The other day I did a thread discussing why the ‘white able bodied laboring men banging on steel’ trope common among Tradleft types is a shibboleth that doesn’t hold for the US or for the world. Indeed, <10% of the pop fits in. Now I’m gonna do the flip side of this.
◾️~65% of Americans own their home
◾️74% have retirement savings, ~50% have stock & other financial investment funds
◾️83% have regular access to interest earning bank accounts, ~92% have some access
◾️41% of US has ‘PMC’ jobs
◾️33% are self employed
◾️14% have smol beansness
Note this doesn’t include ALL business owners, a statistic which is hard to calculate, inasmuch as, few corps are individually majority held by people, so does a 20% stake count as ownership? A 10%? A 1%? We know 6% are direct bond holders & earners (a good proxy for rentiers)
Around 3% of Americans are individual landlords. The other 50% of landlordship is by roughly 1 million business entities which have multiple owners. 6% then isn’t a bad low estimate, and that’s more than 10% of American adults.
Because of double counting and divisibility issues, it’s hard to get total percentages, and thus we have a range of anywhere from 20%-33% being business owners of some kind. If self employment, contracting, independent incorp., & entrpreneurship is included it’s higher.
Since there is high overlap between the ~50% with investment accounts & 65% who are homeowners, it’s difficult to say, but this is still going to be greater than 75% or so with SOME investment property, assets and/or equity.
While, if any pension, retirement etc is included, let alone any earnings from capital (interest for ex) are included, it’s going to be greater than 90%.
We always see the statistics that 40% of people are living paycheck to paycheck or 20% have zero or negative wealth. The problem is that half of these are struggling single earners w/ nothing & another portion are simply owners with illiquid assets & structured debt payments.
There is a portion of (primarily non white, young, single, often with disabilities, and or mental illness, who have intermittent employment) for whom debt contracts, homeownership, loans,etc are structured to fail, an exploitative rentiers Ponzi scheme on the backs of the poorest
But for the majority of loan holders, including incredibly odious & exploitative ones like student loans (where US gov is the biggest single exploiter), the loans are structured to be paid off, and thus accommodate their earning structure.
Ofc entire aspects of the FIRE sector, insurance, collections etc, are there to encourage & then exploit those who befall tragedies—a serious illness or injury, a death, divorce, unemployment, etc—and doubly fuck these people over once they fail at their loans etc
Nonetheless, the unfortunate truth is that if someone is a white, middle aged, married person, with semi stable employment, let alone w a degree, the system is designed for their success and eventual retirement.
As a result inequality of both income and wealth, is both understated and over stated. When one looks at post-tax household earnings, wealth, benefits & compensation, the scenario changes substantially than when typically looked at.
Another point is that life outcomes—education, health, mental health, marriage, employment, criminality, social capital & status, safety and so on—are best predicted (&somewhag causally determines) by the average post tax household of one’s neighborhood irrespective of one’s own
For example, someone who is lucky enough to grow up in a low earning household rent controlled apartment in say the Upper West side, will often do better than someone of upper earning means that lives in a poorer neighborhood, due to infrastructure, services, education etc
None of this undercuts the fact the US is devastatingly unequal, predatory, sack of capitalist horseshit. And if one looks at my other myth busting thread, the results are not good. At least half the country is considered immediately expendable.
Another 1/4th or so is considered not the first choice for expendability but is ultimately grist for the mill if need be.
The rest are a mix of business owners & landlords big & small, capitalists, rentiers, managers, high earning professionals, politicians, upper level bureaucrats, the brass of military & police, the born wealthy, the high social status, and the like.
This segment’s power & status has a lot to do with income & wealth, obviously, but it’s also here that class boundaries traditionally defined blur, as most of these people earn a close mix of wage/salary, profit/equity, Rent/interest, pension/benefit/govt income.
There are also segments of the population, such as high level bureaucrats, cops & military, or high status groups like certain clergy etc, who are only in the top 25% of earners/owners, yet still have high status, power & stability.
