Friday, November 8, 2013

Wobbly times number 171


    There are four, possibly five basic classes in modernised industrial societies:  

    The biggest, most numerous class in modernity is the working class. The working class and their dependents make up about 90% of the population in industrialised States. These people are defined by their need to sell their labour power to an employer, including the political State, in order to make a living. They cannot make a living from merely using their savings or what they own in terms of land or capital. Most of the time the working class possesses only one commodity they can use to make a living: They MUST market their skills to employers for a price in order to buy the necessities of life, in exchange for which, their employers become entitled to the product of labour.

  • Second, you have those people who have a skill but who sell directly to a customer unmediated by an employer e.g. a doctor could do this or a tailor or a prostitute. This is the class of independent professionals. They make up about 2% of the classes engaged in wealth production/appropriation. Co-operatives based on the sale of goods or services where the sale of the product of co-operative labour is divided more or less equally amongst its producers, fall into this class. Of course doctors, tailors and prostitutes and so on e.g. 'sole traders', could also be caught up in wage labour like workers. Sometimes, they move back and forth between classes. The class they're in depends on whether they sell the product of their labour, their goods or services, directly to a customer or whether they're employed by a pimp or a capitalist for a sum of money and this employer keeps the lion's share of the sale of the good or service they to the consumer/customer. For instance, in many countries, some doctors are paid a salary by the State to service clinics and hospitals. Many other examples could be given, including most obviously, other employees of the State.
    Third, there are the landlords. The landlord class is made up of people who own land or buildings and rent them and/or sell the properties they own in order to make their living--about 2% of the population.
    Lastly, we have the capitalists. The capitalist class owns the product of labour (the goods and/or services) which they receive ownership of in exchange for buying their employees' labour power for its market price--wages. This is as true for capitalists engaged in officially recognised criminal business practices as it is for capitalists engaged in legal forms of exploitation. The capitalists market the product of labour and realise profits. That's how they obtain the wealth they need to live. They keep and sell the product of labour. The capitalist class makes up about 3% of the population of industrialised States.
    Much talk is made about the 'middle class'. Most often the people being identified and who self-identify as this 'middle class' fall into: the more highly paid members of the working class, the people who market their goods or services directly to a customer, petty landlords and small business people. Others include the class of independent professionals.
    There are many members of modern industrialised society who belong to none of the above classes because they are not directly engaged in wealth production and are only partly engaged in appropriation. Amongst them are: students, stay at home partners, children, retirees, drop outs, prisoners and the physically/mentally challenged. Still, many in this class go to and fro between and in and out of the above classes e.g. the hobo who gets a lawn mowing gig or the student who must find employment to get financially through school. Other examples abound. People in this class are many times dependent for a living on members of the other classes or the wealth which capitalist political State has at its disposal. Most people in this class, especially those financially dependent on wage-workers, are absolutely essential to the reproduction of society as a whole. As previously mentioned: "The working class and their dependents make up about 90% of the population in industrialised States."


  1. I guess I'm in the class of independent professionals, poverty level, because I'm a self-employed research attorney. If I had an office and forced myself to work in it hours a day then I could possibly move above poverty level. Or should I try to get back in the working class? Applying for jobs can be quite the waste of time when employers seeking labor are so ungrateful to workers offering their labor.

    1. I think you've got your class right. Employers are buyers in the labour market. Most all buyers are looking for the lowest price. The bargain mentality is part and parcel of bourgeois social relations.