The Gentrification of the Left

Mike Wayne and Deirdre O’Neill on the friction between the “middle class” and the “working class”:

The whole concept of the 99% against the 1% is a powerful way of both focusing attention on that tiny elite who own and control the major resources globally, and of repressing the class divisions within the 99%. The 99%, the slogan of the social movements dominated by the middle class, projects a unity of the majority which has yet to be built, and which cannot in fact be built unless we first acknowledge the real differences and divisions between the middle and working classes within the 99%.

The classic Marxist view that the working class is defined by the fact that it sells its labour power to the owners of the means of production is also problematic for similar reasons. Since Marx’s time there has been an enormous expansion of the professional middle class, especially in the public sector, who in terms of income and other cultural-educational benefits are differentiated from the working class. Typically many of these professional jobs involve some sort of controlling position over the working class which further problematises the notion that the middle class can be simply incorporated into the working class. True, a number of middle class professions, such as teaching have been subject to ‘proletarianisation’ and the middle class can be on the receiving end of employer demands just as the working class usually are. Globalised capitalism is likely to make these tendencies impact further on the middle class, pushing towards a de-differentiation between the working and middle class. Nevertheless the Marxist notion that virtually everyone bar senior managers and bosses are working class points forward to a political project that has to be constituted rather than assumed as an empirical fact in the here and now.

Full Story: New Left Project: The Gentrification of the Left

(via Paul Graham Raven)


  1. Interesting article. It’s always a challenge for groups of different backgrounds to organize in solidarity, especially when a majority are from more privileged social positions (ie. middleclass, educated, non-minority, etc.) but that shouldn’t keep us from trying. Just as when working on issues related to race and ethnicity, there needs to be acknowledgement of privilege, differences of social experiences and communication styles, mutual respect, etc.

  2. Neil in Chicago

    August 28, 2013 at 9:52 am

    One of the greatest victories of the forces of reaction in the United States was convincing workers that when they moved from hourly to salaried they had become “middle class”.

  3. Neil in Chicago

    August 31, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Journalism, for instance, hasn’t been the same since it changed from a job to a “career”.

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