I assure you that the military general that makes $250,000 a year and whose main assets consist in a home & govt pension, are considered more important to the system than, say, a millionaire celebrity, musician, or sports player.
Nonetheless many variables stand out in importance for determination of these facts:
◾️Race—black, indigenous & brown folks are overwhelmingly not in these ranks
◾️Age—most are middle aged or older
◾️Human/social capital/status—marriage, education, etc
◾️Ability & Neurotypicality
◾️Geography—the bulk are represented in wealthy exurban suburbs, next group is urban elite & last are the rural large landowners, also within that, as I explained, life outcomes determined by Post tax neighborhood income & wealth
◾️Mixed asset & income classes—wage/salary, pension, govt earnings, rents, homeownership, landlordship, retirement savings, investment accounts, benefits, bequests, inheritance & the like
Of this, the top 5-10% probably are traditional capitalists & rentiers whose primary income comes from ownership, rents, interest, profit. The rest are technically ‘petty boug’ as their wage, salary, govt benefits & compensation for labor form the bulk of their income.
Some hard to quantify portion of this top 25% are those who make money from illegal enterprises, and therefore, in good humor I'll coin the trite phrases:
Lumpen-PMC--white collar criminal, mob lawyer
Lumpen-Bourgeois--the Tony Sopranos
Lumpen-rentier--financial crook
This leads us to a point about what is effectively money laundering--much of the compensation of the top 25% is structured the way that it is to take advantage of varying legal, tax, earnings & social codes.
Thus, that a non trivial portion of these people earn or own less explicitly, or receive the bulk of their earnings in remuneration for labor, despite being part of elite, shouldn't strike us as odd. The earning structures exist to accommodate broader social facts.
Before returning to the broader point of this thread, I want to take a moment to link to other related threads. Here is the one where I did the opposite of this one, to illustrate how much people are struggling & the fantasies of the WWC
Here's a sourced thread I did on why income inequality measures are often misleading, with a heavy focus on what I, following others, call 'spatial stratification'
Back to the main thrust, another point I want to emphasize, in line with the money laundering point, is that much of the statistics on the wealthiest amount to hooey, as the wealth of the super rich can't be spent in practice.
For these people, the billions of their money is wealth is such that it is illusory wrt so-called 'real' resources. If we were to 'expropriate' their wealth, it would cease to exist
From where I stand, this is a good thing, as it means the project of abolishing capital is as much one of social, legal, cultural, normative, political, institutional, organizational, and ideological change as it is pure seizure & steel banging.
But for those under the impression that we can seize Bezos wealth to fund the world's poor (let alone through taxation), I want to make it clear that there is nothing to 'seize' beyond a social, political, monetary & metrical relationship.
This is where the formulation of 'Capital as Power' (and thus both state & private metrically coordinated social power is capital), or of the total critique of the Value-Form (similar point) is useful, as it allows us to understand our mission is of abolition not seizure.
The inevitable point and objection when I bring up stats like the above is that people are struggling, and I am somehow downplaying the misery in which people live--the fact is that my point & aim is quite literally the opposite.
The point here is that we mis-characterize income, wealth, money, capital, and class, and individualized, moralistic ascriptions about character & person, rather than as functional relations inherent in the system, that exist 'above' individuals slotted into them.
The depth and degree of misery & struggle, the level & rate of exploitation & alienation, cannot be solely adjudged by the statistics on income, wealth, ownership, employment, credentials, education, prestige, or even pure income source/relation to production.
It is annoying that Twitter, in fixing a bug (that deleting a middle tweet cleaves the thread in half), makes it harder to cleave threads when it is so desired lol
Aaaaah
Hopefully if I keep tweeting on this leg of the thread, it will cut off the rest of it, so the thread will continue on its own.
Suffice it to say, I think I made most of my points in either or both of the threads that I aimed to, but yeah, the point is that while the sentimental aesthticized view of the able bodied masculine industrial laborer is a myth, so is its converse.
