Pew-Pew-Pew: Shots from the Class War

The new Pew Foundation report on trends in “middle class” wealth and public opinion about class relations is worth a read.

Here, for instance, is the latest on how U.S. residents perceive the nation’s class structure:


Interestingly, though Pew lumps together upper and upper-middle in its own data reporting, the population isn’t far off on the definition of “upper class.” Only 2 percent place themselves there. Not unreasonable, though such a wide definition obscures the true heights of wealth and clout.

Conversely, you also see here what happens when “working class” has been banned from a capitalist culture, as it has been in market-totalitarian “America.” WAY too many people think they are some kind of “middle class.” The only reasonable definition of “middle class” is the group of people who have the capacity — via special training and credentials — to receive abnormally high wages and buy or bargain for small claims against corporate capitalisms’ various property-income streams. “Working class,” meanwhile, denotes all those who lack such protections and claims, and must therefore rely only on their raw ability to do labor to make ends meet (or not meet).

In a society where only 2/3 “own” their own housing, and in which only a quarter of all mortgage holders have greater than 50% of their mortgage paid off, the fact that 89% of us see ourselves as “middle class” members speaks volumes about the power of ideology and vested interests.

8 Replies to “Pew-Pew-Pew: Shots from the Class War”

  1. Good definitions. Another description of the middle class that I’ve heard (don’t remember where, but seems cngruent) is “salaried burgeois” – i.e. paid to uphold some aspect of the system, likely through a combination of salary and some paltry crumbs of capital gains…

    With est. ~45% of US households having no liquid assets (i.e. truely living paycheck to paycheck), it baffles me that so many would consider themselves to be middle class.

    I suppose the cheap opiates (TV, crappy, but plentiful food) and the relative comfort do the job…

  2. If I ever finish my car book (I will, I will…), I’m feeling like the next one might be on exactly this topic.

    Meanwhile, even that subsidiary of the Democratic Party known as the AFL-CIO has long since ceased using the phrase “working class,” in order to ingratiate itself to the forces of evil. In mainstream media and politics, of course, the meticulous avoidance of the old commie phrase is one of the most sacred and well-maintained of all rules.

    It’s all a clever way of reviving the old “classless society” claim, which capitalists, on the grounds that they no longer rely on royalist blood claims and directly hired henchmen, have always pushed. Now, the official claim is that we have a “middle-class society,” with an “underclass” below us, with “middle class” being defined as something like “all those who own a car, a tv, and a couch.”

    Is there also an overclass? Well, even though our own “middle class” terminology concedes the point, we simply don’t talk about that, do we? Not polite.

  3. If you are going to be nailing the electric car culture in your book, you might want to check out Ozzie Zehner’s “Green Illusions.” Other anti-electric car partisans have noticed his seemingly solid debunking, and I am trying to sort out the very challenging arguments the young Mr. Zehner puts forth about the false hopes for other greenwashing exercises : solar, wind, biofuels

  4. Martin, you are wrong about solar: in the long term, this is the only viable energy source for humanity – that’s powerful enough, and it can be scaled up to meet most needs.

    All other “sustainable” ideas (except new generation of nuclear breeder reactors) are indeed greewashing.

    The problem with solar is that scaling it up sufficiently and sufficiently is a pipe dream – it will take more than a century or two, and massive government intervention. That’s why the immediate priority should be nuclear (but won’t happen…)

  5. Marla, I’d have to let Ozzie Zehner take over – he gets right to it in his book, detailing the insane amounts of money and fossil-fuel manufacturing that would be necessary to get big solar going – the panels are not made out of bamboo, but of silicon and other environmental toxins – and I write as a homeowner who has purchased a set of panels. They will eventually be worth the expense, for us, but only as a niche stop-gap.
    “Renewable,” like “organic,” is built on so much hype and hope that the fossil-fuel inputs get sidetracked in the wish for purity – if you are at all a natural skeptic, as I am, the book is an absolute must.
    He is not Bjorn Lomborg, and he is no ultimate authority, but it is useful to see how all of our putative “green” instincts have a great deal of complication to them.
    Zehner would not be, at all, for the “massive government intervention” in solar or wind you call for. He is for reducing “consumption” (that word which refuseth to go away), which is no easy bargain, of course, so good luck n sorting it all out.

  6. I’ll read the book, and I certainly don’t dispute the overwhelming difficulties in deploying solar in sufficient quantity, just saying that as far as physical possibility is concerned, going that route is the only hope for humanity in the long term. And precisely because it will take decades and centuries of massive R&D and capital spending, reviving nuclear is so important… Otherwise we have no stopgap, and just in a few decades we will have no options left other than a return to a much more horrifying version of the middle ages…

  7. Most people I know consider themselves middle class as long as they have a job, live in a house, have cable tv/internet, and a car. Having gone to college and a job where your shirt has some sort of collar helps greatly.

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