Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Upstairs Downstairs in the USA

The American class hierarchy can be broadly mapped out as follows:

*The Overclass -- the stinking rich who run the whole show. They watch all of our carrying on, all the fights between right and left, between classes and races, and they say, "Dance puppets!"

*The Professional class -- who service the Overclass. They generally resent and despise their Overclass employers, and fear and loath the lower classes. The Overclass usually buys them off with high wages.

*The Academic class -- who produce the professionals that service the Overclass, who produce new ideas to make the Overclass richer, and who stay locked up in academic cloisters to keep any original ideas from contaminating the rest of society. The Overclass uses the promise of tenure to keep them pacified.

*The Shopkeeper class -- a class that struggles to be noticed and patronized by the Overclass and the Professional class; a class always anxious about falling back into the Employee class and the Underclass. The Overclass uses their fear of falling back to keep this class in line.

*The Employee class -- who work for the Professional class and the Shopkeeper class. The classes above them have convinced the Employee class that union representation and collective bargaining are the socio-economic equivalents to masturbation. The Employee class always aspires to join the Shopkeeper and Professional classes, and fears falling into the Underclass. The Overclass uses their aspirations and fears to keep them in line.

*The Underclass -- a class reduced to indentured servitude by immigration status and poverty. They service all the above classes and clean up their messes for sub-minimum wages. They do factory work, construction work, and clean up so that the other classes can avoid paying union wages for the same work. This is also the class expected fight wars on behalf of all the other classes (see "clean up their messes"). All the classes above them resent them and think of the Underclass as parasites and freeloaders. The Overclass uses the fears and hopes of the Underclass to keep them in line.

The driving forces of this society are greed, fear, boredom, and humiliation. Members of all of the above classes seek relief from this bleak prospect in consumerism, alcohol, drugs, crime, and occasionally religion.

*The Bohemian class -- mostly made up of the sons and daughters of the Professional and Shopkeeper classes. They dare to imagine something other than the current social arrangement. The projects and imaginings of this class sometimes have a profound effect on the expectations and desires of the other classes. For some in the other classes, this represents a threat. For most others, it represents an opportunity to make even more money. The Bohemian class is a class made up almost entirely of temporary residents. Most return to the classes into which they were born. Some go on to the Academic class. A small group go to the upper reaches of the Professional class as celebrity musicians and actors.


rick allen said...

Cynical, but unhappily accurate.

I would add that there is within your professional class a governing class, with policymakers at the top and bureaucrats at the bottom (that's probably where I would fit into your scheme). The independence of this group is rather compromised by the necessity, of the policymakers, to get re-elected, a requirement which in our age requires vast amounts of wealth. And who does that come from, and what are the conditions to such largess?

Counterlight said...

I would definitely put politicians and legislators (and dare I say magistrates) into that Professional class that services the Overclass.
I don't quite know where I would put the bureaucrats who service the policymakers. Some would definitely belong in the Professional class, others might belong in the Employee class.

Washington seems to have produced its own mandarin class built around access to the powerful. That would include lobbyists, lawyers, pundits, and the corporate media.

Brad Evans said...

What about the clergy? Or has the job become completely, as opposed to partially, irrelevant?