People need to realize that the way they use class or the notions of the petty bourgeois and PMC do not reflect:
1. Marx
2. The political economists he draws on
(cont).
(cont.)
3. For the most part, the views of his followers from the most perceptive (Lumxeburg, Bukharin, Pannekoek, Lenin, Gramsci, Shaikh) to his middling ones (Marcuse, Althusser), to even his least perceptive ones (Engels, somewhat Stalin, etc)
4. Or the deployments of Marx more tangentially related from the Frankfurt school, to the Neo-, Post-, World Systems, New Interpretation, Analytic & other Marxian traditions, which are the ones which more thoroughly theorized the PMC & the Petty bourgeois.
But, aside from the fact that the concepts of class are used in a ways foreign to Marx, much of Marxism, bourgeois political economy & social science alike, & that uses of petty boug, PMC, etc do not match their creators intent, the way they're used is incoherent too.
Which is to say, even if they didn't misunderstand Marx, Marxism, or other thought, they'd still be incoherent, and false.
Deploying class as a description of income, wealth, and status is almost an entirely American, vulgar neoclassical invention. Look at how 'human capital' was invented to undercut Marxian labor theory (see Foucault, etc), or 'capital' to undercut George & land theory.
Look at how the subjective theory of value as used by Austrians and selectively taken up neoclassical in opportunistic fashions, is an attempt to undercut the labor theory and other related theories of value.
But, let's also quickly look at the concepts at issue. The petty bourgeois are those who earn from both labor & capital. Payment for labor can come in the form of a wage or a salary. Capital income comes from owning a business, or can be rents, equities, interest etc.
This was always a slippery concept, because aside from inheritors, pensioners, and true rentier aristocrats, MOST capitalists & rentiers perform some labor for which they are remunerated, related to their production, such as landlord supers, small businesses & super managers.
Thus, typically, one resorts to a kind of quantitative balancing act that is somewhat foreign to the analytic, categorical, structural thinking here, and focusses on the majority of where one earns income. This however can still get tricky.
This is because applying socio-structural, emergent & functional relations within, between & under a society, to individuals that fill their slots in a mixed manner will always produce said difficulties, which is why class qua moralistic concept is so useless.
The notion of the professional-managerial class has multiple origins. First it was to explain why managers, who earn wages or salaries for labor, side with capitalists. This can be explained by their role in the corporate or other power system on which they depend.
Next was to explain those elements of society like cops, troops, bureaucrats, and guards that serve as enforcers for capitalism, despite not, like managers, having a direct stake in some enterprise within it.
A third goal was to explain nebulous categories of service, credentialed and other labor, ranging from nurses, librarians, teachers, secretaries, academics, scientists, writers, artist, media, journalism, etc on one hand, and doctors, lawyers, bureaucrats, etc on the other.
This group was even tougher than the first two to explain originally, bc while managers had a direct stake & benefit, and enforcers have a direct benefit, this last group can be both on the inside & outside of the benefit structure, depending.
What's more, explaining class consciousness and solidarity is a different exercise than that of class basis. For example, there are high earners, like sports players, that in practice are more labor sympathetic, and low earners like petty boug that are capital sympathetic.
Here is where personal experience, upbringing, geographic location, political/economic oppression, income/wealth, etc., matter as much as relation to production, and where social/cultural/human/intellectual/symbolic capital/status/credential/prestige come in.
These latter concepts pioneered by those like Bourdieu and others were not meant as a replacement for the Marxian class analysis nor as a determinative fundamental thing. They were meant as an autonomous, but related social dynamic that played one of reinforcement.
Similar points can be made for the Frankfurt schools notions of media, thought, knowledge, art, and so on, or the use of those like Reich/Marcuse in bringing psychoanalysis & Marxism in contact.
