-Class Myth

2014-07-12 09.51.26

As I reach the 25% mark of my dissertation on class, I can’t help but ponder on the concept of the middle-class. As a Marxist, despite what bourgeois academics say about Marxists, I know that class isn’t an issue which is strictly rigid as there are many contradictions of Capitalism which see the bourgeoisie come into conflict with each other as much as the proletariat.

In their attempts to refute Marxism, the bourgeois academics have done their best to portray Marxism as a dogmatic, rigid and abstract set of ideas which are as out-of-touch as they are out-of-date. This completely misses the point of Marxism which is not an attempt to abstractly construct a wholly false set of theoretical principles. Any decent Marxist knows that Marxist theory needs to dialectically respond to the everyday material conditions of the proletariat.

This brings me onto the point I want to make about the concept of the middle-class. Time and time again, I have read in academic texts how the Marxist model of class doesn’t adequately explain the expansion of the middle-class. Weberians have argued that the middle-class is distinct from the “outdated” Marxist notion of the proletariat because these are educated people who have attained a level of social status, intellectual acuity and managerial autonomy that separates them from the traditional idea of the working-class who are allegedly just unskilled manual labourers.

I sat down to breakfast this morning, drinking coffee from my cafetiere, arranging a dinner party for this evening after having spent the last few days reading about the Weberian concept of social and cultural capital. As I sat there it suddenly dawned on me how quickly people can fall into the trap of distancing themselves from being “working-class” as if this label means you’re uneducated, unskilled and undesirable. Yet, this desperate striving for an identity which expresses a level of sophistication and superiority is completely ridiculous and plays right into the hands of those who are a real fetter on the progress of human development.

It is yet another subtle tool used to create divides in the working-class. This is made clearer on days like the July 10th public sector strikes as teachers, civil servants, council workers and fire fighters go on strike together. Some of these would no doubt consider themselves to be middle-class and yet all the education, social status, cultural capital and complex identity attributes amount to naught. The reality is still one of a minority of elites hoarding capital whilst the rest of us are encouraged to fight over the scraps, the crumbs thrown off the Capitalists’ table, a table which has been built and propped up by workers.

I for one am proud to be working-class even if that means I’m looked down upon by those who have bought into the consumerist culture in an attempt to escape the scorn of an elite which weighs down upon us all. I hold nothing against those who consider themselves to be middle-class, what I would like to achieve is exposing the nature of class society.

For no matter how much bourgeois academics pontificate about the nature of class society, one thing remains obvious which not even the most polished of Weberian supporters can deny. When it comes down to it, no matter how much cultural capital or education one accrues, there are still very clear barriers to the majority which arise from the huge inequalities that are prevalent as one small elite group have hugely disproportionate access to material resources at the expense of the majority.

Those who do not move cannot feel their chains; I can certainly feel mine and though I remain very much constricted by Capitalism, I already feel somewhat liberated in that I am conscious of the chains that constrict myself and my class.

Written by an unashamed prole.

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