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Thursday, August 20, 2020


Richard Lewis has posted an extremely interesting and important comment on my Reflections Part Two. I reproduce it verbatim below. Since it raises issues that I was hoping to address in my third or fourth segment, I shall not comment on it here save to suggest that you all read it and keep it in mind until I get to the point at which I can explore these issues in greater detail.

“But these kind of data also point in an awkward direction, as the blogger 'Policy Tensor' and others have pointed out: the 'class enemy'(those who use political power and social networks to extract surplus from the general economy) is as much the upper middle class professionals (the 5-10%) as it is the 'owners' of capital (the 0.1%).
This has political implications obviously, since the Democratic Party is nowadays the party of upper middle class professionals (I mean in terms of de facto control and agenda setting, not its electorate which is a complex ad hoc coalition). The ideology of these upper middle class professionals (UMCPs) favors globalization of capital, labor, services, goods, and 'expertise' and has anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia and anti-nationalism as its cultural glue.
Going forward, the Republicans are better placed (with imaginative leadership) to capture resentment at UMCP's (and their culture) as their party is more permeable to non-UMCP leadership. This could lead to odd political formations in the future, with a possible exodus of working class Hispanics to the Republicans for example - IF they find imaginative leaders who can dump some of their old baggage.
Whether any of that is cause for optimism or pessimism I don't know: a Republican Party in 2040 that is the 'Non UMCP' party might be genuinely progressive in a way the Democrats cannot be given their current ownership.
I am assuming that the 0.1% are now politically ineffectual compared to their 'managers' in the UMCP group in academia, media, government, high tech, etc.”


s. wallerstein said...

Good points, but let me make one criticism.

The 0.1% are not politically ineffectual in the least since they finance the political campaigns: some are Republicans and some are Democrats, depending on where they get their money from. They pay the candidates for subservience and in general, they get it, in spite of the rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

I'm not an expert on this topic by any means, but the data in political science seems to point to the fact that, yes, wealth = political power in the US, more than anything else.


marcel proust said...

Piketty's more recent work about the political sorting that has happened in the US, UK & France in the last 2 generations is relevant here. In each country, the party of the left/center-left used to represent the poor and working class who typically had less than average levels of education; & the party of the right/center-right represented the more affluent, many of whom had higher than average levels of education. Since, say, 1960, those with more education (who are relatively affluent) have taken over the party or coalition to the left, leaving the party of the right to those among the affluent who are both more involved in business and not quite so educated. Searching for metaphors, Piketty writes of the Brahmin left and the Merchant right. An important consequence of this sorting is that many of those who previously supported the party of the left (think white working class in the US) now feel that neither party addresses their economic concerns, so end up in the party of the right because of its appeal to their cultural conservatism.* Other links about this line of work:

Cory Doctorow

Asher Schechter of the UChicago BSchool's George Stigler Center

A PoliSci professor at Sciences Po on an LSE blog.

*I admit to a sneaking suspicion that this is a euphemism for racism and misogny, but (and here this Dylan song strikes me as apropos) I'm going to let that pass ... then time will tell just who has fell And who’s been left behind When we go our way and they go theirs.

R McD said...

I haven't checked out your recommended readings, Marcel, so maybe i'm commenting out of turn, but it seems to me it's necessary to ask what it has been that the "more educated" have sought to effect since they gained dominance in the former parties of the left. My guess is that, being educated, they've been educated into accepting the instructions flowing from the professional economists and have dropped almost all concern for substantial redistribution of wealth. They probably have been quite comfortable mouthing on about "equality of opportunity" since no doubt many of them look upon themselves as having climbed the socio-economic ladder on their own merits.

I also think it's a grave mistake to equate cultural conservatism with racism and misogyny. I'll go for the abandoned white working class going where so many of the working class of all colours go: in search of the heart of a heartless world.

C said...

The current Republican Party represents a combination of Ayn Rand libertarianism, social Darwinism, Trumpian authoritarianism, and white nationalism. If the Republican Party stays on this trajectory, then I strongly doubt that you will see working-class Hispanics, blacks, and other minorities join the party in the future, even if they are hostile toward upper middle-class professionals and the rich. Yes, I suppose the party could change its trajectory and “dump some of their old baggage,” but the party has arguably represented this combination of libertarianism, social Darwinism, authoritarianism, and white nationalism since Nixon (including Reagan, George W. Bush, and Trump).

So I strongly doubt that, in 2040, the Republican Party will be “genuinely progressive.”

But, yes, there are many upper middle-class professionals (e.g. lawyers, doctors, financial professionals, consultants, professors) who vote Democrat, largely favor globalization, and largely support neo-liberalism. In general, they are more likely to support Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden (or even Elizabeth Warren) than Bernie Sanders, since Bernie identifies himself as a democratic socialist and proclaims that billionaires should not exist. In the Democratic primaries, Bernie was also proposing the most aggressive wealth tax and explicitly discussing class warfare. In general, the UMCPs would rather support Elizabeth Warren than Bernie since they consider her more moderate, more technocratic, more highly educated (i.e. a former Harvard Law School professor), and more of a policy wonk. But Wall Street (i.e. the CEOs, hedge fund managers, private equity managers, and many of their worker bees) still despises Warren.

If you want to learn more about UMCPs, the top 10%, and the educational elite, then read the following:
- Chapters 15 and 16 in Piketty’s ‘Capital and Ideology,’ regarding the Brahmin Left and the Merchant Right
- This Atlantic article:

marcel proust said...

R McD: I don't believe that Piketty addressed what the more educated have sought to effect; IIRC, he was more interested in the trans-national (multi-national?) character of the re-alignment. Anyway, don't believe that I strongly disagree with you about re-distribution of wealth though perhaps with the mechanism: I would prefer fantastically progressive taxes that are firmly and thoroughly enforced to (allow me some snarky redbaiting) redistribution at gunpoint ;) . This would reduce inequality not only directly but also indirectly by discouraging those who set their own salaries from glomming onto everything as they have for the last 50 years since they would keep little of it. While I am it at, I'd also like a pony.

s. wallerstein said...

Marcel Proust,

Great Dylan song!

It's one of various Dylan songs that I find myself singing to myself in certain situations.

I guess the Dylan line that most often runs through my head is "threw the bums a dime in your time/didn't you?"

s. wallerstein said...

Excuse me, "it's threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you"?

"Prime" is much better than "time". And Dylan had "a way with words" as Joan Baez says.

C said...

Another relevant Atlantic article:

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

R McD,
As to cultural conservatism, wherein lies the “grave error in equating cultural conservatism with racism and misogyny”? There is cultural conservation, such as historic architectural preservation, seeing that the art, literature, music etc. of prior historical eras survives which is, of course, a reasonable understanding of cultural conservatism. Once one leaves the realm of high culture and descends into U.S. politics, cultural conservatism becomes anti-immigrant, anti-catholic, anti-Semitic, white supremacist, anti-science, anti enlightenment, misogynist, etc. The political forces that embody these elements, the Know-nothing party, the KKK, Protestant fundamentalism, the Dixiecrats, and the current Republican Party, have been, and still are, a powerful political current.

This leads me to ask, what am I missing?

As to favorite Dylan lines, from Chimes of Freedom:
“Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An’ the poet and the painter far behind his rightful time
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing “

s. wallerstein said...

Also a great song!

It's incredible how he was able to transcend what were the standard movement categories of oppression in 1964 and sing of "the mistreated mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute" and finally for "every hung-up person in the whole wide universe".

Then from "It's all right ma".
"If my thought dreams could be seen
They'd probably put my head in a guillotine
But it's all right ma
It's life and life only".