But, among other things, those in the professional categories often act like petty boug because they have a stake in the system reproducing itself, *whatever* it is, which is why professionals were, in Soviet & allied states, among those resistant to change & destruction.
However, several separate dynamics also need to be thought about:
1. the rise of the corporate compact, social democracy & populist social markets
2. imperialism, colonialism & labor aristocracy
3. neoliberalism & financialization
(1) was the encouragement from progressives to FDR to socdems to others to popularize homeownership, stock ownership, pensions, life long jobs, retirement, benefits, and so on, as well as preference for some guilded & credentialed laborers.
(2) was the use of rents generated in imperialism, colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and ecological extraction that effectively bought off rentiers, financial groups, corporations and selected laborers.
(3) was the process by which, first, Managers were given equity & financial stakes in their companies, and then by which all laborers, especially professionals, were to see typical forms of saving & retirement & social benefits, taken over through the financial markets.
(1) encouraged compliance among professionals, tradesmen, and certain laborers for want of improvement. (2) was a similar buy off in practice for social peace to varying effect. (3) altered the stakes & relations to ownership, production & distribution.
Inasmuch as these processes disciplined through the imagination & expectation, they were a form of hegemony & changing social relations, but they also had another effect, which was to increase homeownership, stock ownership, investment etc.
As such, this was the attempt to get certain privileged laborers, tradesmen, professionals and managers to *become* petty bourgeois/rentiers, through the purchase of real estate, and investment in financial markets. For manager it is the most stark.
Thus, the answer here is 'why does one receiving their income for labor as wage & salary side with capitalists?' is 'because the system has rewarded & remunerated them in such a way as to be partly a capitalist themselves' & this is different than the above.
Thus discussions of the PMC tend to conflate them, a priori, w the technically different petty bourgeois, they lump together 3-4 categories (mgmt, enforcers, working & white collar professionals), conflate social, class, & personal interest, and ignore financialization
Professionals, white collar, enforcers, managers, and skilled tradesmen therefore have:
1. Personal interest (direct remuneration, benefits)
2. Occupational interest (keeping firm around)
3. Social interest (social stability)
4. Expectational interest
5. Class interest
Personal interest is for example that a cop depends on that salary, or that tradesmen & professionals are paid more. This is distinct from expectational interest which is the idea that one will eventually be let into the other classes.
Even without the above, a manager for example has occupational interesr (as does a corporate lawyer) in that they benefit if their firm continues to exist. Social interest is the same relation to the status quo, capitalist or not, shared by all PMC tradesmen etc
But direct class interest came in through primarily corporatism, progressive reform, social democracy, labor aristocracy, and financialization.
You see, occupational & social interest can also work against capitalist interests, for example, managers & professionals want a firm or bureaucracy to continue to exist even if it isn’t profitable. This raises the principal agent problem.
In the 60s & 70s, this dynamic, combined with rising labor power, and falling colonial rents, encouraged the crises of profitability & control that drove neoliberalism.
The response of this was to break the power of labor & tradesmen on one side, but on the other, namely on the side of managers & white collar, was to invite them into the class itself through financialization.
If a manager owns stock, across the market, then the failure, sell off, or restructuring of a firm is less pressing to them, as now they profit as well, and so the managerial classes & top level rentiers/bourgeois effectively merged themselves.
It should be clear that the manager siding working capitalists BECAUSE they own capital, is a different phenomena causally/politically than when the managers sided with capital, even without owning any, due to occupational interest & self identification.
In practice, all 5 of these work together, but they are not full proof. Occasionally in history, militaries have sided with workers, but with professional militaries this is much less the case. Cops may have struck as unions but almost never sided w labor in Toto.
In some countries, doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, academics etc are on the side of capital, with or without ownership, while in others they side with labor. Some balance whoever they side with, with their desire for the status quo (Hence social democracy & liberalism!)
