[OPE-L] "Karl's New Manifesto": an op ed piece from _The New York Times_

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Mon May 30 2005 - 16:05:13 EDT


May 29, 2005

Karl's New Manifesto


I was in the library reading room when suddenly a strange specter of a man
appeared above me. He was a ragged fellow with a bushy beard, dressed in
the clothes of another century. He clutched news clippings on class in
America, and atop the pile was a manifesto in his own
hand. He was gone in an instant, but Karl's manifesto on modern
America remained. This is what it said:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class
struggle. Freeman and slave, lord and serf, capitalist and
proletariat, in a word oppressor and oppressed, stand in opposition to
each other and carry on a constant fight. In the information age, in which
knowledge is power and money, the class struggle is fought between the
educated elite and the undereducated masses.

The information age elite exercises artful dominion of the means of
production, the education system. The median family income of a
Harvard student is $150,000. According to the Educational Testing
Service, only 3 percent of freshmen at the top 146 colleges come from the
poorest quarter of the population. The educated class
ostentatiously offers financial aid to poor students who attend these
colleges and then rigs the admission criteria to ensure that only a small,
co-optable portion of them can get in.

The educated class reaps the benefits of the modern economy - seizing for
itself most of the income gains of the past decades - and then ruthlessly
exploits its position to ensure the continued dominance of its class.

The educated class has torn away from the family its sentimental veil and
reduced it to a mere factory for the production of little
meritocrats. Members of the educated elites are more and more likely to
marry each other, which the experts call assortative mating, but which is
really a ceaseless effort to refortify class solidarity and magnify social
isolation. Children are turned into workaholic
knowledge workers - trained, tutored, tested and prepped to
strengthen class dominance.

The educated elites are the first elites in all of history to work longer
hours per year than the exploited masses, so voracious is
their greed for second homes. They congregate in exclusive
communities walled in by the invisible fence of real estate prices, then
congratulate themselves for sending their children to public
schools. They parade their enlightened racial attitudes by supporting
immigration policies that guarantee inexpensive lawn care. They send their
children off to Penn, Wisconsin and Berkeley, bastions of
privilege for the children of the professional class, where they are given
the social and other skills to extend class hegemony.

The information society is the only society in which false
consciousness is at the top. For it is an iron rule of any university that
the higher the tuition and more exclusive the admissions, the more loudly
the denizens profess their solidarity with the oppressed. The more they
objectively serve the right, the more they articulate the views of the

Periodically members of this oppressor class hold mock elections. The
Yale-educated scion of the Bush family may face the Yale-educated
scion of the Winthrop family. They divide into Republicans and
Democrats and argue over everything except the source of their power: the
intellectual stratification of society achieved through the means of

More than the Roman emperors, more than the industrial robber barons, the
malefactors of the educated class seek not only to dominate the working
class, but to decimate it. For 30 years they have presided over failing
schools without fundamentally transforming them. They have imposed a
public morality that affords maximum sexual
opportunity for themselves and guarantees maximum domestic chaos for those
lower down.

In 1960 there were not big structural differences between rich and poor
families. In 1960, three-quarters of poor families were headed by married
couples. Now only a third are. While the rates of single parenting have
barely changed for the educated elite, family
structures have disintegrated for the oppressed masses.

Poor children are less likely to live with both biological parents, hence,
less likely to graduate from high school, get a job and be in a position
to challenge the hegemony of the privileged class. Family inequality
produces income inequality from generation to generation.

Undereducated workers of the world, unite! Let the ruling educated class
tremble! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to

I don't agree with everything in Karl's manifesto, because I don't believe
in incessant class struggle, but you have to admit, he makes some good

E-mail: dabrooks@nytimes.com

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