The PMC, skilled tradesmen, and labor aristocracy do not form a single coherent class. They are up to 6 different kinds of occupations & laborers earning wage or salary, with varying degrees of capital ownership as well (making them petty bourgeois in actuality)
Thus, the PMC Et al, is either that segment of those who are remunerated for the sale of their labor who for direct, social, occupational & expectational reasons side w capital, or at least the status quo. OR they are JUST petty capitalists that are mis labelled.
The Breunig’s, Jacobins, and Tereeses who mis use these concepts can be in part explicated by the fact that they genuinely do not understand these concepts, which is understandable, as they are confusing much of the time.
Part of it is petty personal animus, as Tereese, Breunig, etc, literally feel like they’re bullied by these groups lol. Part of it is aesthetic prejudice—seeing cops as WWC not PMC, but struggling students as PMC.
Part of it is personal interest, as they are grifters, or another is a different kind of interest, namely trying to obfuscate how they benefit from a certain structure of power, as they criticize & separate out those similar to them.
Part of it is a different kind of prejudice. For example, reactionaries have often spun tales of the city as sinful, a place of wanton women, denegeration, criminality, lower social mores, foreignness, immigrants, poc, and Jews.
Tucker Carlson and his ilk would literally have you believe that a blue haired starving gay artist in New York is more of an elite than a small business owner or contractor in a suburb or rural area. (If even CTH can spot this grift, against their compatriots, so can you)
Antisemitism has long been most common among what’s misleadingly called the lower middle class, which includes small business owners, guided tradesmen, and certain managers/professionals/enforcers. And always in inverse proportion to the stock market.
Conversely, Jews are often associated in these peoples minds with precisely the professional class, w certain urban petty merchants, w finance, but also w foreigness, poverty, race mixing, communism, leftism, social change, and urban alterity.
While I talk about sociology a lot because it is my discipline, it is not unique to it, that the social sciences, humanities, arts, media, entertainment, journalism, leftism, activism & so on are associated w each other, w Jews, w cities, and w degeneracy by reactionaries.
In Europe this is because, early on, those different groups did strike out in favor of social reform & socialism on average, and Jews & others could do well in those professions but not other ones, and supported leftism for emancipation. US cribbed this later.
For the US, the big drivers were communism, labor rights, the New Deal, the Civil Rights movement Especially & so on. Hence in the 50s & 60s this all came up again. But reached its apotheosis in the right wing funded campus politics, academia & left conspiracy Grifts
I’ve described this in detail elsewhere and will link it, and ice alredfy gone too far afield from my subject, but the main points are still all here—PMC is often ill defined, it mixes 6 or so different groups, and 5 or so kinds of interest.
This is often further conflated with trademens, labor aristocracy, and petty bourgeois. Beneath all of these concepts are useful analytic, political, theoretical, descriptive and rhetorical terms & ideas. But they’re marred by bad faith & incorrect usage.
All of this, for various motives on left & right, serves to obscure dynamics in the economy. On the one hand, the aestheticized myth of the able bodied masculine industrial WWC laborer. On the other, misunderstandings about finance, wealth, & the professions.
Most of it is honest & good faith, because of how these concepts have been so mangled, propagandize, distorted & associated. Other is bad faith, opportunism.
Here is a more detailed thread on enclosure, division of professionals (into who will be accepted into & driven from capital), and austerity & neoliberalism
Here’s a long thread on the rise of neoliberal from the ashes of corporatism & social democracy & all the labor aristocracy in between
An entirely different thread can be written, and I have done parts of it, in the relations to enclosure, extractivism, colonialism, settlement, imperialism, white supremacy, gender, sexuality, ecology, and animality.
I believe @Itmechr3 has done a thread on how class concepts, when applied to individuals & groups rather than structures, buckles in the face of settler colonialism & slavery. If they link it I’ll post it
Here’s one I did on extractivism, enclosure, ecocide, and primitive accumulation that relates in the long view
Here’s a sourced thread on value theories, political economy and the like. Relevant for its helping us to theorize the contours of labor, value & power in history
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